100 Greatest Pitchers of All-Time


Baseball's All-Time Greatest Pitchers Ranked From 1 to 100

1Walter Johnson

Johnson threw almost exclusively from a side-arm delivery. He was apparently never an over-the-top thrower, preferring true sidearm release, or occasionally three-quarter sidearm. You could take video of lefthander Randy Johnson and flip it, and it would look much like the video footage we have of Walter’s delivery. It’s no wonder Johnson pitched nearly 6,000 innings in professional baseball with more than 500 complete games. His sidearm motion was less strain on his shoulder and elbow. The footage of Johnson illustrates how a human being can transform their arm so it resembles a whip: flexing and snapping the baseball to home plate.

2Greg Maddux

Among the top twenty pitchers, Maddux only threw harder than two of them: Bert Blyleven and Phil Niekro. But speed wasn't his game, location was. He didn’t have swing-and-miss stuff, he had to rely, as he said, on “keeping the ball in front of the outfielders.”

3Randy Johnson

The scowl, the mullet, the bullwhip sidearm delivery, all of it was part of the legend of Randy Johnson, who had fewer wins at the age of 30 than Ralph Branca, fewer than Ben Sheets, fewer than Babe Ruth the pitcher. Fewer wins than the Babe at the age of 30! But Johnson stirred himself to become the most dominant pitcher in the game, a tall, slender freak who literally frightened batters. Johnson won 222 games after his 30th birthday, a total surpassed by only four pitchers.

4Tom Seaver

You wouldn't look ridiculous if you argued Tom Seaver was the best pitcher of all-time. Or any of the top five listed here: each of them could lay claim to the top spot. Ultimately the numbers are too overwhelming for Walter Johnson, even after allowances for the lesser competitive balance of that era.

5Lefty Grove

When Lefty Grove was with the Baltimore Orioles, before they sold him to the A’s, he faced Babe Ruth 11 times in exhibition games. This was the early 1920s, when Ruth was in his prime as a hitter. In 11 trips to the plate against the “minor leaguer," the Babe struck out nine times.

6Pedro Martinez

For a while Pedro was as great a pitcher as anyone ever has been. What’s amazing is how small he was, only 165-170 pounds during his most dominant years. Martínez didn’t just beat teams, he terrified them. “Other teams don’t like that he has no fear out there,” teammate Carl Everett said, “He’s not going to kiss anyone’s butt and pitch a certain way that will get approval.”

7Bob Gibson

Gibson was a triple threat: blessed with a fantastic arm, competitive as hell, and smart. Some guys have a great arm, some are gifted with high pitching IQ, and others are intense competitors. A few great ones have two of the three, but only a select few have all three. He might have been the greatest postseason pitcher of all-time.

8Phil Niekro

There was never a strong indication that Niekro was going to be a great pitcher until he was a great pitcher, and it took a long time to materialize. When he was 30 years old, Phil had 31 wins listed on the back of his baseball card. When he was 40, he still hadn’t won 200 games, but he ended up with 318 victories and struck out more than 3,300 batters, many of them with his fluttering knuckleball.

9Bob Feller

Feller was the real deal, he was a great pitcher when he was 17 years old, and at that age he made his first major league start and struck out 15 batters. He was still a high school student and returned to Iowa after the season to finish his senior year. Feller was so famous by then that his high school graduation was broadcast nationwide on the radio. He struck out a batter an inning when he was 18 years old, and the following season in his final start of the year, he struck out 18 batters in a game against the Tigers. He threw the fastest fastball since Lefty Grove in his heyday, since Walter Johnson roamed the mound.

10Pete Alexander

“I always thought that Alex was a changed man after the World War. Before he went to France, he was more or less careful about his drinking, but when he was demobilized he would drink anything and at any time.” — Alexander’s longtime catcher, Bill Killefer

11Warren Spahn

Old was when Spahn was at his best: he didn’t win his first game until he was 25, won an incredible 255 games after his 30th birthday, and 75 games in his 40s. He won a total of 404 games in professional baseball and threw his last pitch for money when he was 46 years old.

12Bert Blyleven

Blyleven had two curveballs: the overhand drop and what he called “the roundhouse” that broke from third base away from a right-handed batter. He held his fastball and curve the same way, which was unusual. Bob Feller and Sandy Koufax also did that, but Blyleven had a better curve than those fastball specialists. His curve was probably the best of all-time.

