Greatest pitcher of all time?


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
Who do you guys think is the greatest pitchers of all time and why? There's so many great pitchers that played in the Major Leagues. But I believe they can only be one that is truly the best, and I was wondering who you guys thought that was, and why?


I'm going to rule out deadball guys like Cy Young, Christy Mathewson, because they pitched in an era where the hitters were not as good and where pitchers were used differently so it gives them an unfair advantage in a debate like this.

And with that being said, I'm going to give it to Greg Maddux. He's had an incredibly long career, he had an amazing, Koufax-esque, peak in the 90's to early 2000's, and he did it all without having a 97MPH heater, it is, and was, always paint on the corners and movement. Plus he had his best years during the height of the steroids ERA.

342-212, 3.10 ERA, 3252 K's, only 965BB's, ERA+ 135, and he knows how to field his position to boot.


I would've said Walter Johnson, but if you want to rule out old-time pitchers, I'll go with Roger Clemens, who has a better ERA+ and more IP than Maddux.


Registered Member
My choice is Lefty Grove. He get's the nod from Bill James who in my opinion wrote MLB's first and only bible. Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.(1985,1988)

James rates Grove as the top all time pitcher in both peak and career value catagories. Next in career value James picks Warren Spahn ahead of Walter Johnson.
Spahn won his first game at the ripe old age of 25.
He won 20 games 13 times. The last at age 42 in 1963 when he went 23-7!


When I was considering this I gave Grove a lot of consideration, he was one of the first guys that popped into my head, but he also pitched in a slightly weaker hitting league. He is still a great pitcher, I just don't think hes #1.


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
I am going to go with Christy Mathewson. I know he didn't get has many wins has Cy Young, but he's still third all-time for most wins with 372 career wins. He pitched a record three shutouts in six days against the Philadelphia Athletics, leading the Giants to win the 1905 World Series. He won 20 games 13 times and 30 games 4 times. His best season was in 1908 when he led the league in wins (37), ERAs (1.43), games, pitched (56), games started (44), complete games (34), innings pitched (390.2), strikeouts (259), and shutouts (12). In my opinion he's the best of all time. Even though he pitched in the ERA where the hitters weren't has as today, he still pitched against some of the greatest players of all time.


Registered Member
I don't think you can justify saying recent pitchers are, cringe, worthy of comparison with pre 80s pitchers because of their lessening contribution. Not their fault but starting pitcher innings are shrinking as we post.
I can picture hands being thrown in the air and the starting pitcher running a Jugs pitching machine.

Wouldn't it be funny if the "starting" pitcher came in the fiith inning and the rules were changed to give a win to the pitcher who pitched the most innings for the winning team.

