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The Best Pitchers In Baseball History, Ranked



There’s no doubt that pitchers are the most important player in the game of baseball. Not only do they need fatigue-proof arms and laser precision, but they also need to gauge the right plays for the right circumstances.
You’ve likely had debates with fellow baseball fans about who some of the all-time greatest pitchers are, but when you really look at the raw stats then the truth quickly comes out. Continue on for the 30 best, followed by the undeniable #1 greatest. Will the stats agree with your opinions?

31. Roy Halladay

Starting off the list is eight-time all-star Roy Halliday (nicknamed “Doc” after the infamous gunslinger Doc Holliday). The pitcher proved himself to be one of the greats while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays and later with the Phillies. It was in 2010, though, when he made MLB history by throwing the second postseason no-hitter. Upon his death in 2017 he was inducted into the hall of fame.

30. Rube Waddell

As one of baseball’s original players, Rube Waddell quickly became among the first hard-throwing strikeout pitchers, a spectacle that fans eagerly watched. When his career came to a close, he had 2,316 strikeouts under his belt – especially astonishing in an era where hitters were more focused on putting the ball in play. Even more astonishing is the fact that his strikeout-to-walk ratio was 3 to 1.

29. Smoky Joe Wood

Smoky Joe was exactly the kind of pitcher the Red Sox were looking for: dominant. This domination from the mound led the Sox to three World Series victories. Though he only pitched for six actual seasons, he still managed to win 117 games and remains one of only 13 pitchers that attained 30 wins in a single season.

28. Tom Glavine

During the Atlanta Braves’ reign in the ‘90s and early 2000s, Glavine proved himself a powerhouse. He pitched his way to the 1995 World Series and even managed to receive the coveted MVP award for his outstanding achievements. On top of that, the left-handed pitcher won two Cy Youngs as well as four Silver Slugger Awards, rounding out his career with a more-than-impressive 305 wins.

27. Ed Walsh

An imposing force to be reckoned with, it’s entirely possible that Ed Walsh might have had some sort of unnerving effect on players from opposing teams. But just because his name isn’t as recognizable doesn’t mean that his stats are any less impressive. He had a very impressive 1.82 ERA – the lowest of any pitcher to have thrown enough qualifying innings.

26. Mordecai Brown

Everybody who watched Major League Baseball knew Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown. After all, three-fingered pitchers weren’t very common. A farm machinery accident in his youth left him with his defect, though he didn’t allow something like missing digits to stop him from going straight to the top. In fact, this defect even gave him a significant advantage in the form of a wicked curveball. Using this unique ability, he went on to have a dazzling 2.06 ERA.

25. Don Drysdale

There’s nothing more concerning for an opposing team than a pitcher that’s locked in, and that’s exactly what opposing teams got. Along with fellow pitcher Sandy Koufax, this dynamic duo took the Dodgers to three incredible World Series wins. On top of that, his 2.95 ERA turned him into an all-star for a grand total of nine times. With stats like that, his Cy Young Award pales in comparison.

24. Juan Marichal

Any coach worth their salt will tell you that when it comes to pitchers, strikeouts are the most important thing. Well, for this Dominican Republic pitcher, pin-point accuracy was exactly what led to so many strikeouts. How many strikeouts, you may be wondering? “The Dominican Dandy” – as many so fondly referred to him as – struck out over 2,300 batters during his career. By the time his career came to a close, he had proven himself the greatest Dominican pitcher in the game’s history with a stunning 243 wins.

23. Carl Hubbell

In the mid-1930s, Carl Hubbell’s laser-like focus turned him into a two-time MVP, and he set baseball records for feats like winning 24 straight games between 1936 and 1937. The NY Giants certainly considered themselves lucky that Hubbell only ever played for them, especially considering that he led them to their 1933 World Series championship win.

22. Dizzy Dean

Lively pitchers always make baseball more exciting, and this Cardinals pitcher was no exception. Dizzy earned his nickname during his Army days when a sergeant called him out for a stupid mistake. The name transferred perfectly to Major League Baseball when the four-time all-star’s fastballs flew so fast that it made batters dizzy. During his career, Dean delivered 134 victories and had a 2.99 career ERA .

