Greatest pitcher of all time?


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
There's been a lot of great pitchers that has stepped onto the pitchers mound, but only one can be considered the greatest. In your opinions who do you believe was the greatest pitcher of all time and why? Please explain why you believe that your choice as the greatest pitcher of all time is better then your second choice.


The return shall be legenday!
This is one of my FAVORITE things to argue about.

Nolan Ryan was a great pitcher, but is over rated. He has a career 3.19 ERA and about a 1.25 career WHIP. Those are borderline mediocre numbers. He gets all kinds of cred for his career TOTALS, like his K's record, which are a result of playing for such a long time. I give him a pass for his career Win/Loss record b/c he played on some really bad teams. (324-292, which is barely over .500). Longevity is certainly valuable, but his 162 game career average season looks like this: 13-12, 231 innings, 245 K's, 120 BB, 3.19 ERA, and 1.25 WHIP

Those kinds of numbers do NOT belong in the argument about the best pitcher of all time.

Nolan Ryan Statistics -

In no particular order, the pitchers I think deserve to be in the "all time best" argument are: Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson, Bob Gibson, and Satchel Paige.

Sandy Koufax had some unbelievable seasons. Four straight years of a sub 1 WHIP. Multiple 300+ K seasons. Longevity is about the only knock you can make against him. Also, he wasn't really that great for his first 7 seasons. He didn't get great until '62, and then only played 5 more years.

Career 162 game average: 15-8, 222 innings, 229 K's, 78 BB, 2.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

Very impressive.

Sandy Koufax Statistics -

I tend to argue against Walter Johnson, b/c his numbers were at the tail end of the dead ball era. When Babe Ruth/Lou Gehrig and other power hitters came along in the twenties, Johnson's numbers got a lot worse. But, that could be b/c he was just getting old, since his rookie year was '07. Another con against him though, was that he didn't have to pitch against Hispanics or Black players back then.

His 162 average looks like: 19-12, 273 innings, 162 K's, 63 BB's, 2.17 ERA, 1.06 WHIP

But again, mostly still during dead ball era, and no Black/Hispanic/Asian hitters to worry about. Only White Americans.

Walter Johnson Statistics -

Bob Gibson was a stud. He is literally the reason the mound was lowered, to give hitters more of a chance b/c he was that dominant. Intimidating too, last guy in the world you would ever crowd the plate against. 162 game average:
16-11, 261 innings, 209 K's, 89 BB, 2.91 ERA, and 1.19 WHIP

His '68 season was probably the best modern era season by a pitcher ever. 1.12 ERA with 13 shutouts!

Bob Gibson Statistics -

BTW, Satchel Paige's career ERA and WHIP while in his 40's were similar to Nolan Ryan's total career numbers... which is why Nolan Ryan, while very good, does not deserve to be in the all time discussion.


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
If he weren't juiced, Roger Clemens would have a great case for being called the best pitcher of all time.

Guys like Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, Tom Seaver, Warren Spahn also have good arguments.

Despite pitching his entire career in hitters parks, in the best hitting era in baseball history (until the juiced-up 1990s), Grove led his league in ERA NINE times...that might be the single most impressive credential claimed by any starter. Grove's winning percentage of .680 (300-141) is the highest among pitchers who had long careers. There are a whole lot of HOF pitchers who are nowhere near Grove's 300 wins, but still have many more loses than Grove did.

Tom Seaver had a W/L record of 311-205, a .603 winning percentage. In 20 years in the majors, Seaver pitched for EIGHT losing team, plus four others who were only over .500 because of Seaver's own efforts.

Nolan Ryan, on the other hand, was basically as good as the teams he pitched for...he didn't raise his teams up very much at all.

Ryan was an amazing pitcher to watch... had he pitched for great teams, his W/L records would be great... but Seaver had great records even when his teams weren't any good.

Seaver was a much better pitcher than again, Ryan was amazing to watch.

Warren Spahn won 363 games in the post-WWII era, despite the fact that he didn't win a major league game until he was 25 years old (military service).

It's hard to determine who the greatest pitcher of all time was. The conditions of the game have changed drastically over the last 100+ years.... there's a reason so many pitchers easily won 25 to 30 games (or more) in a season prior to 1920.

Walter Johnson didn't throw 100 mph...there's no way he could have done that with the windup and delivery he had... he SEEMED to throw that hard because he threw much harder, on every pitch, than anyone else did. Most pitchers, because the baseballs were dead in those days, could afford to throw 70 mph fast balls until there was a danger of a run being scored, then they'd bear down and throw their 85-90 mph fastballs... Johnson threw hard all the time, not just in the 'pinches'. But this "saving" or "pacing" of a pitcher was a major part of pitching science in the dead ball era.

So after all that this is who I believe is the greatest pitcher of all time

Walter Johnson, who won 416 games over a 21 year carrer with the Washington Seanators which perienally was little more than a second divison team. A lifetime ERA of 2.17, he won 20 games 12 times and more than 30 twice and still holds the MLB record with 110 shutouts.. Of his 279 losses, 65 were by he giving up 2 runs or less, I think he was beaten 1-0 35 times. he led the American League in strikeouts 12 times, victories 6 times and a streak of 7 straight years he had an ERA under 2.00. He also had a lifetime batting average of .236 and holds the record for a pitchers batting average season when he batted .440. He was so good that Charlie Cominsky of the rival Chicago White Sox payed half his salary NOT to pitch for the rival Chicago Whales of the Federal League, to keep him from jumping to them. He was also a humble man, probably baseballs most beloved personality before Ruth became the mega star of his era.