13Steve Carlton

His slider was one the best in the history of the game, and Carlton had uncommon action on the pitch. “It’s almost impossible to hit,” his catcher Tim McCarver said. “I really don't know how he throws it. The results speak for themselves. It starts out in the strike zone and the bottom falls out. It’s almost like a slider-sinker. Steve’s ball has a little less rotation than most sliders.”

14Roger Clemens

Why was Clemens a jerk? Part of it was his DNA, the same DNA that made him one of the most competitive pitchers to ever climb a pitching mound. Often, people who are highly competitive are intense, and that intensity can lead to, well, assholery.

15Gaylord Perry

“I reckon I tried everything on the old apple but salt and pepper and chocolate sauce topping.” — Gaylord Perry

16Cy Young

Young was a thick man blessed with a barrel chest, broad shoulders, and long arms. No motion pictures were ever taken to show his pitching form, but we have photographs. In the photos taken when Young was actually pitching, his weight is shifted back on his rear right foot, his powerful chest is prominent, and his arm is away from his body, in a three-quarter sidearm motion. That motion would have placed less stress on Young’s shoulder than throwing overhand. It would have allowed him to hide the baseball behind his large frame.

17Robin Roberts

Roberts used a three-quarter motion and had long arms and fingers which allowed him to exert exquisite control. He pitched a dozen years without missing a turn in the rotation from 1949 to 1960.

18Christy Mathewson

Mathewson single-handedly won a World Series: in 1905 he made three starts for John McGraw's Giants and tossed a shutout in each. You think Madison Bumgarner was something in October? Christy made 11 starts in the Fall Classic and allowed a total of 11 earned runs.

19Curt Schilling

There is no character clause. They just made it up. Character is no more important than any other factor for election to the Hall of Fame. Character is important if you’re looking for a son-in-law, not when you’re looking for a starting pitcher.

20Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw is five years younger than Justin Verlander, his primary competition as the best pitcher of the first two decades of the 21st century. Both will hoist plaques in Cooperstown, but it appears the tireless Verlander will have the more valuable career.

21Fergie Jenkins

“On the mound Jenkins is a model, a man with a compact windup and delivery. Working quickly, he stands upright, takes the catcher's sign without a bend or a squint, quickly brings his hands, which have been hanging loosely by his side, together in his glove where he gets a grip on the ball. With hardly a quiver, he delivers the ball through about a three-quarter arm arc.” — Sports Illustrated

22Justin Verlander

Verlander is the most decorated pitcher in history. He’s the only pitcher to win a league MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and MVP of the League Championship Series. He’s won Player of the Month, Pitcher of the Month, and a pitching Triple Crown. In 2022 won the Comeback Player of the Year Award. The only award he’s missing is MVP of the World Series.

23Mike Mussina

Musinna was resourceful. During his Baltimore years, he once used a new pitch in the middle of a game in order to get out of a jam. It was a cut fastball, and after he threw it a few times, catcher Chris Hoiles called time and joined Mussina on the mound. “I guess if you're going to use it, we should have a sign for it,” Hoiles said.

24Max Scherzer

When Scherzer signed a deal with the Nationals, at least one opponent was happy. “I was glad when he went to the National League….he’s nasty,” Mike Trout said.

25Zack Greinke

Clayton Kershaw, briefly a teammate, said of Greinke: “The way he executes his pitches is probably the best I've ever seen. He can throw anything at any time to any spot.” A former pitching coach compared Greinke’s pitching intellect to Greg Maddux.

26Roy Halladay1998201364.351.325.334.0
27Satchel Paige1927196546.327.014.635.0
28Nolan Ryan1966199381.843.421.827.5
29Juan Marichal

Against the five premier pitchers in the National League (Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Jim Bunning), the Dominican Dandy was the best in head-to-head competition. In 43 starts against that group, Marichal was 24-12 with a 2.11 ERA.

30Jim Palmer1965198468.947.022.630.7
31David Cone1986200362.443.721.030.7
32Tom Glavine1987200880.836.618.625.2
33Carl Hubbell1928194368.445.625.637.3
34Sandy Koufax

Koufax was amazing in his prime. Willie Stargell called him an “uncomfortable 0-for-4.”

35Hal Newhouser

In 1944, Prince Hal won 29 games and the American League Most Valuable Player Award, following it up with a second MVP award in 1945 and a second place finish in 1946. Newhouser won 80 games from 1944 to 1946, and at one point he won 40 of 48 decisions.

