There are plenty of pitchers who were able to dominate Major League Baseball during their era. Some of them, like Randy Johnson, offered overpowering stuff to opposing hitters that always seemed to help keep their team competitive in close games.
There are several elements to consider when determining who the greatest pitchers of all time are. We must look at their career ERA, strikeouts-to-walks ratio, and WAR from a statistical standpoint. Then there is the postseason success and long-term dominance to consider.
Here are the top pitchers that we think are the GOAT.
#1. Christy Mathewson
From 1907-1911, Mathewson won 139 games, which averages just under 28 per season. His ERA during this period was only 1.69, and he averaged almost 7 shutouts during the year. Christy even had 30 saves during his career. He also had about four strikeouts for every walk he gave up. He would go on to win 373 games and finish with a career 2.13 ERA.
#2. Walter Johnson
Johnson is one of a handful of pitchers to win over 400 games during his career. Over 13 consecutive seasons, he never had an ERA higher than 2.22. His 1913 season was one of the best of all time, going 36-7 with a 1.14 ERA. From 1910-1914, he struck out almost 500 more batters than any other pitcher in the league.
#3. Cy Young
There are incredible numbers to look at over Young’s career. He won 511 games, but he also lost 316 of them. He pitched 184 complete games over one five-year stretch during his career. He didn’t get to compete in the postseason since the World Series didn’t start until 1903, but he did make four appearances for the Boston Americans in the first one.
#4. Sandy Koufax
Even though he only won 165 games in his career, Koufax saved his best work for last. He retired abruptly while still on top, so it is difficult to give him a fair ranking. During four postseason runs, his ERA is an incredible 0.95. He was also the MVP of both World Series in which he appeared. Over his 12-year career, he won the Cy Young three times – in 1963, 1965, and 1966.
#5. Roger Clemens
With 354 wins, the career of Clemens is still shrouded with the steroid era. He was a three-time AL Cy Young winner with the Red Sox, plus earned the runner-up in 1990 with a 1.93 ERA and a 21-6 record. He won the AL MVP in 1986. Then he received the Cy Young in 1997 and 1998 with the Blue Jays, in 2001 with the Yankees, and in 2004 with the Astros. His 1.87 ERA in 2005 was incredible for his age.
Some incredible pitchers deserve an honorable mention too: Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Bert Blyleven, Tom Seaver, Rollie Fingers, Lefty Grove, Greg Maddux, and Clayton Kershaw are all fantastic players.
Which pitchers do you think should make this list which we didn’t include for this piece?