Great summary of 300 game winners

Of the thousands of players who have pitched in a major league game, only 23 have won 300 games. Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine are the only members of the group whose careers were spent entirely in the era of the five-man rotation, a testament to their durability and work ethic. Below are baseball's 300-game winners, listed in reverse chronological order.
Tom Glavine: New York Mets | No. 300: Aug. 5, 2007 | Career: 300-197
A high school hockey star who was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, Thomas Michael Glavine went on to become baseball's fifth-winngest left-hander of all time. He is a 10-time All-Star, a five-time 20-game winner and a two-time Cy Young Award winner, as well as one of the game's best hitting and fielding pitchers. The first 242 of his 300 wins came with the Atlanta Braves, for whom he also won 12 postseason games.
Greg Maddux: Chicago Cubs | No. 300: Aug. 7, 2004 | Career: 340-211
One of the game's greatest control pitchers and the first man to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards (1992-95), Gregory Alan Maddux was the game's winningest pitcher in the 1990s (176-88, with most of those wins coming for the Braves). Still going strong with the San Diego Padres at age 41, "Mad Dog" owns 16 Gold Gloves, four National League ERA titles and a 3.10 overall ERA in 22 major league seasons.
Roger Clemens: New York Yankees | No. 300: June 13, 2003 | Career: 351-183
A six-time 20-game winner still going strong in his 24th major-league season, William Roger Clemens has won seven ERA titles and seven Cy Young Awards (in three different decades) and is one of only four pitchers with 4,000 career strikeouts. The game's winningest living pitcher, "the Rocket" has struck out more than 200 batters in a season 12 times and twice fanned 20 batters in a game.
Nolan Ryan: Texas Rangers | No. 300: July 31, 1990 | Career: 324-292
With a fastball that approached 100 mph and a work ethic like no other, Lynn Nolan Ryan dominated hitters for 27 seasons on his way to 5,714 strikeouts. "The Ryan Express" led the league in strikeouts 11 times and topped 300 strikeouts six times, including a record 383 in 1973. Among Ryan's 324 wins are seven no-hitters and 12 one-hitters.
Don Sutton: California Angels | No. 300: June 18, 1986 | Career: 324-256
A model of consistency and durability, Donald Howard Sutton won 324 games and struck out 3,574 batters in 23 seasons. Not once did he miss a turn in the rotation for the Dodgers, Astros, Brewers, Athletics and Angels. A four-time All-Star, Sutton reached double figures in wins in 21 of his 23 seasons and struck out over 100 batters in each of his first 21 campaigns.
Phil Niekro: New York Yankees | No. 300: Oct. 6, 1985 | Career: 318-274
During a 24-year career, Philip Henry Niekro relied on a fluttering knuckleball to frustrate hitters. His lifetime record of 318-274 produced a winning percentage significantly higher than those teams for which he pitched. "Knucksie" twice led the NL in wins and propelled Atlanta to the NL West title in 1969, when he recorded 23 victories, 21 complete games and a 2.57 ERA.
Tom Seaver: Chicago White Sox | No. 300: Aug. 4, 1985 | Career: 311-205
George Thomas Seaver was a dominating power pitcher who helped transform the New York Mets from lovable losers into formidable foes. "Tom Terrific" won 311 games with a 2.86 ERA over 20 seasons and fanned 3,640 batters, including 200 or more a record 10 times. Seaver was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1967 and a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
Steve Carlton: Philadelphia Phillies | No. 300: Sept. 23, 1983 | Career: 329-244
The second-winningest left-hander of all time, Steven Norman Carlton was an extremely focused competitor. He won 329 games -- second only to Warren Spahn among lefties -- and his 4,136 strikeouts are exceeded only by Ryan, Clemens and Randy Johnson. "Lefty" once notched 19 strikeouts in a game, compiled six 20-win seasons and was the first pitcher to win four Cy Young Awards.
Gaylord Perry: Seattle Mariners | No. 300: May 6, 1982 | Career: 314-265
Over 22 seasons, Gaylord Jackson Perry frustrated batters and umpires with his (allegedly) illegal pitches. One of nine pitchers with 300 wins and 3,000 strikeouts, Perry was a five-time 20-game winner. Perry threw a no-hitter in 1968 and won Cy Young Awards in 1972 with Cleveland and in 1978 with San Diego -- the first pitcher to win the award in both leagues.
Early Wynn: Cleveland Indians | No. 300: July 13, 1963 | Career: 300-244
A fierce competitor who once said he would knock down his grandmother if she dug in against him, Early Wynn was a five-time 20-game winner during his 23-year career with the Senators, Indians and White Sox. "Gus" won the American League Cy Young Award in 1959 and notched his 300th win four years later at the age of 43.
Warren Spahn: Boston Braves | No. 300: Aug. 11, 1961 | Career: 363-245
Despite three years in the military during his early 20s, Warren Edward Spahn won more games than any other left-hander in major league history. A 13-time 20-game winner, Spahn completed more than half his starts (382 of 665) and recorded 68 shutouts. He still holds the NL record for innings pitched over his 21-year career, during which he hurled two no-hitters.
Lefty Grove: Boston Red Sox | No. 300: July 25, 1941 | Career: 300-141
Considered the greatest left-handed pitcher in American League history, Robert Moses Grove won nine ERA titles and posted eight 20-win seasons. With a temperament as mean as his fastball, "Lefty" led the AL in strikeouts in seven consecutive seasons from 1925-31. Grove's .680 career winning percentage is tops among 300-game winners.
Grover Alexander: Chicago Cubs | No. 300: Sept. 20, 1924 | Career: 373-208
Grover Cleveland Alexander overcame epilepsy and alcoholism to become one of baseball's greatest pitchers. "Ol' Pete" won 30 or more games each season from 1915-17 and led the league in ERA five times. Alexander is the all-time National League leader in wins and shutouts (90), and his four one-hitters in 1915 and 16 shutouts in 1916 are still major league highs.
Walter Johnson: Washington Senators | No. 300: May 14, 1920 | Career: 417-279
Considered the greatest right-hander in baseball history, Walter Perry Johnson was a 10-time 20-game winner despite playing mostly for losing teams (he lost 27 games 1-0). With an overpowering fastball, "The Big Train" led the American League in strikeouts 12 times and won three pitching triple crowns. His 110 career shutouts are 20 more than the second-best total.
Eddie Plank: St. Louis Browns | No. 300: Sept. 11, 1915 | Career: 326-194
A finesse pitcher with a sweeping sidearm curveball, Edward Stewart Plank won at least 20 games in eight of his 17 seasons, leading the Philadelphia Athletics to six American League pennants. Despite not playing baseball until college, "Gettysburg Eddie" remains the all-time leader in complete games and shutouts among left-handers.
Christy Mathewson: New York Giants | No. 300: June 13, 1912 | Career: 373-188
As charismatic and popular as any player in the early 1900s, Christopher Mathewson won at least 22 games for 12 straight seasons. "Matty" baffled hitters with his "fadeaway pitch" -- known today as a screwball. Throughout his career, he walked 1.6 batters per 9 innings. In 11 World Series games, Mathewson pitched 10 complete games, including four shutouts.
Cy Young: Boston Red Sox | No. 300: July 12, 1901 | Career: 511-315
Denton True Young, baseball's biggest winner -- and loser -- logged a record 7,356 innings during his 22-year career. Among his 511 wins were 76 shutouts and three no-hitters. Nicknamed "Cy" because of his cyclone-like fastball, Young won 20 games 16 times (five 30-win seasons). He averaged 27 wins and a 3.05 ERA in the 1890s; 27 wins and a 2.12 ERA in the 1900s.
Kid Nichols: Boston Beaneaters | No. 300: July, 7, 1900 | Career: 360-205
Charles Augustus Nichols won at least 25 games in each of his first nine seasons, leading the Boston Beaneaters to five National League championships. With a smooth delivery, "Kid" won 30 games a record seven times between 1891 and 1898. Nichols completed 531 of the 561 games he started and won his 300th game nine months and 23 days after his 30th birthday.
John Clarkson: Cleveland Spiders | No. 300: Sept. 21, 1892 | Career: 329-177
John Gibson Clarkson averaged 41 wins a season from 1885-1889 and won 30 or more games six times. Clarkson won 53 games in 1885 and twice pitched more than 600 innings in a season. Clarkson, who retired as the winningest pitcher in National League history, was tabbed "the $10,000 Wonder" in 1887, that being his sale price to the Boston Beaneaters.
Charley Radbourn: Cincinnati Reds | No. 300: June 2, 1891 | Career: 310-196
Considered the premier pitcher of the 19th century, Charles Gardner Radbourn finished 484 of the 497 games he started. Though his career spanned just 11 seasons, "Old Hoss" won 20 or more games nine times. Radbourn pitched the last 27 games of the 1884 season for the Providence Grays and won 26. He finished the season 60-12 in 73 starts.
Mickey Welch: New York Giants | No. 300: July 28, 1890 | Career: 309-212
Michael Francis Welch was a four-time 30-game winner who once struck out the first nine batters he faced, a record that remains untouched. Depending heavily on an assortment of off-speed pitches, "Smiling Mickey" completed his first 105 starts. Welch's best season occurred in 1885, when he won 17 games in a row while compiling a 44-11 record.
Tim Keefe: New York Giants | No. 300: June 4, 1890 | Career: 341-223
With a submarine delivery, Timothy John Keefe won 341 games in 14 seasons. "Sir Timothy" ran off a record 19 consecutive victories during the 1888 season, twice won over 40 games, and three times pitched his club to the pennant. One of the first pitchers to use a change-of-pace delivery, Keefe retired in 1893 as the career leader in strikeouts (2,533).
Pud Galvin: Pittsburgh Alleghenys | No. 300: Oct. 5, 1888 | Career: 361-302
Nicknamed "Pud" because he turned opposing batters into pudding, James Francis Galvin was baseball's first 300-game winner. In 14 seasons, Galvin pitched more innings (5,959) and completed more games (641) than anyone except Cy Young. Short and stocky, he was a tireless worker who won 20 games 10 times and twice topped the 40-win mark.


