Greatest Pitchers of All Time

Granted, the list is primarily comprised of pitchers who played after World War II even though there are many pitchers who put up staggering numbers prior to that period, but it is hardly a fair comparison to include the earliest pitchers who played in a far less competitive era when many of the best players weren't even allowed to join the league.

The Top TenXW

1Nolan Ryan

Not remotely the greatest. Nowhere close.

Yes, he's the strikeout king. And yes, he was the toughest pitcher to get a hit on. But that ain't the whole story. He walked a ton of batters. Ironically, his high walk rate also contributes to his high strikeout rate. He wasn't going to give a hitter something he could make contact with. Ryan would rather throw a ball than risk giving a hitter something he could reach, even if that meant he had to walk a ton of hitters.

Ryan isn't even remotely close to being the greatest pitcher of all time. He only had one season in which you could even argue that he was the best pitcher that year. He finished in the top 10 in adjusted ERA+ just 4 times. For comparison, Maddux was in the top 10 TEN times, Clemens 12, Randy Johnson 9.

Ryan had the greatest arm of any pitcher in history, but he was far from the greatest pitcher. Why? Because pitching requires more than a great arm, it requires control and brains. Two things Nolan fell a little short with.

Most no-hitters and strikeouts of all-time by far, played for a long time at a high level. And may I mention probably the best fastball of the live ball era.

V34 Comments
2Walter Johnson

Nolan Ryan only beat Johnson here because of he leads in the most "glamorous" pitching stat, everybody knows Ryan, Johnson is so underappreciated. Johnson only beats him in wins, ERA, Shutouts, and Complete Games... Not that they're important.

417 Career Wins - 2nd All-Time, but not following Cy Young is his loses. 2.17 ERA, one of the best ever. 110 SHUTOUTS. Pitchers today would be lucky to get 11 in a career. 12 time 20 game winner, 2 time 30 game winner, 2 time MVP, 3,509 strikeouts which held until Nolan broke it 60 years later, even has 34 saves. 24 Homers as a batter. For the time he pitched his fastball looked faster than Nolan's.

The Big Train, who held the all-time strikeout record for half a century, is not 4th, folks... his magnificence is gradually disappearing into the mists of time.

Walter Johnson, before this I had no idea who that was?!

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3Sandy Koufax

The date was September 9, 1965. The place was Dodger Stadium. The pitcher on the mound that evening for the Dodgers was Sandy Koufax. I remember it so well, even now almost 50 years later, there are times when it seems as it was yesterday, because you see, I was just a 15 year old lad who had the great fortune of sitting in the stands that night with my dad watching the game.

A grand total of 27 Chicago Cubs came to the plate that night, and every single one of them was retired in order that by the greatest pitcher of all time, Sandy Koufax. It was the southpaws first perfect game, but the forth in which he threw a no hitter, breaking the previous all time record of three by Bob Feller. Koufax also set a new all time record of 14 strikeouts by a pitcher hurling a no hitter, a record that to this very day has never been surpassed.

If the legendary Bob Feller believed Koufax was the best there ever was, that's good enough for me too, brother, for you see, on September 9, ...more

Greatest pitcher of MLB. Injuries forced him to retire early but he was the most dominant pitcher of the 60's. Just take a look at his stats for 1966 (his last season as a pitcher) and find someone else that retired after posting numbers close to his. Sandy Koufax, greatest pitcher.

Would have been the greatest ever by far if he didn't get injured. Here is my top 5 list.

1. Walter Johnson
2. Sandy Koufax
3. Warren Spahn
4. Lefty Grove
5. Christy Mathewson

Nolan Ryan is not the best ever. - Crazydudewithabeard

You had to see him to believe him. There never was a pitcher like Sandy and there never will be.

V12 Comments
4Cy Young

Even among his peers at the time he was the best. Just a freak of nature. If around today would still be at the top. Great control and fantastic speed. Imagine nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens in one person

If he was pitching today, he wouldn't come even close to his numbers. He pitched in the dead-ball era, when the ball was harder to hit and the game was more pitcher-friendly. Also, back then, a team only had one or two pitchers. They pitched in every single game, so that's how Young was able to rack up all those wins. You know what other record is also completely unbeatable? His 316 losses. - MrSuicideShark

You are all idiots you should know that cy young is the best pitcher ever and just because walter johnson and christy mathewson aren't the best because they were in the first class

If he is the best then he should have the most strikeouts he may have more wins bet nolan ryan had more strikeouts so nolan ryan is 1st and cy young 2nd

Should be ranked a little lower.

