There have been hundreds of never-ending debates throughout the history of sports but one that always seems to come back to life every now and then is the one about the best pitcher in MLB history.
However, that’s an extremely tricky question by definition. Are we putting together relievers with starting pitchers? Which factors are we taking into consideration? Is it their pitching repertoire? Is it skill, direction, control, power, speed? is it their record? awards matter or do we go beyond the stats?
So, to try and put that conversation to an end we’ve put together a list of the 25 most dominan pitchers ever based on numbers, awards, and intangibles. The ranking is up to debate, as there’s no easy way to put one of these legends ahead of another. So, in no particular order, we’ll give you the ultimate list of greats of the mound:
25. Robin Roberts
Stats: 286-245 W-L, 3.41 ERA, 4,688.2 IP, 2,357 SO, 1.170 WHIP
Robin Roberts was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976 after a long and successful 18-year career in the MLB. He still holds the record for most opening games with one team (12) and is second in allowed home runs with 505.
He was an example of durability and dominance as he completed 305 games throughout his career thanks to his control and accuracy. He constantly tried to dare opposing batters to hit the ball, but it was mostly worthless, as he was a master at using the corners of the strike zone. He made it to 7 All-Star Games and won the ML Player of the Year.
24. Sal Maglie
Stats: 119-62 W-L, 3.15 ERA, 1,723.0 IP, 862 SO, 1.250 WHIP
Sal “The Barber” was known for dominating with inside pitches most hitters just didn’t stand a chance against. He was always in control of the situation and intimidated opposing batters by always keeping them working and worried about potentially being hit by one of his ‘shaves’.
He was a 2-time All-Star and won the World Series back in 1954 and is one of the few players to have played for the Giants, Yankees, and Dodgers when they were all in New York City, before ending his career with the St. Louis Cardinals.
23. Roy Halladay
Stats: 203-105 W-L, 3.38 ERA, 2,749.1 IP, 2,117 SO, 1.178 WHIP
Roy Halladay was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame following a 15-year career in the MLB. He retired as the league’s all-time leader in complete games (67), including 20 shutouts. Also, he threw the league’s 20th perfect game ever.
Halladay was also the 5th player in MLB history to throw multiple no-hitters in the same season thanks to his unorthodox style and powerful 2-steam fastball. Throughout his career, he won 2 Cy Youngs and made it to 8 All-Star Games.
22. Trevor Hoffman
Stats: 61-75 W-L, 601 SV, 2.87 ERA, 1,089.1 IP, 1,133 SO, 1.058 WHIP
Trevor Hoffman is one of the all-time great relievers to ever set foot on a mound. Hell, he even became the first pitcher in MLB history to reach 500 and 600 career saves, which is why he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.
Hoffman originally played as a shortstop but his poor offense took him to the bullpen, where he’d throw over 95 mph throughout his entire career. He won 2 Rolaids Reliever of the Year award and made it to 7 All-Star Games.
21. Juan Marichal
Stats: 243-142 W-L, 2.89 ERA, 3,507.0 IP, 2,303 SO, 1.101 WHIP
Juan Marichal was one of the first Latin baseball players to make a name for himself in the U.S. His unorthodox style and his high-leg kick were quite intimidating for opposing batters and helped him constantly stay in control of the situation.
His posture helped him hide what was coming and made him one of the most prolific dart-throwers of the 60s. Throughout his career, he won 1 ERA Title, made it to 10 All-Star Games, and won 1 All-Star MVP.
20. Dennis Eckersley
Stats: 197-171 W-L, 390 SV, 3.50 ERA, 3,285.2 IP, 2,401 SO, 1.161 WHIP
Dennis Eckersley could do it all on the mound. He spent a lot of time as a starter, but could also come in late to ease the fire. That’s why he’s one of just two players with a 20-win, 50-save season.
Eckersley was the most dominant closer in MLB during the late 90s and early 2000s. Over his career, he won 1 MVP, Cy Young, ALCS MVP, 2-times Rolaids Reliever of the Year, World Series, and made it to 6 All-Star Games.
