Top 10 Greatest Pitchers of All TimeGranted, 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.
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.
I didn't see him pitch, but he has the greatest numbers of all pitchers ever. Of those that I've seen pitch - Clemens, Martinez, Seaver, Maddux, Carlton, Randy Johnson, Palmer, Marichal, Koufax, Guidry - check the stats of Koufax and Guidry. They are very similar. Everyone focuses on Koufax's best 5-year period and considers him the greatest.
Check out his career (12 years) and compare it to Juan Marichal's first twelve years - Marichal beats him in just about every category. In wins and losses, Marichal has a record of 221-108, while Koufax has 165-87. In terms of WHIP, Marichal has 1.069 while Koufax has 1.106. They pitched in the same era. For the first twelve years, Marichal's ERA is also better (2.64 compared to Koufax's 2.76). Check it out for yourself.
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 7 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.
As a young Texas Rangers fan, he is one of my favorites by far. He was in his 40s and threw an incredible no-hitter, his seventh. I have over 125 Nolan Ryan cards (not exaggerating). He has over 5,000 strikeouts. Everyone was scared of this pitcher since his first no-hitter. He did great with all the teams he played with.
This guy is way better than any pitcher out there. No one, and I say no one, will ever be better than Nolan Ryan. It's impossible. People who say Cy Young is better are wrong. In fact, it should just be called the Nolan Ryan Award. Haters are going to hate, and lovers are going to love. It will be a future change.
Rookie cards of this guy are worth hundreds, if not thousands, if not tens of thousands. A signature is worth millions. To those who say Sandy Koufax or Roger Clemens is better, don't listen to them. Sandy Koufax ended his career due to minor injuries, while Nolan Ryan had injuries and never gave up. Roger Clemens took steroids, while Nolan didn't. Fine, Sandy Koufax had a better ERA in his career, but his career was much shorter than Ryan's. I'm just some 9-year-old saying this, and if you disagree, feel free to write something. Peace out.
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 was yesterday. 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 by the greatest pitcher of all time, Sandy Koufax. It was the southpaw's first perfect game, but the fourth in which he threw a 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 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. You see, on September 9, 1965, I saw Sandy Koufax pitch the greatest game of all time.
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.
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.
Cy Young is amazing. As a matter of fact, I am related to him, no joke. He's the best pitcher of all time, in my opinion.
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.
You have to give the benefit of the doubt to the lefties. It's harder to pitch in the majors as a lefty, and Randy did better than all the lefties and righties of his era.
The first player ever to be referred to as "The Franchise." Need I say more?
Tom Terrific lost more 1-0, 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?
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 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 less than 1,000 batters in his career. I always learned something watching him pitch. How many players can you say that about? DW
No question, Maddux was an absolutely dominant pitcher for the reasons mentioned. I actually believe he did the things stated above. He pitched with brain power. However, that doesn't necessarily make him the best pitcher, although I would consider putting him near the top of the list. If I were starting a dream team today, I might pick him first.
The only issue I have with Maddux is that the umpires seemed to favor him. I don't know why, but a lot of balls were called strikes when he was on the mound. I can't take anything away from him, but I never really understood why that was the case.
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.
In the steroid era, he completely shut down batters. While his career was not as long as some of the others on this list, his 7-year stretch from 1997 to 2003 is the most dominant pitching performance of all time.
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.
Matthewson 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.
With a 2.13 career ERA, two-time pitching Triple Crown, and 373 wins, there's no question. He was the first great pitcher and still remains the best of all time.
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.
Lefty Grove was probably the best starting pitcher in MLB history. His season in 1931 was near perfection, along with Pedro Martinez in 1999 and Ron Guidry in 1978 - probably the finest years a pitcher ever had. And Grove made it a habit. This list is a disgrace. Nolan Ryan couldn't even carry water for Lefty Grove. If this is the product of baseball analytics, then they are terribly flawed.
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.
Won more Cy Young Awards than any other pitcher.
Won the MVP award.
Third all-time in strikeouts.
Ninth all-time in wins.
Shares the record for most strikeouts in one game at 20.
Led the N.L. in ERA at age 40.
One of the greatest pitchers ever. They called Seaver "The Franchise" and Roger "The Rocket."
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.
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.
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.
Who else dominated for 19 years? Take ERA+ alone, and the case is made. Take the postseason, and the case is made. Take his career stats in all areas ranked against everyone else - no one else comes close. Done!
Most dominating and most clutch pitcher of all time!
He's got a long, 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. And 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 should deserve that #2 spot right under Cy Young.
What? He's the best pitcher in the whole league, and I think ever! Cy Young is before him? Not even in his dreams! This list is BS.
1972 was the best season I ever saw, especially considering he pitched for the worst team in baseball. He had the wickedest slider ever.
You have got to be kidding me. You put Walter J. in front of Carlton? Here is my top 5 list:
This list is a joke. Is Seaver better than Carlton? Is Rivera, a part-time player, higher than Carlton?
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.
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.
I like him and the Red Sox, and I use him as my pitcher in MLB The Show 22. I also appreciate that he had over 300 wins and 2,000 strikeouts.
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.
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.
He didn't have the overwhelming fastball to win big in the postseason, but neither did Maddux.
Consistency and poise.
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.
One of the best.
Young with lots of games to come. Fastest ever to reach 500 strikeouts. Given time, he will be the BEST.
Will be one of the best.