Top Ten Best MLB Pitchers of All Time
Baseball is far more than a game, it is a lifestyle. Since the dawn of the early games in the mid 1800’s to the formation of the Major League in the late 1800’s to modern day baseball has gained steam and popularity around the world since its invention. Commonly attributed to Abner Doubleday, the game of baseball has actually been around in various forms much longer than that. Originally a modified version of the game Cricket, baseball evolved to the game we see today, complete with infield fly rules, double pickoffs and instant replay. But one constant through the evolution of the game has been the position of the pitcher. Standing on a mound 60 feet and 6 inches from home plate, the pitcher has what is possibly the most important job in the game: to keep opposing hitters from getting on base. As the game has evolved, so have pitchers, and here is a list of ten of the greatest of all time.
10. Christy Matthewson
Known perhaps for his demeanor as well as his ability, Christy Matthewson, or otherwise known as ‘Matty’, was one of the games earliest and best pitchers. Compiling a 373 win career with an average ERA (earned run average) of just 2.13, Matthewson was certainly one of the most statistically successful pitchers of all time. The only knock on Matty is that he played during what is called “the dead-ball era”, a time when there was little in the way of run scoring and thus ERA’s were often quite low, even for less talented pitchers. Considered the inventor of the Screwball (or as he called it “the Fadeaway”) Matthewson left an impression on baseball that cannot be denied. A war hero who never pitched on Sundays, Matthewson passed away of tuberculosis at the age of 45.
9. Nolan Ryan
As for longevity, Nolan Ryan was one of the most amazing pitchers ever. During a record 27 year major league career spanning just four teams, Ryan compiled 324 wins and an ERA of 3.19. What Ryan is really known for however are his strikeouts, all 5,714 of them. Regularly hitting over 100MPH on the radar gun with his fastball, Ryan also had a devastatingly fast 12-6 curve that would seem to drop off a table in front of the hitters eyes. Even into his 40’s Ryan was topping 100MPH and become the oldest pitcher to ever throw a no-hitter in 1991 against a Toronto Blue Jays team that won the East that year and won the World Series back to back the next two. Now a majority owner and CEO of the Texas Rangers, Ryan at 66 is still as much a part of the game as he ever was.
8. Warren Spahn
Another pitcher who was exceptionally effective even late in his career, Warren Spahn was a left-handed pitcher who won 363 games and had a career ERA of 3.09. Starting his career in 1942 with the Boston Braves, Spahn was the 1957 Cy Young award and was a runner up three times during the period when only one award was given in baseball. With more wins than any other lefty and more wins than any pitcher since the “live-ball” era began in the 1920’s, Spahn is recognized as easily one of the best in history.
7. Lefty Grove
Starting his career in 1925 for the Philadelphia Athletics, Lefty Grove was one of the best left-handed pitchers in history and led categories his entire career. Twice winning the Pitchers Triple Crown of leading the league in Wins, Strikeouts and ERA, he was the beloved Ace of the Athletics ‘Dynasty’ teams. Posting a losing record only once in his career (his rookie year), Lefty also twice in the same year struck out the side on just nine pitches, leading sportswriter Arthur “Bugs” Baer to write “Grove could throw a lamb chop past a wolf.”
6. Pete Alexander
Grover Cleveland “Pete” Alexander made his debut for the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1911 season and proceeded to become one of the best pitchers in baseball history. Despite having a well known battle with alcohol and struggling from physical and emotional issues stemming from being drafted in 1918 and serving in The Great War, Alexander still won a Pitchers Triple Crown in 1920, pitching for the Chicago Cubs. Tied for first in the National League record book with Christy Matthewson in wins and holding the NL record for shutouts with 90, Alexander is one of the all time greats of the mound.
5. Randy Johnson
Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson was one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball history. This 6 foot 10 inch behemoth pitched for several different teams in his career and had consistent quality in all of them, finally retiring after pitching for the San Francisco Giants in 2009. The big lefty threw fastballs that clocked over 100 MPH regularly and finished first in strikeouts per nine innings omong starting pitchers all time. He is second only to Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts and threw two no-hitters including one perfect game.
4. Walter Johnson
Walter Johnson, known as “Barney” or “The Big Train” was a pitcher celebrated for being one of the most dominant in history. Making his debut in 1907 for the Washington Senators, he played his entire career there, ending on September 30, 1927. After pitching, he would serve as a manager for both the Senators and the Indians. Johnson led the league in strikeouts 12 times, a record, including 8 straight seasons and was the only pitcher in the 3,000 strikeout club for 50 years until Bob Gibson joined him in 1974. Known for his sidearm delivery and explosive fastball, Johnson was one of the game’s best on the mound during its early celebratory years as the Nations Pastime.
3. Roger Clemens
Perhaps the most controversial entry on this list, Roger Clemens dominance cannot be denied. With 354 wins over a 24 season career, Clemens 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts are amazing numbers. This along with his seven Cy Young awards which is the most of any pitcher ever, The Rocket Roger Clemens won virtually every award a pitcher can win during his career. While his later career may be tainted due to allegations of PED use, he was found not guilty of lying to Congress that he never knowingly took performance enhancing drugs. The 11 time all star and 2 time World Series Champion hopes to one day soon join the Hall of Fame and shake the cloud of suspicion over drug use. If he can, his credentials are certainly the stuff legends are made.
2. Cy Young
In 1890, the Cleaveland Spiders introduced a young rookie who would revolutionize pitching in the major leagues forever. Cy Young, who won 511 games during his career (94 ahead of second place), has a career ERA of 2.63 and threw three no-hitters, 76 shutouts and won at least 30 games in a season five times and 20 or more ten times. Even for the dead ball era, those statistics are mind boggling and Young, a hard thrower in the days before the radar gun, was the most dominant of the time. Known as a bridge from the game’s earliest days to its more modern era, Young pitched against all the greats of the pre-Babe Ruth time and is generally seen as the ‘pitchers pitcher.’
1. Greg Maddux
“The Professor” Greg Maddux is one of the greatest pitchers of all time and simultaneously one of the most humble. Known for his quiet demeanor, Maddux was no less a star on the mound during his career winning the Cy Young a record four times in a row and won at least 15 games a season for 17 straight seasons which is a MLB record. Perhaps the best control pitcher ever, Maddux rarely lit up the radar gun, but instead employed a variety of curveballs, changeups and sliders to compliment his modest fastball and was known for being able to outthink just about anyone. With a career ERA of 3.16, Maddux survived and even thrived during a time period when home runs were the rule of the day and most pitchers ERA’s were ballooning. An incredible 18 time Gold Glove winner, Maddux was the perfect pitcher and has had his number (31) retired for both the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves teams.