V9 Comments
5Tom Seaver

The first player ever to be referred to as "The Franchise", need I say anything more?

awesome player this is my fav met of all time

Highest vote percentage to get into Cooperstown. Must I say anything else.

The all American boy with the all American wife. How lucky can one guy get?

V1 Comment
6Greg Maddux

My name is James Filippi... I pitched against "the baby faced assassin" in 1985 in Peoria Illinois (mid west league Chisox) and before the first inning was over I knew it would be very difficult to beat him... This in itself was a great weapon! He had an exploding fastball and the hitters just could not get a good swing on his pitches! If we got one run against him that was an accomplishment... All game and all the time it was like this... Very tough! Great fielder too! Extremely smart pitcher... He had great command of everything he threw and he threw very hard and strode incredibly long at that time... I thought I had a long stride but when I took the mound I was landing at the back of his landing which I thought was unusual because it had never happened before! He only got better from there! I still think "POUND FOR POUND THE BEST PITCHER EVER TO PLAY THE GAME" I believe this! And he was maybe 6ft 150lbs at that point!

In the book "The All Century Team" an argument is made as to why Greg Maddux was the greatest pitcher of the 20th Century. The author argued that to be the greatest pitcher ever one would need to establish the lowest era amongst his peers for at least 7 years. From 1992-1998 Maddux's era was 2.15, almost 2 runs BELOW the league average. The next closest margin was Walter Johnson! The fact that he did what he did in the steroid era without a blistering fastball and with out a single no hitter to his name is even more impressive. He probably is the all time leader in ground outs and is only one of four pitchers to strike out more than 3,000 and walk less than 1,000 batters in his career. I always learned something watching him pitch. How many players can you say that about? DW

I was lucky enough to get to see Greg Maddux in my lifetime. True pitcher there is Maddux and then everyone else. Nolan Ryan come on people fall in love with the strikeout. He was an average pitcher win loss wise. He had a fastball and whoever there said 110 come on here lets get real. He never broke 100. Maddux, Gibson, Koufax, Clemens*, and Seavers. Cy Young voters look at his numbers it was the dead ball era. Nolan Ryan was the Ryan Howard of our day hit the big home runs (hard fastball) but struckout most the time (overall pitcher) Ryan get real here. - dwells1285

Although they pitched from opposite sides, Maddux and Ford were very similar. Neither had an exploding fast ball for their eras, but they beat you with control.

V10 Comments
7Randy Johnson

Throwing that hard for that long, enough said. People compare Chapman to Johnson... Johnson was a starter who routinely threw over 100 mph, Chapman is a closer. Johnson still could hit the high 90's during last season he pitched, he was 46 years old! Plus his slider scared everyone, just ask Larry Walker.

His strikeout ratios were absurd. In my opinion, that's how you measure true dominance. I think the Unit is underrated. He was a beast and I'm saying that as a fan of the game and a Dodgers fan. He was an intimidator and we haven't seen one since.

Really, if you had to pick one pitcher, just one - you know you'd pick Randy Johnson. I mean 6'10", lefty, deadly serious attitude. All the records, all the hush-toned around him, everyone in his day knew he was the absolute best. You know I'm right.

I think he is second

V9 Comments
8Bob Gibson

Second best picture ever next to the freak cy young. How do you loose nine games with a 1.12 era. He hated everyone who dared to get in the box and face. I believe he would rather been you in the head than allow you to get a hit off of him

yeah they did lower the mound because of him... he was unbelievable. he could hit too. he was amazing just amazing... two times better than pedro hahaha don't give me crap about pedro.. he was good but not gibson good, by any means

Remember great match ups with Fergie Jenkins of the cubs. Typically 1 or 2 to 0. The games took less than 2 hours. They both threw strikes and took little time between pitches. Pure baseball not like the Prima donnas that play today

Gibby's just a beast. When MLB has to alter the game to make it fair for the rest of the league, you know you have left your mark. He's 78 today and could probably still give them 7 strong innings.

V5 Comments
9Roger Clemens

Played at a high level for what seemed like forever.

Cheated so should not be in the top 10.

Nolan Ryan couldn't hole his jock

V1 Comment
10Christy Matthewson

Way to underrated. He got 373 wins despite playing only 17 years. great friend. once played 13 checker players at the same time blindfolded, won 7 and DREW 6. Here is my list:
1. Christy mathewson(by far)

2. Cy Young(by even more far)

3. Walter Johnson(just barely)

4. Warren Spahn

5. Gregg Maddux

Mathewson was way better than Nolan Ryan. He tops him in everything but strikeouts. One overlooked aspect of his game is his postseason mastery. He pitched single-handedly won a World Series by pitching 3 shutouts in 5 days! His World Series ERA was 0.97 in 101.2 innings! Sorry Ryan, sorry Koufax, you guys shouldn't be close to Big Six.

