Top 10 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 Ten
1 Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson was the best ever. He had 417 wins, an ERA of 2.17, and 110 shutouts.

The 417 wins are especially amazing because he played most of his career with the Senators, who were a terrible offensive team. He received very little run support. On one occasion, when the Senators were short on pitchers, Johnson pitched three straight games against the Yankees - all three were shutouts.

He also had a blazing fastball. Ty Cobb said of him, "You knew you were going to get that fastball every time you faced him. You never had to guess. You could get set for the fastball, but you still couldn't hit it. Walter was the fastest."

Umpire Bill Evans also commented, "Johnson was the only pitcher who made me close my eyes instinctively as his pitch came at me."

However, he never pitched hitters inside. He didn't want to hurt them. Maybe if he had, he would have been even better.

2 Nolan Ryan Lynn Nolan Ryan Jr., nicknamed The Ryan Express, is a former Major League Baseball pitcher and a previous chief executive officer of the Texas Rangers. He is currently an executive adviser to the owner of the Houston Astros.

When considering the body of work, Nolan Ryan is the greatest pitcher of all time. He holds 55 major league pitching records, including being the all-time strikeout leader, having pitched seven no-hitters, and allowing the fewest hits per nine innings of all time. Ryan was voted the #1 pitcher of all time by MasterCard in 1998.

Critics, who may be jealous or who dislike Ryan for various reasons such as his strikeouts or even politics, will point to his win-loss record. However, it's important to note that Ryan often pitched for poorly performing teams. For example, in 1987, despite being the ERA leader, he had an 8-16 record with the Astros. Moreover, he struck out the most batters that season, totaling 270. Clearly, win-loss records can be deceiving.

I find it amusing that people even compare Sandy Koufax to Ryan. Koufax didn't even reach 200 wins, making him the Gale Sayers of pitchers. It's time to stop romanticizing pitchers whose careers were cut short.

3 Sandy 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 if it were yesterday. 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 by the greatest pitcher of all time, Sandy Koufax. It was the southpaw's first perfect game, but the fourth no-hitter, breaking the previous all-time record of three set 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 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. You see, on September 9, 1965, I saw Sandy Koufax pitch the greatest game of all time.

4 Cy Young

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

Yes, he has the most losses, but he also has 200 more wins than losses. It's amazing how many times he pitched over 400 innings. Pitchers today would never be able to do that. He was the iron man of pitching. I don't know how his arm didn't fall off, pitching 40 complete games in a season. He was absolutely a freak of nature.

5 Randy Johnson

Throwing that hard for that long says it all. People compare Chapman to Johnson, but Johnson was a starter who routinely threw over 100 mph. Chapman is a closer. Johnson could still hit the high 90s during the last season he pitched, and 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.

6 Tom Seaver

The first player ever to be referred to as "The Franchise." Need I say more?

Tom Terrific lost more 1-0 and 2-1 games than any pitcher in history on some bad NY Mets teams. He should have won 400 games.

Highest vote percentage to get into Cooperstown. Need I say more?

7 Greg Maddux

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 among his peers for at least seven years. From 1992-1998, Maddux's ERA was 2.15, almost two runs below the league average. The next closest margin was Walter Johnson!

The fact that he accomplished what he did in the steroid era, without a blistering fastball and without a single no-hitter to his name, is even more impressive. He is probably the all-time leader in groundouts and is only one of four pitchers to strike out more than 3,000 and walk fewer than 1,000 batters in his career. I always learned something watching him pitch. How many players can you say that about?

8 Bob Gibson

Second-best pitcher ever, next to the freak Cy Young. How do you lose nine games with a 1.12 ERA? He hated everyone who dared to get in the box and face him. I believe he would rather bean you in the head than allow you to get a hit off of him.

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

9 Pedro Martinez Pedro Jaime Martínez, is a Dominican former professional baseball starting pitcher, who played in Major League Baseball from 1992 to 2009, for five teams - most notably the Boston Red Sox from 1998 to 2004.

Pedro Martinez had the absolute best peak in his prime of any pitcher on this list, especially in the midst of the Selig era, which was possibly the toughest time to be a pitcher. This list needs to be shortened and include some kind of ranked voting.

Pedro, Clemens, and Walter Johnson are the pinnacle. The next tier, in no particular order, includes Alexander, Young, Big Unit, Maddux, Seaver, Mathewson, Grove, Gibson, Koufax, Carlton, Feller, and Paige.

Valenzuela, Spahn, Lincecum, and Ryan don't deserve consideration. Rivera, a one-inning reliever, hardly deserves mention.

I am biased toward high peak rather than sustained, nearly great, or very good performances over a long career. I also find it difficult to rank dead-ball, pre-integration pitchers with the rest, although it's also difficult to ignore their dominance and comparables.

10 Christy Mathewson

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

How can he be ranked so low? He dominated hitters and had some of the best seasons ever. I can only place him behind Cy Young. Let's not forget the other greats of the 1800s, such as Pud Galvin and others.

The Contenders
11 Lefty Grove

Grove was flat-out the best starter ever, especially in the live-ball era. Consider this: in his four best years, Grove was 104-25. Sandy Koufax was 97-27. Grove's relative ERA was 56% of the league average, while Koufax's ERA was 57% of the league average over those four years. Grove finished his career 300-140, while Koufax was 165-87. After his peak, Grove continued to excel in Boston, despite its notorious Green Monster in left field. He won four ERA titles in his last five years pitching there. Sandy Koufax retired.