19. Gaylord Perry
Stats: 314-265 W-L, 3.11 ERA, 5,350.0 IP, 3,534 SO, 1.181 WHIP
Gaylord Perry is the first pitcher to win the Cy Young award in both leagues. His control, brains, versatility, and durability helped him have a 22-year career where he was the finest example of consistency.
Perry hat 13 straight 15+ win seasons from 1966-78, trailing only Cy Young (15) back then before Greg Maddux (17) passed them both in 2004. He won 2 Cy Youngs and made 5 All-Stars Game appearances.
18. Max Scherzer
Stats: 170-89 W-L, 3.20 ERA, 2,290.0 IP, 2,692 SO, 1.092 WHIP
Max Scherzer has been money since making it to the league in 2008, piling up MVP-caliber seasons for over a decade. He’s one of just six pitchers to throw multiple no-hitters in one season, as well as the sixth to win the Cy Young in both leagues.
Scherzer has had his fair share of success throughout his MLB career, piling up 3 Cy Youngs, has made it to 7 All-Star Games, and most recently the World Series with the Washington Nationals. He’s a lock to make it to the Hall of Fame.
17. Nolan Ryan
Stats: 324-292 W-L, 3.19 ERA, 5,386.0 IP, 5,714 SO, 1.247 WHIP
Most pitchers will be out of the league after five years or so, but luckily for this sport, Nolan Ryan wasn’t like most pitchers. As a matter of fact, he stayed in the league for 27 years, which says a lot about his durability, talent, and work ethic.
Ryan had one of the most powerful arms in the history of baseball. Up to this day, he’s still the league’s all-time leader in strikeouts by a long stretch, and his 5,714 strikeouts aren’t likely to be topped ever. Also, he added 8 All-Stars, 2 ERA Titles, and 1 World Series to his resume.
16. Don Drysdale
Stats: 209-166 W-L, 2.95 ERA, 3,432.0 IP, 2,486 SO, 1.148 WHIP
Don Drysdale found the glory with the Los Angeles Dodgers by becoming one of the most reliable guys you could find on a mound. He even threw a record 6 straight shutouts with 58.2 scoreless innings thanks to his ability to find the inside corner every time out there.
Drysdale was such a sensation in Hollywood that he even starred in several movies and TV shows as the fan-favorite in the late 50s and 60s. Throughout his career, he won one Cy Young, 3 World Series, ML Player of the Year award, and made 9 All-Star Appearances.
15. Justin Verlander
Stats: 225-129 W-L, 3.33 ERA, 2,982.9 IP, 3,006 SO, 1.135 WHIP
Justin Verlander has had a Hall of Famer career for sure. He’s one of the most consistent pitchers of the last couple of decades, and even though he’s struggled in the World Series, he’s been money in the postseason year after year.
His 4-steam fastball is still deadly 13 years after his professional debut and it seems like he could turn it up a notch at will. Thus far, he’s won the Rookie of the Year, ML Player of the Year, ERA Title, ALCS MVP, MVP, 2 Cy Youngs (1 unanimous), World Series, 8 All-Star Game Appearances, and one pitcher’s Triple-Crown thanks to his legendary curve.
14. Warren Spahn
Stats: 363-245 W-L, 3.09 ERA, 5,243.2 IP, 2,583 SO, 1.195 WHIP
Back in the day, Warren Spahn was considered to be the greatest leftie pitcher in the history of baseball, a distinction he earned after winning 20+ games in 13 seasons. He was also one of the first to throw multiple no-hitters and reach 300 career victories.
Spahn’s high-kick made him a legend among baseball players back then. He was intimidating, dominant, and had a never-ending bag of tricks to fool opposing hitters. That’s why he won 1 Cy Young, 3 ERA Titles, one World Series, and made it to 17 All-Star Games.
13. Clayton Kershaw
Stats: 169-74 W-L, 2.44 ERA, 2,274.2 IP, 2,464 SO, 1.008 WHIP
Clayton Kershaw will go down as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball once’s all said and done. However, his struggles in the playoffs may dent his legacy unless he finds a way to stay in control and dominate the same way he does in the regular season.
Kershaw’s changeup and movement made him incredibly hard to read for opposing batters. His overhand delivery and the way he hides the ball help him always stay in control and find the lower corners of the strike zone. Thus far, he’s won one Gold Glove, 3 Cy Youngs, 5 ERA Titles, ML Player of the Year, MVP, 8 All-Star Game appearances, and one pitcher’s Triple-Crown.
