Baseball

Top 50 Best Pitchers in MLB History

By Ryan Finklestein - April 16, 2019

As the saying goes “good pitching beats good hitting”, which is why there is nothing more unbeatable in sports then a pitcher that is locked in and dealing. There have been plenty of great pitchers in the history of the MLB. In fact there are over 70 pitchers that have been elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Here are the top 50 pitcher of all time.  

50. Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer just cracks the top 50 Best Pitchers of All-Time now, but by the time his career is over he likely finishes in the top half of the list. Scherzer has won three Cy Young Awards and pitched two no-hitters in his career and is closing in on 200 career wins. Scherzer is one of the best right-handed pitchers in all of baseball and has shown no signs of slowing down with age.

49. Early Wynn

Early Wynn was an intimidating power pitcher for his era, with a hard fastball that he was not afraid to use to antagonize batters. Wynn’s career spanned four decades as he made his debut in 1939 and pitched until 1963. Across his 23-year career, Wynn won 300 games and struck out 2,334 batters.

48. Goose Gossage

Goose Gossage was one of the first in a long line of eccentric closers, with his wild facial hair and fierce demeanor on the mound. Gossage helped the New York Yankees win the 1978 World Series and led the American League in saves three times. Playing primarily with the Yankees and the San Diego Padres, Gossage finished his career with 124 wins and 310 saves.

47. Justin Verlander

Like Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander has the chance to rise in these ranks as he is still pitching at a high level and was just a finalist for the Cy Young in 2018. Verlander won the pithing Triple Crown back in 2011, in a year were he also took home the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards. If Verlander pitches into his 40’s he has to chance to become the 24th pitcher in MLB history to reach the 300-win milestone.

46. Lefty Gomez

Lefty Gomez is one of the greatest winning pitchers in MLB history, as he led the New York Yankees to World Series titles in five of his 13 seasons with the club. Gomez won six of his seven career postseason starts and was a huge reason why the Yankees won four straight World Series’ from 1936 through 1939. Gomez also won two Triple Crowns in 1934 and 1937, along with winning the Cy Young in those years as well.

45. Bob Lemon

Bob Lemon began his career with the Cleveland Indians at just 17 years old and spent his entire career with the club. Lemon led the Indians to a World Series victory in 1948, which is the last time they won the title. Lemon was an all-star in seven straight seasons starting in 1948 and finished his career with a 207-128 record.

44. Don Sutton

Don Sutton was one of the most reliable starting pitchers in baseball throughout his career, with double-digit win seasons in all but two of his 23 seasons years in the big leagues. Overall, Sutton won 324 games and is currently seventh on baseball’s all-time strikeout list with 3,574.

43. Phil Niekro

The greatest knuckleball pitcher in baseball history, Phil Niekro was a magician with the baseball. Niekro won more games than any knuckleballer with 318 victories and led the National League in wins twice. Niekro was not only a great pitcher but was also exceptional at fielding his position, winning five Gold Glove Awards in his career.

42. Gaylord Perry

Gaylord Perry made MLB history in 1978 when he became the first pitcher to ever win the Cy Young in both the American League and the National League. Perry was known for his spitball, which was an illegal pitch, but he was not ejected from a game for it until his 21st season. Perry finished his career with 3,534 strikeouts, 314 wins and a career 3.14 ERA.

41. Curt Schilling

Curt Schilling was a great strikeout pitcher that pitched at his best in the biggest moments. Schilling will always be remembered for the “Bloody Sock Game” where he pitched through an ankle injury in Game 6 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, earning the victory to push the series to a seventh game. Schilling has the best strikeout to walk ratio of any pitcher in the 3,000-strikeout club.

40. Kid Nichols

Charles Nichols was known by the name “Kid” because he was pitching in the big leagues before he turned 18 years old. Nichols continued to earn that nickname when he became the youngest player to ever win 300 games. Nichols finished his career with a 2.95 ERA, 1,873 strikeouts and a 361-208 record.