Here's what I think is Walter's best season, and arguably the best season by a pitcher.

In 1913 Johnson pitched the greatest season in the history of the game. Before I show you how amazing his season was statistically, it is noteworthy that he achieved all this pitching for a team that went 54-57 when he wasn’t on the mound. With this poor of a team behind him he won the Pitching Triple Crown (the first of three he would win in his career) with 36 wins, 243 strikouts, and a 1.14 ERA. He pitched 11 shutouts, 29 complete games, pitching 349 innings. His 1913 ERA, adjusted to the league, is the fifth best in history. He held opposing batters to a .187 average and a .217 OBP (sixth lowest all-time). Thanks to these astounding numbers, and in spite of his teammates’ records, the Senators finished second in the AL. Johnson deservingly won the American League MVP which he would win again in 1924.


Registered Member
Right now, I think I rank Walter as #1, Maddux as #2.

One of the big stats, to me, is ERA+. It's like ERA, but adjusted for when they played, etc. WHIP also matters. IP can also make a difference, although I have trouble figuring out how to adjust it for era. Wins don't mean anything to me.

Pedro would have a case for #1, if he had more IP each year. He put up some of the best numbers ever, and did it against a fully integrated league.

Koufax was very good, but never achieved super dominance, and only had a few years where he shined. I'm willing to give a little extra credit to someone like Jackie Robinson since he wasn't allowed in MLB for a while, or to Ted Williams, since he served in a war, but not Koufax. As much as I like him, I can't give any extra credit for the injury.

Gibson had one ridiculous season, but the others were "only" very good, but not as ridiculous. The mound wasn't lowered just because of him - it was him plus everyone else pitching that year. The LEAGUE ERA that year was only 2.90.

Grove's right up there. His ERA+ was never as dominant as Walter, but he was more consistent.

I have no idea how to rank Satchel. He may have been the best ever, or he may have merely been very good. We don't really have numbers to look at, and it's hard to sort through all the hype.

I don't think Seaver or Spahn deserve to be in consideration for #1. Both very good, but never approached the level of dominance that some others did. Each had one or two great years, then a bunch of good, but not particularly impressive years.

Pete Alexander deserves to at least be mentioned here.


Registered Member
I have to go with Grover Cleveland Alexander. Just a shade over Walter Johnson, very close. Johnson won 417 games with some not so good Washington teams, 110 shutouts. He also lost the most 1-0 games and won the most 1-0 game, 37 of his shutout wins were by 1-0 scores, remarkable only one run to play with and he wins 37 times.

Alexander tied for second with most wins 373 with Christy Mathewson.
Second to only Walter Johnson with 90 shutouts, in two hitters parks most of his career, Baker Bowl and Wrigley Field.

More remarkable 50 of his 90 shutouts came at home, Wrigley a hitters heaven and Baker Bowl another hitters park only 272 feet to the wall in right field.

1911 his rookie season, leads the league with 28 wins- most innings pitched, fewest hits per 9 Inn.-shutouts 7-and most complete games 31.

His season with 16 shutouts out of reach in todays game with all the relievers but even before the age of the relievers it was never matched.

Three consecutive 30 win seasons-1915 31W--1916 33W- 1917-30W.

Not the best support and still a great win percentage.
with Philadelphia 1911-1917.
Phil. 1911-1917-----wins 392- lost 396
Alex 1911-1917-----wins 190- lost 88

1918 in the service, drafted early season, he was 2-1.

Cubs 1919-1925----wins 526- lost 536
Alex 1919-1925----wins 123- lost 79

In mid season 1926 he was waived, to the St. Louis cards 55-37 record 1926-1930.

1911-1930 all of baseball, NL and AL and where he ranked.
Wins-------------------first tied all time for second with Mathewson 373
Win percentage---------first------.642
Shut outs--------------first with-- 90
Complete games--------first------438
Games started----------first------599
Inn pitched-------------first------5189
Saves-----------------seventh with 37 saves

Great winning percentages from 1911-1925 with two average teams, Phils and Cubs and a ton of shutouts in two hitters park, Alex had something on the ball.
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Pete Alexander ranks up there for me because I give him live ball credit. Once the 20's came, he started to slow down.

I think Walter Johnson is the greatest pitcher ever, but just baout everything has been said.


Registered Member
Satchel Paige. 2,000 games, over 10,000 innings, 1,000 wins, 50 no-hitters, and completely dominated Major Leaguers in exhibitions against them. Dizzy Dean called him the greatest he ever saw and maintained that the rest of his life. Ted Williams did as well, along with Bob Feller.


Sultan of Swat
Staff member
It's really hard to judge Satchel Paige on how good he really was, because there's a lot of Urban Legends when it comes to Negro League players. But he's one quote about Satchel Paige that I find really amazing.

On February 7, 1936, Joe DiMaggio was making his last stop as a minor leaguer before joining the New York Yankees, and he was going to have to face one of baseball’s best pitchers: Satchel Paige. DiMaggio ended up going 1-4 with the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the tenth. A Yankee scout watching the game wired the big club that day a report which read, “DIMAGGIO EVERYTHING WE’D HOPED HE’D BE: HIT SATCH ONE FOR FOUR.” DiMaggio himself said he knew now he could make it in the big leagues "because I hit off of Satch."
Source from wikipedia