These Are Unarguably The Greatest Starting Pitchers Of All-time
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These Are Unarguably The Greatest Starting Pitchers Of All-time

Who's the G.O.A.T?

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These Are Unarguably The Greatest Starting Pitchers Of All-time

With the second-half of the baseball season underway, and football season still a ways away, it fell like a great time to revisit the G.O.A.T. series, but this time around the focus will be on baseball.

Baseball is known as America's pastime due in large part to its extensive history in the United States. That deserves a mention because over the past 100+ years a lot of players have played this great game, so singling out ten for this list requires a TON of research.

It also requires some assumptions about how players from the 1900's compare to players who have played in the post-steroid era.

That said, the rankings on this list try to use the fairest and comparable stats possible, as well as, the assumption about the dead-ball era pitchers (pre-Babe Ruth) results against their level of competition. This will make more sense in context.

Before the list starts, here's a legend for all the shorthand in the stats section: W - wins, W/L% - percentage of wins over losses, ERA - earned run average, ERA+ - earned run average adjusted for the ballparks the pitcher played in, WAR - wins above replacement pitcher, and K/9 - strikeouts per nine innings pitched.

10. Clayton Kershaw - Los Angeles Dodgers

Stats- W: 147 (T-269th), W/L %: .6837 (8th), ERA: 2.377 (24th), ERA+: 160 (2nd, 1st among starters), WAR: 60.8 (T-57th). and K/9: 9.8385 (7th)

Awards/Accomplishments- 7× All-Star, NL MVP, 3× NL Cy Young Award, Triple Crown, Gold Glove Award, 3× NL wins leader, 5× NL ERA leader, 3× NL strikeout leader, Pitched a no-hitter on June 18, 2014, and 4× Warren Spahn Award

Clayton Kershaw has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball this decade and is one of the most dominant strikeout pitchers and left-handed pitchers in the history of baseball. Unfortunately for Kershaw's status at the moment, there is another Dodgers pitcher with a similar legacy who is already in the Hall of Fame, and Kershaw is still chasing him down to be the greatest Dodgers starting pitcher, let alone the G.O.A.T. SP. Kershaw is the only active starter, however, so he could still improve his standing or tarnish his legacy.

9. Christy Mathewson - New York Giants/Cincinnati Reds

Stats- W: 373 (T-3rd), W/L %: .6649 (17th), ERA: 2.133 (8th), ERA+: 136 (T-21st), WAR: 97.7 (10th). and K/9: 4.7117 (625th)

Awards/Accomplishments- 2× World Series champion, 2× Triple Crown, 4× NL wins leader, 5× NL ERA leader, 5× NL strikeout leader, Pitched two no-hitters, Hall of Famer, and Major League Baseball All-Century, Team

Mathewson was incredibly dominant in his day, but baseball was a different sport in his day. The dead-ball era was far more focused on the small ball instead of power hitting, which lead to better situations for pitchers and lower batting numbers. Mathewson is in no way a scrub, but the version of the game he played in was very pitcher friendly, which lead to changes happening that eventually lead to the rise of the Babe Ruth era, and the rest is history.

8. Bob Gibson - St. Louis Cardinals

Stats- W: 251 (47th), W/L %: .5906 (155th), ERA: 2.915 (141st), ERA+: 127 (T-49th), WAR: 81.9 (25th). and K/9: 7.2221 (122nd)

Awards/Accomplishments- 9× All-Star, 2× World Series champion, NL MVP, 2× NL Cy Young Award, 2× World Series MVP, 9× Gold Glove Award, NL wins leader in 1970, MLB ERA leader in 1968, NL strikeout leader in 1968, Pitched a no-hitter on August 14, 1971, Hall of Famer, and Major League Baseball All-Century Team

"Gibby" was one of the most feared pitchers in baseball due to his ferociousness and ability to intimidate any batter he faced. That said, the legend of Bob Gibson seems to be greater than his overall statistical success, as he is only top 25 all-time in one category in his career. Still, the things he did during the 1968 season and World Series are legendary, which is why he makes the list, but he doesn't have the overall success to rise any higher (similar to Aaron Rodgers on the Greatest Quarterback list).

