To this day, more than 75 pitchers have been inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. How can you pick the best pitchers of all time? How can you pick the best of the best? Well, you have to look at postseason success, dominance during their peak, career stats, and much more.
We have to mention that the strikeout rate per inning has changed drastically throughout the history of the game. That means that some pitchers that played in the early days might have different stats and effectiveness.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best pitchers of all time and how successful they were during their baseball careers.
Gregory Alan Maddux
Born in April 1966, Gregory is now an American college baseball coach. He is the pitching coach at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
During his playing career, he enjoyed success playing for the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago Cubs. With the Braves, Greg Maddux won the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians.
He was the first to achieve many feats and records. For example, he was the first pitcher in major league history to win the Cy Young Award for four consecutive years from 1992 to 1995. Only Randy Johnson has matched this feat.
He is also the only pitcher in MLB history to win at least 15 games for 17 straight seasons. Maddux holds the record for most Gold Gloves with 18, and the most putouts by a pitcher with 546.
William Roger Clemens
Nicknamed The Rocket, Clemens is a former professional baseball pitcher. He played for 24 seasons in the MLB, wearing the jersey of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. William was among the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game, tallying 354 wins, and 4,672 strikeouts, which is third-most all time.
He is an 11-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion. In 2001, he became the first pitcher in history to start a season with a win-loss record of 20-1.
By the end of his career, he was alleged by the Mitchell Report to have used anabolic steroids. The alleged report was mainly based on testimony given by his former trainer, Brian McNamee. But he firmly denied the allegations. Sadly, in 2010, a federal Grand Jury indicted Clemens on six felony counts, including false statements, Contempt of Congress, and perjury.
He pleaded not guilty and because of prosecutorial misconduct, there was a mistrial. The second trial gave its verdict in June 2012. Clemens was found not guilty.
Walter Perry Johnson
Walter was among the first stars in the league. Born in November 1887, he died in December 1946. Nicknamed Barney and The Big Train, Walter Johnson played his entire 21-year career for the Washington Senators. Following his playing days, he served as a manager of the Senators from 1929 through 1932 and then for the Cleveland Indians from 1933 to 1935.
Many regard him as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He established several records, some of which remain unbroken decades after his retirement. He remains the all-time career leader in shutouts with 110, second in wins with 417, and fourth in complete games with 531.
In 1936, Walter Johnson was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of the first five inaugural members.
Pedro Jaime Martinez
Born in October 1971, the Dominican-American professional baseball starting pitcher played from 1992 to 2009 for five teams. He enjoyed his best years playing for the Boston Red Sox from 1998 to 2004.
He was an eight-time All-Star, peaking from 1997 to 2003. At the time, he was established as one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball history.
Pedro Martinez was listed at 5 feet 11 inches and 170 pounds. He was unusually small for a modern-day power pitcher. Many believe he was even smaller than his officially listed height and weight.
Sadly, in his early 30s, injuries kept him off the field.
Born as Pack Robert Gibson in November 1934, he played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball. He spent his entire career for the St Louis Cardinals. He earned the nickname Gibby and Hoot after actor Hoot Gibson.
In total, Bob Gibson tallied 251 wins, 3,117 strikeouts, and a 2.91 earned run average. He was a two-time World Series champion and won the Al Cy Young Award two times.
Fun fact: he overcame childhood illness to excel in youth sports. He played basketball briefly for the Harlem Globetrotters before focusing on baseball professionally.
Gibson helped the Cardinals win two World Series, once in 1964 and 1967. He was named World Series MVP in both years.
Denton True Cy Young
Born in March 1867, Denton had to overcome many challenges as a young male to start his professional baseball career. He first worked on his family’s farm as a youth before starting his career in baseball.
Denton entered the major league in 1889 with the Cleveland Spiders from the National League and pitched for them until 1898. He then moved to the American League and won the 1903 World Series with the Boston Red Sox. He finished his career with the Cleveland Naps and Boston Rustlers.
Early in his career, he was one of the hardest-throwing pitchers in the game. Once his speed diminished, he relied on control and remained effective well into his forties.
He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. In 1956, one year after his death, the Al Cy Young Award was created to honor the best pitcher in each league for each season.
Randall David Johnson
Randy Jonson was nicknamed the Big Unit. He played 22 seasons in the MLB for six teams, mainly the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks.
To this day, he remains one of the tallest players in major league history. During his career, he was listed at 6ft 10 inches. Famous for his dominant fastball, he struggled with control early in his career. But he then went on to lead the league in strikeouts nine times.
He has 303 career victories, good for fifth-most by a left-hander in MLB history.
Sandy Koufax was born in December 1935. He pitched 12 seasons for the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers from 1955 to 1966. At the age of 36 in 1972, he became the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Many consider him one of the best pitchers of all time. He joined the league at only 19 years old. Fun fact: he never pitched in the minor leagues. His career peaked from 1961 to 1966, before arthritis in his left elbow ended his playing days.
In 1963, Sandy Koufax was the Most Valuable Player in the National League. He was the first major league pitcher to pitch four no-hitters and the eighth to pitch a perfect game in baseball history.
Christy Mathewson earned the nickname Big Six and the Christian Gentleman. He was a major league right-handed pitcher. Playing 17 seasons with the New York Giants, he was among the most dominant players in baseball history. To this day, he ranks in the top 10 in several key pitching categories, including wins, shutouts, and earned run average.
Mathewson helped the Giants win the 1905 World Series by pitching three shutouts. Fun fact: he never pitched on Sundays, owing to his Christian beliefs.
He served in the United States Army’s Chemical Warfare Services during World War I. There, he was accidentally exposed to chemical weapons during training. That weakened his respiratory system, causing him to contract tuberculosis. The disease caused his death in 1925.
Robert Moses Grove
Known by many as Lefty Grove, he was an American professional baseball pitcher that enjoyed success in minor leagues during the early 1920s. He became a star in Major League Baseball with the American League’s Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox.
Lefty Grove led the league in wins in four separate seasons and seven seasons in a row in strikeouts. He had the league’s lowest earned run average a record nine times.
He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947. In 1975, he died it in his daughter-in-law’s home while watching a televised baseball game.
Steven Norman Carlton
Born in December 1944, Steve Carlton was an American professional baseball player. He played for six different baseball teams. But he enjoyed the most success with the Philadelphia Phillies. He won four Cy Young Awards with the team and became the 1980 World Series Champion.
Nicknamed lefty, he has the second-most lifetime strikeouts of any left-handed pitcher. He also has the second-most lifetime wins of any left-handed pitcher. He held the strikeout record between 1982 and 1984 before his contemporary Nolan Ryan passed him.
One of the most amazing records is that he accounted for nearly half, or 46% of his team’s wins. Steve Carlton won 27 games for the 59-97 1972 Philadelphia Phillies. He spent one year with the Chicago White Sox as well.