During the time he pitched, nobody was better. In his 13-year peak, he had a 268-108 win-loss record, nine ERA titles, and a 164 ERA+. He led the league in strikeouts for seven straight years. He probably would have won eight or nine Cy Young Awards if they had existed. Nolan Ryan didn't even win one.

12 Satchel Paige

We can debate this list all we want, but the greatest pitcher has to be Satchel Paige. Every player of the era, whether pitcher or hitter, white or black, said so. The greatest pitcher ever was Old Satch, end of discussion.

According to Bob Feller, Satchel 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 2,500, with 1,500 wins, 300 shutouts, and 55 no-hitters at a time when all great athletes played baseball and little else.

13 Roger Clemens

He won more Cy Young Awards than any other pitcher and the MVP award. He's third all-time in strikeouts and ninth all-time in wins. He shares the record for most strikeouts in one game at 20 and led the N.L. in ERA at age 40.

One of the greatest pitchers ever. They called Seaver "The Franchise" and Roger "The Rocket." He deserves to be in the top 6 pitchers ahead of Seaver, Maddux, and Johnson.

I believe Clemens started doing steroids after 220-something wins, so I believe he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Played at a high level for what seemed like forever.

14 Grover Cleveland 'Pete' Alexander

Most experts rate him as simply the best ever. If he wasn't the best, there was never anyone better! Look at his stats: 373 wins, 90 shutouts, only exceeded by Johnson!

A great pitcher with as many wins as Christy Mathewson, but Alexander pitched for worse teams. 373 wins. Period.

My dad said he was the best who ever was.

15 Mariano Rivera Mariano Rivera is a Panamanian-American former professional baseball pitcher who played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees, from 1995 to 2013. Nicknamed "Mo" and "Sandman", he spent most of his career as a relief pitcher and served as the Yankees' closer for 17 seasons.

Mariano Rivera boasts the best ERA in the live-ball era, and that's with the Designated Hitter (DH), which typically adds a half-run to your ERA. If we account for that, his ERA would be even lower than anyone else's. He also has the lowest WHIP, second only to Addie Joss from the dead-ball era, where there was no DH. In the ninth inning, pitchers face the best hitters (PH) a team can field, adding to the level of difficulty. His ERA-plus numbers are incredible. No one else even comes close.

Rivera also has the single most dominating pitch in history, and no one can throw it like he has. While one could argue that a starting pitcher might be more valuable to a team than a reliever or even a closer, the stats don't lie when determining who the best pitcher is. Moreover, if you look at his performance in the playoffs and the World Series, he has been even more exceptional. Walter Johnson comes closest in this regard, but even then, it's not that close.

16 Clayton Kershaw Clayton Edward Kershaw is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball.

He's got a long way to go to challenge the legends, but at only 27 years old, with 3 Cy Youngs, 4 straight ERA titles, 3 strikeout titles, a 4-time leader in WHIP, an MVP, and a career-low 1.71 ERA, he's off to a nice start.

As for postseason success, with at least a decade of prime left, he's got plenty of time to prove himself in October. At 6'4", 220 lbs, with a durable history, his future durability looks promising.

Are you kidding? 32nd? His stats are probably the best in pitching history, better than Koufax. He deserves that #2 spot right under Cy Young.

17 Steve Carlton

1972 was the best season I ever saw, especially considering he pitched for the worst team in baseball. He had the wickedest slider ever.

This list is a joke. Is Seaver better than Carlton? Is Rivera, a part-time player, higher than Carlton?

Second all-time in wins and strikeouts for left-handers. First pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards.

18 Bob Feller

Bob Feller is definitely in the top 10. He was the first pitcher in the modern era to record three no-hitters and sacrificed four prime years of his career serving our country. He volunteered just two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, even though he didn't have to enlist, as he was the sole support for his family. Had he not served, he probably would have achieved four or five career no-hitters and around 350 wins.

Gave up four years of his prime to volunteer for the war. That cost him 300 wins. Bob is the best.

Bob Feller also holds the record for the fastest pitch in history at 107.9 MPH. With three no-hitters to his name, he's truly amazing.

19 Warren Spahn

I met him in Oklahoma shortly before his passing, and I asked the question: What kind of money would you have made pitching in this era? He quickly replied, The same $100,000. I played for the love of the game.

That summed up Warren Spahn - humble and passionate about his game. He's the best by all means and comparisons.

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 existed. Lost 3 years in WWII by serving his country. Not only the greatest pitcher of all time but also a war hero. People always forget about Spahn.

20 Justin Verlander Justin Brooks Verlander is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Houston Astros of Major League Baseball.

Freak of nature. The dude doesn't mess around and appears to only be getting better with age. Likely the next to reach 3,000 strikeouts, and if he keeps playing the way he is, he may have more strikeouts than innings pitched. Hall of Fame for sure.

The greatest pitcher ever. Cy Young and MVP both in the same year.

21 Babe Ruth George Herman Ruth Jr., better known as Babe Ruth, was an American professional baseball player whose career in Major League Baseball spanned 22 seasons, from 1914 through 1935.

In Babe Ruth's 1916 season as a pitcher, his record was 23 wins and 170 strikeouts, with a 1.75 ERA, 9 shutouts, and 23 complete games.

Good pitcher, but didn't have many strikeouts.

He could've been the greatest pitcher ever.

22 Tom Glavine

He didn't have the overwhelming fastball to win big in the postseason, but neither did Maddux.

23 Fernando Valenzuela

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

24 Masahiro Tanaka
25 Yu Darvish

Young with lots of games to come. Fastest ever to reach 500 strikeouts. Given time, he will be the best.

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