39. Ferguson Jenkins

Ferguson Jenkins has to be the only Hall of Fame baseball player that also played basketball for the Harlem Globetrotters. Jenkins made more Hall of Fame history by being the first Canadian to be elected to Cooperstown. Through his 19-year career, Jenkins won 284 games and struck out 3,192 batters.

38. Catfish Hunter

If persistent arm injuries did not derail his career, Catfish Hunter would be much higher on this list as he won 200 games before his age-31 season. Once he turned 31, his career began to go downhill, and he retired three years later. Hunter was still dominant at his best, winning five World Series rings during his career with the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees.

37. John Smoltz

John Smoltz was one of the core pieces for an Atlanta Braves team that won eleven straight NL East Division titles from 1995 to 2005. Smoltz is most known for being a starting pitcher, but he also spent four seasons as the team’s closer after having Tommy John surgery in the middle of his career. Smoltz is one of two pitchers to ever record both a 20-win season and a 50-save season in their careers. Smoltz finished his career with 213 wins, 154 saves and 3,084 strikeouts.

36. Dennis Eckersley

Dennis Eckersley is the other pitcher, along with John Smoltz, to record a 20-win and a 50-save season in his career. Eckersley started his career as a starting pitcher, but really made himself a Hall of Famer when he became a closer. Eckersley saved 390 games and won 197 throughout his 25-year career.

35. Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts was a workhorse for the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1950s, pitching 300 or more innings in six straight seasons. Roberts threw 305 complete games in his 19-year career and struck out 2,357 batters. Roberts also led the MLB in wins four times and finished his career with 284 wins.

34. Rollie Fingers

Known for having one of the most glorious mustaches in the history of sports, Rollie Fingers was the second reliever ever to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Fingers won three straight World Series’ with the Oakland Athletics and was the World Series MVP in 1974. Fingers had a career ERA of 2.90 and saved 341 games across 17 seasons.

33. Orel Hershiser

Orel Hershiser is one of the best starting pitchers that has not been honored by being inducted into the Hall of Fame, mostly due to lackluster seasons at the end of his career. When Hershiser started his career with the Dodgers, he was excellent. Hershiser pitched to a 3.13 ERA in 13 seasons with L.A. and lead them to a World Series victory as the 1988 World Series MVP. Hershiser also set the MLB record for the longest consecutive scoreless inning streak when he threw 59 innings without allowing a run.  

32. Babe Ruth

Everyone remembers Babe Ruth as one of the best home run hitters of all time, but before being a slugger for the New York Yankees, Ruth was an excellent pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. If the first six years are any indication, Ruth was one pace to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time. During that span, Ruth pitched to a 2.19 ERA with an 89-46 record. Ruth threw 107 complete games out of his 147 career starts but he obviously was able to have a bigger impact hitting home runs instead of preventing them.

31. Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay was an excellent starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and later with the Philadelphia Phillies. Halladay threw the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history back in 2010 against the Cincinnati Reds. Halladay was an eight-time all-start, won two Cy Young Awards and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.

30. Rube Waddell

Rube Waddell was one of baseball’s first hard-throwing strikeout pitchers, finishing his career with 2,316 strikeouts in an era were hitters were focused on putting the ball in play. Waddell led the majors in strikeouts in six straight seasons and finished his career with a great strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3 to 1.

29. Smoky Joe Wood

Smoky Joe Wood was a dominant pitcher for the Red Sox in the early 1900s, helping guide them to three World Series victories. Wood really only pitched for six full seasons but had a remarkable 2.03 career ERA. Wood won 117 games in his MLB career and is one of only 13 pitchers to eclipse 30 wins in a season during his 1912 campaign in which he went 34-5.

28. Tom Glavine

Tom Glavine was a dominant left-handed pitcher in the Atlanta Braves rotation during their reign over the NL East back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Glavine was the MVP for their one World Series win in 1995, winning both of his World Series starts. Glavine won two Cy Youngs during his career and is a member of the 300-win club with his 305 career wins. Glavine was also a very solid hitter in his career, winning four Silver Slugger Awards.

27. Ed Walsh

Ed Walsh might not be a household name as he pitched in the early 1900s, but Walsh is still one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history. Over a 14-year career, Walsh had an amazing 1.82 ERA which is the lowest career ERA of any pitcher who has thrown enough innings to qualify.