21. Jim Palmer

There’s simply no doubt about it – the Orioles were downright blessed to have one of baseball’s greatest players on their roster. Palmer owned the 1970s with an impressive 186 wins. By the time his illustrious career came to a close, he had amounted a grand total of 268 career wins – a feat that still remains a franchise record to this day.

20. Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw is already a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame despite the fact that he’s still playing. There aren’t very many MLB pitchers that are ahead of him in terms of sheer dominance. He’s already led the game in ERA five times, and all before he turned 30. If that isn’t impressive enough, he also has an MVP, a Gold Glove, a Triple Crown, and three Cy Youngs.

19. Satchel Paige

Those who saw Leroy “Satchel” Paige play during the 1940s described him as possibly the greatest pitcher in the history of the league. His cocky nature wasn’t exactly conventional at the time, and fans would stare bewildered when he commonly ordered the infielders to take a bench and then proceeded to shut out an entire inning. These antics made him immensely entertaining to watch. Sadly, due to his ethnicity, he didn’t start pitching in the majors until he had already reached his 40s. Imagine how much more he could have revolutionized the game if he had started 20 years earlier.

18. Whitey Ford

Apparently there weren’t many blond-haired pitchers during the 1940s, because when an aspiring player named Edward Charles Ford took the mound playing in the minors, he was instantly nicknamed “Whity” due to his hair’s fair complexion. Ford used this popularity to shoot straight to the majors (and a little team called the New York Yankees) where he won six titles. By 1961, his place in baseball history was solidified when he won the Cy Young Award and then went on to become a World Series MVP.

17. Mariano Rivera

Closers can cement a win indefinitely, and Rivera is widely regarded as the greatest all-time closer. For nearly two decades, the Yankees used him in that role in an almost automatic way. In fact, the Panamanian pitcher ended up saving more games than any other pitcher in baseball history with a staggering 652 saves. You don’t become a legend like that and attain five World Series rings without rising to the challenge.

16. Steve Carlton

There are plenty of pitchers who have earned one or more Cy Young Awards, but Carlton was the first to win four. The southpaw pitcher has gone down in history as one of the greatest left-handed starting pitchers in the league, especially considering that he has a whopping 4,136 strikeouts (the second-highest amount ever) as well as 329 total wins.

15. Bob Feller

Many pro athletes aspire not only to be great, but also to acquire some sort of trendy or catchy nickname. For Iowa-born Bob Feller, though, he garnered several. His more endearing nicknames included “The Heater from Van Meter”, “Bullet Bob”, and “Rapid Robert” – and he more than earned them. Feller proved himself to be one of the best strikeout pitchers, commonly leading the MLB in strikeouts and no-hitters. Even to this day, no Cleveland Indians pitcher has come close to surmounting Feller’s impressive 266 game wins.

14. Grover Cleveland Alexander

It’s easy to assume that setting records in the early days of baseball was effortless due to the game being so new, but the fact is that many of these older pitchers still hold insane records to this day. Alexander threw 90 shutouts in his career, a staggering National League record that still stands. Between 1911 and 1930, “Old Pete” won the illustrious Triple Crown on three occasions as well as leading the league in wins and strikeouts six times. On top of all that, he also experienced loss of hearing and eventual epileptic seizures due to damage done while serving in World War I.

13. Warren Spahn

There are many strategies that major league pitchers will employ in order to gain an advantage, and for southpaw pitcher Warren Spahn it was all about upsetting the opponent’s sense of timing. This earned him the title of the “thinking man’s pitcher”, a term earned by his ability to outwit and outsmart the competition without ever becoming too overpowered. After all, you don’t achieve 363 career wins by playing it safe.

12. Pedro Martinez

People who got to watch Martinez play at the beginning of his career in the early ‘90s described him as an electric player. Despite being incredibly small for a power pitcher (coming in at less than 200 pounds), Martinez still led the league in ERAs five different times over his career. His ability to produce unhittable changeups propelled him into stardom, and most notably the attention of the Boston Red Sox, where in 2004 he led them to their first World Series victory in 86 years.

11. Lefty Grove

When Robert Moses Grove entered the minor leagues in the early 1920s, baseball wasn’t entirely prepared for this southpaw’s abilities. Grove set a precedent for future MLB pitchers by leading the league in ERAs for nine different years. He also won the Triple Crown twice and pitched 300 victorious games against only 141 losses.