The standards are different for those pitchers. Back then 20 wins in a season was childs play and was expected of average pitchers, the really good ones like Mathewson and Young could consistently reach 30 wins, and even come in to relieve games they didn't start. Not to mention the significantly lower level of competition in terms of the quality and quantity of good hitters.

Back in the 90's-early 2000's when guys like Maddux and Pedro were at the height of their game it was also at the height of the most offensive era of baseball in the history of the game, aka the steroids era. And even without the steroids the good/great hitters are a dime a dozen. Now, and in the steroids era, pitchers have to face at least one high level hitter no matter who they pitch against, even if its a lowly team like the Pirates or Rangers. They have to face guys like Pujols, Ramirez, Rodriguez, Cabrera, Jeter, Ortiz, Ichiro, Teixeira, Sheffield, Bay, Wright, Reyes, Zimmerman, and so on 3 or 4 times a game, and most teams have multiple guys who are on that level with the bat. They didn't have a whole lot of guys like that back in the time that Young and Mathewson were pitching.

We are in an offensive era now and you have to factor that in when thinking about the greatest of all time. When pitchers like Maddux and Pedro and Clemens dominate an offensive era like they did how can you consider a pitcher who dominated an era where the offense was considerably worse better than them?


I think...

In their prime nobody was better than koufax and gibson, for their respective strong hands (i.e. righty and lefty).


For the righty, you could make a helluva an arguement for Pedro. Pedro in the late 90's to early 2000's may be as good a pitcher as I've ever seen.