12. Bob Feller
Stats: 266-162 W-L, 3.25 ERA, 3,827.0 IP, 2,581 SO, 1.316 WHIP
Bob Feller was the man to beat during the early 40s. He led the league in wins 6 times and is the Cleveland Indians’ all-time leader in wins after 16 seasons with the franchise. He even led the team to complete his military service and came back as dominant as ever four years later.
Feller struck out 348 batters as soon as he came back to the league and even had 6 40-game seasons. That’s just the kind of athlete he was. Throughout his career, he won 1 ERA Title, ML Player of the Year, World Series winner, 8 All-Star Game appearances, and the pitcher’s Triple-Crown.
11. Bob Gibson
Stats: 251-174 W-L, 2.91 ERA, 3,884.1 IP, 3,117 SO, 1.1188 WHIP
Bob Gibson is one of the main responsible for the St. Louis Cardinals’ success in the sixties. He was an intimidating guy that thrived off inside pitches and infuriating his rivals. Also, he made some weird and bizarre faces to scare off opposing batters.
Crazy as it may seem, it definitely paid off for him, as he was able to win 1 MVP, 2 Cy Youngs, 9 All-Stars, 9 Gold Gloves, 2 World Series, 2 World Series MVP, 1 ERA Title over his 17-seasons career.
10. Randy Johnson
Stats: 303-166 W-L, 3.29 ERA, 4,135.1 IP, 4,875 SO, 1.171 WHIP
Randy Johnson is one of the 24 pitchers to log 300+ wins in MLB history. Also, he’s the second all-time in strikeouts and is considered to own the most intimidating and powerful fastball the league had ever seen, as it could go over 100 mph with ease during his prime.
However, Johnson made the most of his damage with his deadly slider, the main reason why there were that many swings and misses throughout his 22-year career. He won 5 Cy Youngs, 4 ERA Titles, 10 All-Stars, 1 World Series, 1 World Series MVP, and also the pitcher’s Triple-Crown.
9. Carl Hubbell
Stats: 253-154 W-L, 2.98 ERA, 3,590.1 IP, 1,677 SO, 1.166 WHIP
Hubbell was the first pitcher that truly thrived off the screwball. Even Joe DiMaggio himself claimed once that Hubbel was the most difficult pitcher he had ever faced due to how in control he always was. That often helped him fool his rivals.
He struck out 5 straight players in the 1934 All-Star Game, including the likes of Babe Ruth and Al Simmons. Also, he won 24 straight games from 1936 to 1937, which is the longest streak in MLB history. He piled up 2 MVPs, 3 ERA Titles, ML Player of the Year, World Series, and made it to 9 All-Star Games.
8. Greg Maddux
Stats: 355-227 W-L, 3.16 ERA, 5,008.1 IP, 3,371 SO, 1.143 WHIP
Greg Maddux was a synonym of consistency throughout his entire career. He had 2 20-win seasons, 5 19-win seasons, and 2 18-win seasons and became the first player to ever sign a 100+ million deal thanks to his dominance, intelligence, and durability.
He still holds the record for 17 straight seasons of 15+ wins, piled up 4 straight Cy Youngs (MLB record), 4 ERA Titles, 1 World Series, 18 Gold Gloves, and made 8 All-Star Game appearances.
7. Pedro Martínez
Stats: 219-100 W-L, 2.93 ERA, 2,827.1 IP, 3,154 SO, 1.054 WHIP
Pedro Martínez always brought the fire. He was a born winner, a fierce competitor, and a guy who scared the living hell out of his rivals once he stood on the mound. When he won his 200th game back in 2006, he held the best winning percentage in MLB history for a pitcher with over 350 starts.
Martínez’s unorthodox style was what made him so special. He thrived off of outside pitches but his biggest strength was his control. That, combined with his fastball, curve, and mean circle changeup helped him earn 3 Cy Youngs, 5 ERA Titles, World Series, 8 All-Star Game appearances, 1 All-Star MVP, and the pitcher’s Triple-Crown.