Rating Matthewson #10 is absurd. He should be in your top 3 or 4. He was one of the two
pitchers (Matthewson & Johnson) of the five 1936 Immortals to enter the HOF. 373 wins! Come on!

V2 Comments

The Contenders

11Pedro Martinez

I agree... while you have to take into account that his arm failed him as he got older, you also have to take into account that his ERA was often well below other pitchers of his day, and he man-handled hitters during the heart of the steroid era.

In his prime he was THE best. There are very very few others that you could argue were better. - bruski1986

by far the best ever, no doubt. From 1997-2003 no one could ever touch him! at one point his ERA was 1.74 and THE NEXT GUY (Clemens) was over two RUNS HIGHER! hands down the best! if it wasn't for his injuries (Koufax) he would have dominated even longer

Pedro Martinez is the most dominat pitcher I have ever seen. He also has the best fastball in the history of baseball. - gocanes52

My favorite pitcher. The little guy was fearless and steroid free.

V7 Comments
12Satchel Paige

if you look only at MLB numbers not too impressive. but he didnt pitch that long in the MLB. His numbers in the negro leagues...unreal. - orangeturtle

According to Bob Feller, Satch was the greatest pitcher ever. Bob even admitted that Paige taught him how to pitch when they barnstormed together back in the '30s.

Estimates put his total games pitched at over 2500, 1500 wins, 300 shut-outs, and 55 no-hitters at a time when all great athletes played baseball and little else.

This guy was so good he made me go "MIND BLOWN"

V1 Comment
13Lefty Grove

This list is a disgrace. Nolan is nowhere near number one. He is more like number 75. Grove is the best. Look at his minor league stats. Read bill James - Jman2021

Well, first of all he was a lefty... very rare in his time. look at that strectch from 1928-1931. Led the league in wins 3 times, era three times. 31-4 with a 2.06 era? This, is unreal.

14Grover Cleveland 'Pete' Alexander

A great pitcher with as many wins as Christy Mathewson. But Alexander pitched for worse teams. 373 wins. Period. - Jman2021

V1 Comment
15Warren Spahn

363 wins by a lefty! Most in the modern era. Very crafty and found ways to get those wins. He was Greg Maddux before game film. Lost 3 years in WWII by serving his country. Not only the greatest pitcher of all time, but a war hero. People always forget about Spahn.

665 starts, 382 complete games. 63 shutouts, 13 -20 games seasons. 363 victories. The BEST!

Amazing pitcher. Didn't get his first win until he was 27 and ended up with 363.

He was the best all time lefty 363wins

V1 Comment
16Mariano Rivera

Best era in the live ball era and with the DH which adds 1/2 a run to your era-he would be even lower that anyone. Lowest WHIP except for addie Joss-dead ball era-no dh. And the 9th inning pitchers face the best hitters (PH) the team can put up. ERA plus-amazing check out those numbers-no one ever even close! Single most dominating pitch in history and no one can throw it like he has! You can argue that a starting pitcher might be more valuable to a team than a releiver or even a closer, but if the question is the best pitcher those stats don't lie. But look at the playoffs and world series and he has been even greater there-walter johnson is the closest and its not that close.

He'll move up. In the end he gets the job done. - haineroid

I don't rate relievers in the same category as starters. Much harder to start.

It'll be sad when he retires after this year

V3 Comments
17Steve Carlton

I have a autograph ball of this man - Sabbath

V2 Comments
18Bob Feller

Gave up four years of his prime to volunteer the war. And that causes him 300 wins. Bob is the best

Fastest pitch in history at 107.9 MPH, 3 no hitters, and he is awesome sauce

V2 Comments
19Fernando Valenzuela

Lasorda didn't use this guy properly. He could have lasted years if he wasn't kept in the game as much as he was.

V2 Comments
20Tim Lincecum

What no way is he number 20. He isn't even 20th in the league now. He isn't even a top 100 picture ever. That's got to be a joke

V5 Comments
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List StatsUpdated 30 Jul 2016

1,000 votes
52 listings
10 years, 234 days old

Top Remixes (8)

1. Walter Johnson
2. Cy Young
3. Christy Matthewson
ryanrimmel
1. Walter Johnson
2. Grover Cleveland 'Pete' Alexander
3. Lefty Grove
Jman2021
1. Nolan Ryan
2. Randy Johnson
3. Roger Clemens
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Ryan is the best-off and on the field
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