Phil Niekro’s illustrious career by the numbers

Phil Niekro posted a 17-4 record for the Braves at age 43 in 1982.

Phil Niekro posted a 17-4 record for the Braves at age 43 in 1982.

Iconic Braves knuckleballer Phil Niekro died Saturday night at age 81 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Niekro pitched over two decades for the Braves, becoming one of the most identifiable and beloved figures in franchise history.

Niekro pitched from 1964 through 1987, spending 21 of his 24 seasons with the Braves across two stints with the organization. He holds or shares 12 Atlanta pitching records and ranks near the top of the franchise leaderboards in every relevant category. The Braves retired his No. 35 in 1984 — his first season away from the franchise — and Niekro was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.

Here are just some notable numbers about one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history:

Innings, strikeouts, wins: Niekro pitched 5,404 innings, the fourth most all-time. His 3,342 strikeouts are the 11th most all-time, while his 318 wins rank 16th. He’s one of only 24 pitchers to reach the 300-win mark.

League leader: Niekro led the National League in wins twice (1974, 1979), ERA once (1967) and strikeouts once (1977). He finished in the top six of Cy Young voting five times (1969, 1974, 1978, 1979, 1982). He placed top 20 in MVP voting three times, including finishing ninth in 1969.

He also won the Roberto Clemente award — given annually to the player who “demonstrates the values Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others” — in 1980.

14: Niekro pitched 14 consecutive seasons in which he won at least 10 games and pitched 200 or more innings. The steak ended with the strike-shortened 1981 campaign, but Niekro again achieved that combination in each of the next five seasons.

740: Niekro pitched in 740 games for Milwaukee and Atlanta, a franchise record. He went 268-230 with a 3.20 ERA for the Braves. He pitched 226 complete games in 595 starts (38 percent).

48: Niekro pitched until age 48, a borderline inconceivable occurrence even today. The Braves released Niekro, 44, following the 1983 campaign. He made his final All-Star appearance with the Yankees the following season and joined the 300-win club in 1985.

Niekro would later pitch for the Indians (1986-87) and Blue Jays (three starts in 1987). He rejoined the Braves toward the end of the 1987 season, making one more start before retirement.

“For him to pitch into his late 40s, my God, that’s unbelievable,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He was just a very special, special person.”

40: Hat tip to Twitter stats guru Ryan Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) for these nuggets: Niekro pitched 1,977 innings after turning 40, the most in MLB history. He had faced 9.08% of all players in MLB history at the time of his retirement.

2: Despite Niekro’s brilliance, the Braves’ best days were years away. He pitched in only two postseason games in his career, one in 1969 and one in 1982. He had a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts and eight walks in 14 postseason innings.

5: The knuckleballer was a five-time All-Star, achieving three of those honors in his age-39 season and later. He also was a five-time Gold Glove winner.

0: On Aug. 5, 1973, Niekro pitched a no-hitter. He struck out four and walked three in the Braves’ 9-0 victory over the Padres at Atlanta Stadium.