7. Greg Maddux - Chicago Cubs/Atlanta Braves/LA Dodgers/San Diego Padres

Stats- W: 355 (8th), W/L %: .6100 (T-97th), ERA: 3.156 (234th), ERA+: 132 (T-31st), WAR: 104.9 (8th). and K/9: 6.0577 (T-290th)

Awards/Accomplishments- 8× All-Star, World Series champion, 4× NL Cy Young Award, 18× Gold Glove Award, 3× MLB wins leader, Hall of Famer, and 4× MLB ERA, leader

"Mad Dog" Maddux had the ability to turn into an intense competitor when he took the mound, yet also earned the nickname "The Professor" for his cerebral approach to the game of baseball. Maddux was never the most physically dominant pitcher, but he was able to out-think everyone he faced, with some very interesting stories about just how much of a mentalist he was at the position. Maddux might be the smartest pitcher to ever play the game, but his lack of physical gifts kept him from ascending to an even greater level.

6. Pedro Martinez - LA Dodgers/Montreal Expos/Boston Red Sox/NY Mets/Phillies

Stats- W: 219 (T-79th), W/L %: .6865 (6th), ERA: 2.925 (148th), ERA+: 154 (3rd), WAR: 86.2 (17th). and K/9: 10.0398 (6th)

Awards/Accomplishments- 8× All-Star, World Series champion, 3× Cy Young Award, Triple Crown, MLB wins leader in 1999, 5× MLB ERA leader, Hall of Famer, and 3× AL strikeout leader

Pedro Martinez is considered to be the greatest pitcher of all-time by certain analytics measures, which part of a trend for the entire top six, in that all six are considered the greatest by some measure. Martinez could easily be at the top of this list for more than just analytics, but he consistently was the "almost legend," meaning that he would keep finding himself in moments that would cement his greatness, only for something to go wrong, usually out of his control. Pedro's control of the baseball was just on another level, however, which led to his role on the Red Sox "Reverse the Curse" World Series run with a stellar performance in Game 3, but even that run was more about two other pitchers (Babe Ruth and Curt Schilling).

5. Lefty Grove - Philadelphia Athletics/Boston Red Sox

Stats- W: 300 (T-23rd), W/L %: .6803 (9th), ERA: 3.058 (183rd), ERA+: 148 (5th), WAR: 112.5 (6th). and K/9: 5.1753 (502nd)

Awards/Accomplishments- 6× All-Star, 2× World Series champion, AL MVP, 2× Triple Crown, 4× AL wins leader, 9× AL ERA leader, 7× AL strikeout leader, Hall of Famer, and Major League Baseball All-Century, Team

Lefty might be the most underrated pitcher of all-time, to the point where some people who are die-hard baseball fans have no idea who he is. To give scale to just how great Lefty was, while he is 9th all-time in W/L%, all eight people ahead of him have less than 240 wins, whereas Grove has 300. Lefty at his peak (1928-1931) was a force of nature, which is why some people believe he is the greatest starter of all-time, but being the greatest is about more than just a quarter of a career, so Lefty comes in fifth behind four pitchers who had longer stretches of greatness.

4. Randy Johnson - Expos/Mariners/Astros/Diamondbacks/NY Yankees/SF Giants

Stats- W: 303 (22nd), W/L %: .6461 (31st), ERA: 3.293 (295th), ERA+: 135 (T-24th), WAR: 103.6 (9th). and K/9: 10.6098 (2nd)

Awards/Accomplishments- 10× All-Star, World Series champion. 5× Cy Young Award, World Series MVP, Triple Crown, MLB wins leader, 4× ERA leader, 9× Strikeout leader, Pitched a perfect game on May 18, 2004, Pitched a no-hitter on June 2, 1990, and Hall of Famer

"The Big Unit," as you can see in the clip above, had an uncanny ability to strike fear into hitters with pitches that were capable to devastate them physically and mentally, sometimes on the exact same pitch. Johnson's fastball was ridiculously fast for the time and is still amazing compared to the modern day pitchers, and his slider looked like it nearly teleport over the plate. Hitters feared that every pitch Johnson threw could take their heads off, yet they somehow usually ended up over the plate, which leads to him being one of the best strikeout pitchers ever.