36Bret Saberhagen1984200159.
37Dave Stieb

Stieb is the only decade-leader in WAR among pitchers who is eligible for the Hall of Fame, but has not been elected. His case is hopeless, he simply doesn’t have the narrative. His status as the 1980s WAR leader is circumstantial. Many great pitchers were retiring in the early to mid-1980s, and several future legends were just starting out that decade.

38Johan Santana2000201251.644.223.335.6
39Luis Tiant

From age 31 to 38, Tiant averaged 17 wins per season and became a darling in Boston. He made himself a great pitcher after losing his fastball.

40Don Drysdale

“Is that boy rough? Are you kidding me? He’s meaner [than anyone out there]. That ball looks like it’s coming in from third base and you gotta be ready to get out quick.” — Willie Mays

41CC Sabathia2001201962.538.819.530.4
42Jim Bunning1955197159.647.924.831.7
43Ed Walsh

"If Ed Walsh was not the greatest pitcher who ever lived, he was certainly the most valuable in his prime. He could pitch as well as anyone. But he had tremendous added value because his great strength allowed him to pitch out of turn and save a whole raft of games for other pitchers." — Johnny Evers

44John Smoltz1988200969.137.318.624.0
45Joe Williams

In 36 appearances in exhibitions against white major league teams, Williams was 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA. In 1917, he threw a no-hitter against the world champion New York Giants.

46Dennis Eckersley

From age 33-42, Eck averaged 37 saves over the next decade. Somehow his impeccable control got even better: over one three-year stretch, he walked only 16 batters. In 1992 he won both the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards.

47Ted Lyons1923194671.538.618.623.8
48Wilbur Wood

Wood won twenty games in four straight seasons in the early 1970s, and averaged 348 innings and 21 complete games. Baseball hadn’t seen a pitcher like him since the 1920s. And Wilbur wasn’t just chewing up innings like Pac Man: he tossed seven shutouts in 1971, eight in 1972, and his ERA was about 30 percent below league average. With his knuckleball putting practically no strain on his left wing, Wood showed amazing durability as he became baseball’s wonder pitcher.

49Eddie Plank1901191791.548.222.833.3
50Frank Tanana1973199357.638.423.230.7
51Stan Coveleski1916192860.352.926.540.3
52Wes Ferrell1927194161.246.223.330.2
53Kevin Appier1989200454.743.323.332.3
54Don Sutton

“When it’s on the line, I want you to have the ball.” — Walter Alston, inscribing a copy of his autobiography to Don Sutton

55Dwight Gooden1984200053.
56Rick Reuschel

They called him “Big Daddy,” because he was built like John Candy, but “The Round Man of the Mound” was an effective pitcher for a long time. He didn’t see his name next to the “W” in the box score enough, because he pitched 19 seasons and was on a losing team 13 times.

57Orel Hershiser1983200056.337.320.628.7
58Mark Buehrle2000201559.335.717.323.5
59Willie Foster1923193747.
60Felix Hernandez2005201950.238.619.527.6
61Dizzy Dean1930194745.640.722.134.6
62Tim Hudson1999201558.237.520.127.1
63Jacob deGrom2014202344.838.122.129.1
64Ron Guidry1975198848.138.021.428.7
65Frank Viola

Viola made 376 consecutive starts without missing a turn, making only one appearance out of the bullpen from 1982 to 1993. His durability and dependability made him the linchpin of the Twins rotation, earning the Cy Young Award in 1988 when he won 24 games.

66Mickey Lolich1963197948.338.621.630.3
67Chuck Finley1986200258.139.722.025.9
68Cliff Lee2002201443.540.022.830.1
69Cole Hamels2006202059.336.618.527.7
70Dazzy Vance

Vance pitched until he was 44 years old and won all of his 197 games after his 30th birthday. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955. His is one of the most peculiar careers in baseball history.

71Early Wynn1939196361.135.019.323.9
72Roy Oswalt2001201350.138.019.625.5
73Bullet Rogan

Rogan was a two-way player: he hit .338 as a left fielder and had a 2.65 ERA and 120-52 record on the mound. He led the Negro National League in strikeouts and shutouts twice. He was only 5’7 and a little overweight at times, but Rogan’s shoulder unleashed lightning. His fastball was compared to that of Smokey Joe Wood.

74Vida Blue

Blue had a high leg kick and hid the baseball very well. He’s still the youngest player to win the Most Valuable Player Award and the youngest to throw a no-hitter.

75Rube Waddell1897191058.351.229.443.6
76Tommy John

“I couldn't figure out what he was doing,” Carl Yastrzemski said after facing John in the early 1980s. “I don't recall seeing more than a couple pitches that were more than inches above the knees. What sums it up, I think, is that he was a master at his best.”