10. Roger Clemens

No ultimate pitchers list would be complete without mentioning the great Roger Clemens. Even the controversy of him using certain stimulants doesn’t change his total career stats – 4,672 career strikeouts (the third-highest ever) and seven Cy Youngs (the most awards ever given to a pitcher). On top of that, he also holds the record for most strikeouts in a single game, currently resting at a cool 20. The facts don’t lie.

9. Greg Maddux

Those who watched baseball from 1992 to 1995 got a front-row seat to one of the all-time greatest pitchers baseball has ever known. Known for his intense amount of control and his pinpoint accuracy, Maddux easily snatched up four Cy Young Awards in four straight years. During that time, he never allowed more than one or two baserunners per inning. He’s also the only pitcher to win 15 games or more in 17 consecutive seasons, wrapping up his career with a mind-blowing 355 victories under his belt.

8. Randy Johnson

Those poor souls who went to bat against the great Randy Johnson had to endure lacerating fastballs, all coming from a 6’10″ giant with a scowl that had the word “dominant” written all over it. Johnson towered over the competition and used that intimidation to his benefit, earning himself the nickname “The Big Unit”. His fastest recorded fastball came in 2004 when he pitched 102 mph. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he did this at the age of 40. By the time his career came to a close, he acquired five Cy Youngs and a grand total of 4,875 total strikeouts. “The Big Unit” indeed.

7. Nolan Ryan

Other than Pete Rose, virtually no other player’s career has sparked more dispute than Nolan Ryan. If you’re wondering which MLB pitcher has struck out the most batters, it’s “The Ryan Express” with a whopping 5,714 strikeouts. He proved multiple times that he was a physical anomaly and a force to be reckoned with. So when he became the first MLB player to sign a contract that paid out an average of $1 million per year, those who knew his worth hardly blinked an eye.

6. Tom Seaver

Ask any New York Mets fan who their best pitcher was and without any hesitation they’ll tell you it’s “Tom Terrific” Seaver. The man set a record of 311 wins against 205 losses, along with a 2.86 ERA. He won more than 20 games in a season five times, was a 12-time all-star, won the Rookie of the Year Award, and took the Mets to a World Series victory in 1969.

5. Bob Gibson

Pitchers that took the mound after 1968 played on a lower mound than pitchers previously played on, and that was all thanks to Gibson. After pitching to a 1.12 ERA and proving himself one of the most unhittable pitchers, MLB was forced to change official rules for standard mound height. Even without leaving a permanent mark like that, Gibson still made history by striking out 3,117 batters as well as snagging two World Series MVP trophies.

4. Sandy Koufax

The only reason this famed Dodgers pitcher isn’t higher on this list is because arthritis in his pitching elbow left him unable to continue his career. But between 1961 and ‘66, Koufax led the league in strikeouts on four occasions and in ERA on five occasions. He also acquired three Cy Youngs and three Triple Crowns. His vast achievements weren’t just limited to personal victories, however, as he led his team to four World Series wins.

3. Christy Mathewson

Mathewson was among the first “college men” to enter baseball around the turn of the century, having played both football and baseball at Bucknell University. This aspect earned him some rather sophisticated nicknames like “The Christian Gentleman” and “The Gentleman’s Hurler”. But when it came to the game, this college man was all business. To this day Mathewson remains the only pitcher to rank in the top ten in both career ERA and career wins. The Giants pitcher is also tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander for third-best total career wins with 373.

2. Walter Johnson

Stats don’t lie, and for Walter “The Big Train” Johnson the stats are pretty incredible. Johnson played his entire career for the now-defunct Washington Senators and garnered a whopping 417 career wins, the second-highest in the history of the sport. He led the league 12 times in strikeouts and still holds the MLB record with 110 career shutouts. On top of that, Johnson proved himself an absolute powerhouse with his 95 mph fastball average at a time when the average was nowhere near that range. As impressive as these stats may be, though, they pale in comparison to baseball’s all-time greatest…

Cy Young

They don’t name an award after you unless you’re truly the greatest of all time. Denton True “Cy” Young entered the majors in 1890, long before many other pitchers on this list, and set a staggering precedent for the next 130+ years of baseball. The man must have had an arm of steel, because over his 22-year career he played 749 games and holds the unattainable record of 511 total wins – over 100 more than any other pitcher. With a legacy like that, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever top it.