26. Mordecai Brown

Mordecai Brown is one of the most interesting stories in MLB history, as the pitcher lost two fingers in a farm-machinery accident when he was a kid. He then took his handicap and turned it into an advantage on the mound, crafting a nasty curveball with his three-fingered hand. Brown was known as “Three Finger” and used that curveball to pitch to a sparkling 2.06 ERA in his career.

25. Don Drysdale

Don Drysdale formed one of the most dynamic one-two punches in MLB history when he shared the starting rotation with fellow Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax. That duo led the Dodgers to three World Series victories. Drysdale led the league in wins in 1962 with his 25-9 record and was named the NL Cy Young. In his career, Drysdale was a nine-time all-star and pitched to a 2.95 ERA.

24. Juan Marichal

Juan Marichal was known for his high-leg kick, pin-point accuracy and his penchant for throwing directly at opposing batters heads to gain an advantage. Until Bartolo Colon passed him in 2018, Juan Marichal had won more games than any Dominican-born pitcher with 243 wins.

23. Carl Hubbell

Carl Hubbell was an excellent pitcher that spent his entire career with the New York Giants. Hubbell set the major league record for winning 24 straight games between 1936 and 1937 and led the league in wins both of those years. Hubbell also has two league MVP’s on his resume to go along with being a 1933 World Series champion.  

22. Dizzy Dean

Dizzy Dean had one of the best six-year stretches in the history of the St. Louis Cardinals during his first years in the MLB. Dean won 133 games between 1932 and 1937, won an MVP and finished runner-up twice, while being named an all-star four times. Dean had a 2.99 career ERA and won 134 games pitching for the Cardinals.

21. Jim Palmer

No pitcher has ever dominated a decade more then Jim Palmer dominated the 1970s.   During that time, Palmer won 186 games which is the most by any pitcher in one decade. Palmer spent his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles and his 268 career wins are still a franchise record.

20. Clayton Kershaw

If Clayton Kershaw were to retire today, he would already be a Hall of Famer. Kershaw is one of the most dominant regular season pitchers in MLB history, leading the league in ERA five times before the age of 30. Kershaw has also won an MVP, a Triple Crown, a Gold Glove and three Cy Young Awards. Once he retires, Kershaw will go down as one of the most decorated pitchers in MLB history.

19. Satchel Paige

Satchel Paige is still regarded by some as the greatest pitcher of all-time, especially by those that watched him pitch. Paige would famously tell his infielders to take a seat and would proceed to strike out the side. Paige was cocky and entertaining to watch, making him a draw wherever he got the chance to pitch. Unfortunately due to the color barrier, Paige did not get to pitch in the MLB until he was in his 40s.

18. Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford was one of the great World Series champions in MLB history, winning six titles with the New York Yankees. Ford’s best season came in 1961, as he won the Cy Young in the regular season and then won the World Series MVP.

17. Mariano Rivera

The greatest closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera was nearly automatic serving that role for the New Yankees for the better part of two decades. Rivera saved more games than any player in MLB history with 652 saves. The best part about Rivera was that he got better when the Yankees needed him the most in October. Rivera had a career 0.70 postseason ERA and won five World Series rings with the Yankees.

16. Steve Carlton

Steve Carlton was one of the greatest left-handed starting pitchers in MLB history as he has the second-most lifetime strikeouts (4,136) and wins (329) for any lefty. Carlton was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards in their career. Carlton won two World Series’, one with the Cardinals at the start of his career and another with the Phillies.

15. Bob Feller

Bob Feller is the greatest Cleveland Indians pitcher of all-time and was one of the best strikeout pitchers of his ERA. Feller led the MLB in strikeouts seven times in his career and pitched three no-hitters. His 266 wins still stand as the most by any pitcher in Indians franchise history.

14. Grover Cleveland Alexander

Glover Cleveland Alexander is one of the winningest pitchers in MLB history with 373 career wins. Alexander threw a whopping 90 career shutouts, which is a National League record. Alexander won the Triple Crown on three separate occasions and led the league in wins and strikeouts six times, as well as leading the league in ERA four times.

