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 Nolan Ryan Nolan 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.

Freak of nature, all time strike out leader, all time 1 hitter leader, 7 no hitters (most of all time) most complete games most strikeouts in a season, fastest pitcher to ever pitch, could pitch more than any pitcher and pitch the next game if he wanted, people call cal Ripken "iron man", but Nolan Ryan is the true iron man, there will never be a pitcher like Nolan Ryan ever again, born to pitch, god given, greatest pitcher of all time.

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.

Koufax the end

V 47 Comments
2 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 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

You know when a pitcher is great is when the best players cannot hit him. Pete Rose mentioned he was afraid to face him. Willie Mays and Hank Aaron couldn't hit against him. He will not show the best on career statistics because of his shorter career. But for a six year period he was in his prime(61-66), no other pitcher can compete for their best six year period. Koufax was pitching batting practice in about 1980 against the Dodgers before a world series game. This was about 11 years after his retirement. The Dodgers could not hit him and the batting coach asked Koufax to stop throwing batting practice, he was hurting their confidence. In a class by himself.

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.

Love the September 9 story. Agree too.. best game ever pitched.

V 16 Comments
3 Cy 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

Cy Young is amazing, as a matter of fact I am related to him, no joke. Best pitcher of all time, in my opinion.

Its cy young duh

V 12 Comments
4 Walter 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.

The number one ever- struck out Cobb three times in one game.Cobb swore he couldn't even see Walter's fastball.No jug gun back then but Walter probably threw over 100 mph,if a hitter like Cobb says that!

V 14 Comments
5 Randy 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.

To blow up a dove you got to be throwing fast

V 12 Comments
6 Tom 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

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

#41...Best ever!

V 2 Comments
7 Greg 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!

Greg Maddux is my cousin and although you may think that my opinion is biased, it honestly is not. I KNOW that he was a phenomenal pitcher since he was a young boy like the child prodigy Mozart was to the piano. I also know his dedication and love for the game. He would have been a pitcher even if it had only paid minimum wage. He didn't do it for the money or fame. He had many offers to endorse products like so many others, but simply wasn't interested in that aspect. He pitched because he was a natural, loved what he did and for excellence in his own personal achievement. Holding the records for the most Cy Young and Golden Glove awards says it all for excellence in his consistency throughout his entire career and not just great feats in certain aspects of pitching over shorter periods of time in a career full of highs and lows. He truly went the distance in excellence during his entire career which is no small feat for a pitcher that very few accomplish. I never expressed this to ...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 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


V 15 Comments
8 Bob Gibson

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

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

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

Intimidation, power, longevity - Gibby had it all

V 6 Comments
9 Christy 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.

Underrated old times pitcher

Won't somebody fix the spelling of Mathewson's name? - 5ToolPlayers

V 2 Comments
10 Pedro 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

He has the single lowest WHIP in a season while still pitching 200+ innings, at 0.737... during the steroid era. Most Dominant peak of all time, may not be number one, but Pedro at his peak > All others, he was less consistent than others in his late years but holy cow he was nasty.

Three words. Pitcher's Score Algorithm

V 10 Comments

The Contenders

11 Roger Clemens

Somebody said they believe Clemens started doing roids after 220 wins, so they think he should be in the Hall. I disagree. I think the steady drop-off in innings pitched every year from 1991 to 1995 and then the resurgence to over 200 innings in 1996 and beyond shows that he started cheating in 1996. Clemens didn't have 220 wins until sometime during the 1997 season. Even if he hadn't been cheating during some of his 220 wins, there are lots of pitchers with 220 wins who aren't in the Hall of Fame! And there are lots of pitchers who NEVER "started doing roids." By my estimation, Clemens was cheating for at least half of his mlb career, and during more than half of his Cy Young Award years. Clemens sacrificed his reputation and polluted his stats to get money and fame. He does not deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

Between his fastball and splitter he was good as anyone ever.. The steroid scandal ruined baseball for me considering to me Clemons was my favorite pitcher and Bonds was my favorite hitter lol

Cheated so should not be in the top 10.

7 Cy Young awards.

V 4 Comments
12 Mariano 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.

The best closer and the hardest worker

V 5 Comments
13 Satchel 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

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.

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.

Unreal that he is #13

V 5 Comments
14 Lefty 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

LeftyGrove 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 prbably the finest yesrs a pitcher ever had. And Grove made it a habit This list is a disgrace Nolan Ryan coud not even carry water for lefty Grove. Total joke. if this is the product of baseball analytics than they are terribly flawed

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.

15 Grover Cleveland 'Pete' Alexander

My dad said he was the best who ever was.

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

V 1 Comment
16 Warren Spahn

I met him in Oklahoma shortly before his passing and I asked the question, what kind of money would you of got pitching in this era, he said quickly the same $100,000 I played for the love of the game. That summed up Warren Spahn, humble and loved his game. The best by all means and all 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. 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.

V 2 Comments
17 Steve Carlton

1972,best season I ever saw, especially considering he pitched for the worst team in baseball. Wickedest slider ever.

It's a joke he is this low

I have a autograph ball of this man - Sabbath

Great pitcher

V 3 Comments
18 Clayton Kershaw Clayton Kershaw Clayton Edward Kershaw is an American professional baseball pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball.

He may not be the greatest yet, but he should already be in the top 10 and will probably be one of, if not THE greatest by the end of his career

He is simply the greatest pitcher ever, in my opinion

The rankings on this website are absolutely whack-a-doodle.

Top 10 already! Top 5 for sure when he retires if not #1

V 5 Comments
19 Bob 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

Great pitcher and man

One of the best.

20 Fernando 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.

V 2 Comments
PSearch List

Recommended Lists

Related Lists

Top 10 Starting Pitchers of All Time Greatest Left-Handed Pitchers of All-Time Best Rappers of All Time Best Singers of All Time Best Songs of All Time

List Stats

2,000 votes
53 listings
12 years, 8 days old

Top Remixes (9)

1. Nolan Ryan
2. Randy Johnson
3. Roger Clemens
1. Nolan Ryan
2. Cy Young
3. Sandy Koufax
1. Nolan Ryan
2. Cy Young
3. Randy Johnson

View All 9


Ryan is the best-off and on the field
Top 10 pitchers of all time
Add Post

Error Reporting

See a factual error in these listings? Report it here.