77Mark Langston

Only three pitchers in modern baseball history (since 1901) struck out more batters in their first six seasons than Langston: Tom Seaver, Bert Blyleven, and Tim Lincecum.

78Martín Dihigo1923194522.722.714.026.5
79Whitey Ford1950196756.933.317.123.7
80Dick Redding

The people who study the history of african-american baseball in the United States say Dick Redding might have thrown harder than any pitcher in the negro leagues. His fastball was probably the equal to Walter Johnson, his contemporary in the white major leagues. Redding, who was nicknamed “The Cannonball,” reportedly threw seven no-hitters in one season.

81Billy Pierce1945196453.238.620.326.4
82Brad Radke1995200645.436.418.727.0
83Kenny Rogers

At 41, Rogers finished fifth in Cy Young voting in 2006. He's the only pitcher to get his only Cy Young votes at such a late stage of his career. He pitched two more years and finished with 219 wins.

84Mordecai Brown

Brown was incapable of throwing a baseball straight. His injured hand forced him to grip the ball in an unusual way, and when he threw it, the baseball seemed to "hop" over the swing of opposing batters. He also had a phenomenal curveball.

85Sam McDowell

From 1965-1971, Sudden Sam struck out more than nine batters per game and posted a 2.82 ERA while averaging 38 games, 35 starts, and 13 complete games. He won only 19 games after the age of 28. Using one method, Bill James rates McDowell as one of the ten unluckiest pitchers in history, having Sam deserving 157 wins instead of the 133 he got.

86Joe McGinnity

McGinnity was an innovator. In addition to his underhand curveball, McGinnity kept a black book in which he logged the pitches that worked best on certain batters. He was a thinker, a planner, an astute observer. He could amaze his teammates by reciting the sequence of pitches he threw in games played weeks or years earlier.

87Jimmy Key

Key was the prototypical “crafty left-hander.” His fastball topped out in the low 90s on his best day. That’s why he utilized a great backdoor slider that worked on both left and right-handed batters. He pitched with a lot of guys in the Top 100.

88Adam Wainwright

In 2022, Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina set a record for most starts by a battery. The previous mark was held by Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan. Wainwright and Molina also hold the record for most team wins in games they started, with 218.

89Jerry Koosman

Koosman had fantastic control, kept the ball low, and had lots of movement on his pitches. He was a strong farm boy from Minnesota with long arms.

90Curt Davis1934194638.630.718.730.2
91Kevin Brown1986200568.046.323.836.7
92Mariano Rivera

Overrated, but still legendary, if that makes sense. He saved games at about 8 percent better conversion rate than an average closer during his career in the regular season. But Mo's brilliance lie in his longevity (more than 50 WAR), and his postseason brilliance.

93Red Ruffing1924194768.733.818.223.5
94Bucky Walters

From 1939 to 1944, Walters averaged 20 wins and 26 complete games and spearheaded the revival of the Cincinnati franchise. In 1939-1940 the Reds won back-to-back pennants, their first since 1919. Even though Walters was 30 years old when that successful stretch started, he pitched more than 300 innings in three straight seasons and led the league in ERA twice.

95Red Faber

Even though Faber was allowed to throw the spitter legally his entire career, he could not simply spit or lick his fingers and toss it to home plate. He needed to disguise his intention so as to fool the batter. Faber favored licorice and later, slippery elm, which he chewed in tablet form.

96Larry Jackson1955196852.135.118.524.1
97Gerrit Cole2013202341.334.419.824.5
98David Wells1987200753.630.814.119.8
99Don Newcombe

Newcombe was 6’4 and nearly 245 pounds, a tall, strong man with a barrel chest and a big jaw. He was unlike anything anyone had seen in the big leagues. It wasn’t just that he was a product of the negro leagues, but he was a very agile, athletic big man with a strong arm. It was sort of like how baseball looked at J.R. Richard when he arrived on the scene in the 1970s. The Rookie of the Year in 1949, Newcombe quickly became the most impressive pitcher in the National League.

100Vic Willis

“Willis threw overhanded, from way over his head, using every inch of his vast height, reinforced by a lofty hill. The ball, therefore, came down on a lightning slant, and you never knew when it would cave you in.” — The Sporting News

CAREER = Career Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
We use bWAR.
LONG PEAK = WAR in best seven seasons.
SHORT PEAK = WAR in best three seasons.
PRIME = WAR in best five consecutive seasons.