13. Warren Spahn

Warren Spahn flat out knew how to win baseball games, picking up at least 20 wins in 13 seasons. Spahn won 363 games in his career and did so without overpowering stuff. Instead, Spahn was recognized a “thinking man’s pitcher”, who used his wit to outsmart hitters by upsetting their timing.

12. Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez was electric at the beginning of his career, with his peak stretch coming between 1997 to 2003. During that span, Martinez won three Cy Young Awards and had a 2.20 ERA while leading the league in that category five times. Martinez is the only pitcher in MLB history to strike out 3,000 batters without pitching at least 3,000 career innings.

11. Lefty Grove

Lefty Grove spent 17 years in the MLB and led the American League in ERA in over half of those years, accomplishing that feat nine times. Grove also led the AL in strikeouts seven times and in wins four times. Grove won 300 games in his career against just 141 losses.

10. Roger Clemens

Roger Clemens had a long and successful MLB career, even though he may have had some pharmaceutical help near the tail end of it. Clemens won the Cy Young Award seven times, more then any pitcher in history. His 4,672 career strikeouts are third-most all time and in 1986 he struck out a record 20 batters in a single game.

9. Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux is the only pitcher to win 15 games or more in 17 straight seasons and accumulated 355 wins in his career. Maddux was the best pitcher in baseball from 1992 to 1995, winning four straight NL Cy Young Awards. During those years, Maddux had a 75-29 record with a 1.99 ERA. Known for his pinpoint control, Maddux allowed less than one baserunner per inning during his those Cy Young years.

8. Randy Johnson

Known as “The Big Unit”, Randy Johnson was a towering 6 foot 10 inches with one of the most dominating fastballs in MLB history. Johnson led the league in strikeouts nine times and is second on the all time list with 4,875. Johnson won five Cy Young Awards in his career, second-most all time behind Roger Clemens.

7. Nolan Ryan

The most infamous power pitcher in MLB history, no one has struck out more batters then Nolan Ryan. Ryan struck out 5,714 batters in his career and led his league in strikeouts 11 times. Ryan also pitched a record seven no-hitters, although none of them were perfect games.

6. Tom Seaver

Nicknamed “The Franchise” and “Tom Terrific”, Tome Seaver is the greatest pitcher in the history of the New York Mets. Seaver was a 12-time all-star, won the Rookie of the Year Award, three Cy Young Awards and won the World Series in 1969.

5. Bob Gibson

Bob Gibson was one of the most unhittable pitchers in baseball history.  After the 1968 season, in which Gibson pitched to a 1.12 ERA, the MLB literally changed rules by lowering the mound following the season.  Gibson fanned 3,117 batters in his 17-year career and also won two World Series MVPs.

4. Sandy Koufax

If Sandy Koufax’s career was not cut short due to arthritis in his pitching elbow, he could have been even higher on this list. Koufax had a run from 1961 through 1966 in which he led the league in strikeouts four times, wins three times, and ERA five times. He won the Triple Crown and Cy Young Awards three times as  well. Koufax’s success was not just individual either, as the Dodgers won four World Series titles with him leading the charge.

3. Christy Matthewson

Christy Matthewson is the only pitcher in MLB history to rank in the top ten in both career ERA and career wins. Mathewson is tied with Grover Cleveland Alexander in third place all time with 373 career wins. The only difference between Mathewson and Alexander is that Mathewson’s ERA was a miniscule 2.13, which was four point lower then Alexander’s.

2. Walter Johnson

Walter Johnson is second all time in wins with 417 in his 21-year career. Johnson led the American League in strikeouts 12 times and holds the MLB record with 110 career shutouts. With the ridiculous stats that Johnson accumulated, you would think he was baseball’s G.O.A.T. Still, there is one pitcher who was just a little better and he might have an award named after him.  

1. Cy Young

Cy Young is the name of the award that we give to the best pitcher and it was rightfully named after the greatest pitcher to ever live. Young must have had a rubber arm because he pitched 749 complete games in his 22-year career. Young holds the most untouchable record in all of sports with 511 career wins.