6. Lefty Grove
Stats: 300-141 W-L, 3.06 ERA, 3,940.2 IP, 2,266 SO, 1.278 WHIP
Lefty Grove was the most dominant pitcher of his era. He won 79 games over a three-year span to go along with just 15 losses, which he didn’t take lightly. Grove holds the record for the highest winning percentage (.680) for a pitcher with more than 236 career wins, which tells you how good he was.
He holds the record for most ERA titles (9), led the league in wins 4 times, in strikeouts for seven straight seasons, and won 1 MVP, 2 World Series, 6 All-Star Game appearances, and 2 pitcher’s Triple-Crowns.
5. Mariano Rivera
Stats: 82-60 W-L, 652 SV, 2.21 ERA, 1,283.0 IP, 1,173 SO, 1.000 WHIP
Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time and it’s not even close. Besides his power, speed, and control the fact that he was able to play at such a high level for 19 years as a closer says just enough about his work ethic, and talent.
Rivera had at least 25 saves in 15 straight seasons with an ERA below 2.00 11 times, both MLB records. Also, He made it to 13 All-Star Games and won 5 Rolaids Reliever of the Year awards, ALCS MVP, All-Star Game MVP, World Series MVP, and 5 World Series. On a related note, he’s the league’s all-time leader in saves and by a long stretch.
4. Cy Young
Stats: 511-315 W-L, 2.63 ERA, 7,356.0 IP, 2,803 SO, 1.130 WHIP
There’s a reason why the Cy Young award is called that way. When you look for a winning pitcher, there’s no one that had won more games than Young. Hell, he’s the only pitcher in MLB history to win 500+ games, something that’s never going to be topped.
Young enjoyed quite a successful 22-year career in the MLB. He was the first to ever record a perfect game in the modern era, made 904 appearances, and holds the records for most starts, inning pitches, and complete games (749). Also, he had 5 30-win seasons and 10 20+ win campaigns again, as well as 2 ERA titles, 1 World Series, and the pitcher’s Triple-Crown.
3. Walter Johnson
Stats: 417-279 W-L, 2.17 ERA, 5,914.1 IP, 3,509 SO, 1.061 WHIP
Walter Johnson is the second player ever to win 400+ games and trails only Cy Young for the most wins ever. Up to this day, there’s still some who consider him to be the greatest right-handed pitcher in the history of baseball or at least, the best of the 1900s.
Johnson had 110 career shutouts and threw at 91 mph, which was unprecedented back in the day, sadly, his legacy may be tainted by the lack of team success he faced through most of his career. Still, he was as dominant as they came, winning 2 MVPs, 5 ERA Titles, World Series, and 3 pitcher’s Triple-Crowns.
2. Roger Clemens
Stats: 354-184 W-L, 3.12 ERA, 4,916.2 IP, 4,672 SO, 1.173 WHIP
Roger Clemens holds the third most strikeouts of all time with 4,672. He was the most dominant pitcher of his time, winning 7 Cy Young awards, which is an MLB record up to this day, and one not likely to be ever topped. He was always the most aggressive guy out there and opposing batters were just scared of him.
Clemens could throw at 94 mph during his 24th season in the league. Also, his breaking balls were just deadly. Throughout his career, he won 1 ML Player of the Year, MVP, 2 World Series, 7 ERA Titles, 11 All-Star appearances, 1 All-Star MVP, and a couple of pitcher’s Triple-Crowns.
1. Sandy Koufax
Stats: 165-87 W-L, 2.76 ERA, 2,324.1, 2,396 SO, 1.106 WHIP
Sandy Koufax wasn’t around for that long yet a lot of people consider him to be not only the greatest lefty but also the greatest pitcher ever. Nobody else ate during his watch, he completely dominated his peers and rivals during his prime and piled up quite an impressive resume over just 11 years. He threw over the top of his arm which gave him outstanding speed to his four-seam fastball, which underspun as it approached the plate.
Koufax was the first pitcher to throw at least 3 no-hitters and became the youngest player to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame. MVP, 3 Cy Youngs, 3 World Series, 2 World Series MVP, 2-times ML Player of the Year, 5 ERA Titles, 7 All-Star Games, and won 3 pitcher’s Triple-Crowns before arthritis cut his career short at just 31 years old.