3.Cy Young - Cleveland Spiders/Cardinals/Red Sox/Cleveland Naps/Boston Rustlers

Stats- W: 511 (1st), W/L %: .6189 (82nd), ERA: 2.627 (60th), ERA+: 138 (T-18th), WAR: 170.0 (1st). and K/9: 3.4294 (942nd)

Awards/Accomplishments- World Series champion, Triple Crown, 5× Wins leader, 2× ERA leader, 2× Strikeout leader, Pitched a perfect game on May 5, 1904, Pitched three no-hitters, Hall of Famer, and Major League Baseball All-Century, Team

Awards don't get named after just anybody, and Cy Young definitely earned the right to have the award for the best pitcher every season to be named after him, as he was the first truly dominant pitcher in baseball history. Cy just found a way to keep pitching and keep winning games for 22 seasons. Baseball would not be what it is today without the contributions of Cy Young, but much like Nolan Ryan years later, who probably be twelfth if this list went that far, simply pitching for forever doesn't make someone the G.O.A.T., but does make them an important part of baseball history.

2. Sandy Koufax - Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers

Stats- W: 165 (T-208th), W/L %: .6548 (24th), ERA: 2.761 (95th), ERA+: 131 (T-37th), WAR: 53.2 (T-86th). and K/9: 9.2775 (14th)

Awards/Accomplishments- 7× All-Star, 4× World Series champion, NL MVP, 3× Cy Young Award, 2× World Series MVP, 3× Triple Crown, 3× MLB wins leader, 5× NL ERA leader, 4× MLB strikeout leader, Pitched a perfect game on September 9, 1965, Pitched four no-hitters, Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and Major League Baseball All-Time Team

Sandy Koufax, despite retiring from baseball over half a century ago, is still the greatest left-handed pitcher, the greatest pitcher of the live-ball era, and did so with a six-year dominance streak that some of the greatest pitchers couldn't do in twice as much time. Koufax amazing career doesn't have the stats that others on this list had because it was cut short due to arthritis, but his body had been falling apart for years beforehand, and he was still dominant despite his ailments. I think Koufax's ability and greatness, in spite his bodily issues, can be best summarized by this Willie Mays quote: "I knew every pitch he was going to throw and still I couldn't hit him."

1. Walter Johnson - Washington Senators

Stats- W: 417 (2nd), W/L %: .5991 (128th), ERA: 2.167 (12th), ERA+: 147 (T-6th), WAR: 152.6 (2nd). and K/9: 5.3397 (461st)

Awards/Accomplishments- World Series champion, 2× AL MVP, 3× Triple Crown, 6× AL wins leader, 5× AL ERA leader, 12× AL strikeout leader, Pitched a no-hitter on July 1, 1920, MLB record 110 career shutouts, Hall of Famer, Major League Baseball All-Century Team, and Major League Baseball All-Time Team

"The Big Train" steamrolled through his competition during the dead-ball era, but his dominance could still translate in the live-ball era. The Washington Senators' teams that he was the ace for was so notoriously bad, his hall of fame plaque literally reads "for many years with a losing team," but he still leads those teams to some very successful seasons, including a World Series, during his peak dominance. His record 110 career shutouts seemed like an unbreakable record when he retired, but not it's not even close, with the active leader being Kershaw at 15 career shutouts, which shows just how great Walter Johnson was, which makes his place on the MLB All-Time Team very fitting for the G.O.A.T.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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