Much like the goalie in hockey or the quarterback in football, the pitcher is by far the most important player to his team in the sport of baseball. If he has an off night the opposing team can feast on him and build an almost insurmountable lead early in the game. With such a small margin for error, and facing tough hitters who can smack the cover off the ball, these men who can hurl the ball close to 100 miles per hour have to be unerring and precise on every single pitch. There are many pitchers throughout history who had great seasons, but in order to make the list of the top 10 baseball pitchers of all time a man needed to have that precise control and dominance over hitters consistently for several years. Not many could achieve that standard, but here are a list of the best that did:
10 – Cy Young
You have to go way back into the annals of the sport to find information on this pitcher whose career started in 1890. His name graces the award given to the best pitcher in each of the National and American leagues for a reason. He is the all time winningest pitcher in the sport with 511 career wins, and also boasts the record for complete games with 749, as untouchable as any record in the game of baseball. Truly one of the sports greatest players, and most historic figures.
9 – Warren Spahn
Though he did not pitch as long ago as Cy Young, this former Atlanta Brave great is still several decades removed from today’s game, beginning his career in earnest after World War II. He had many impressive stats, but his thirteen 20+ win seasons certainly ranks as one of the best. He also had his fair share of complete games, 382, including a jaw-dropping 16 inning affair that finally saw him concede a solo homer to some guy named Willie Mays to break a scoreless tie.
8 – Tom Seaver
Getting a little closer to contemporary history at number 8 of the top 10 baseball pitchers of all time, Seaver’s 20 year career spanned parts of the 60s, 70s and 80s. During that time he amassed 311 wins and 3,640 strikeouts, good for 6th on the all time list. Not the most intimidating of pitchers, Seaver earned those wins and strikeouts with his incredible control, placing the ball exactly where he wanted on nearly every pitch.
7 – Steve Carlton
With over 300 career wins and more than 4,000 strikeouts there can be no question that “Lefty” is one of the greatest pitchers to ever take the mound. In 1972 he had one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher in MLB history. Despite playing on a team that won a woeful 59 games that year, Carlton excelled, winning 27 of those games, while striking out 310 batters. The 4 Cy Young awards he won during his time with the Phillies give mute testament to just how good this guy was in the 70s.
6 – Greg Maddux
One of the greatest control pitchers ever, Maddux was a no-brainer to make this top 10 list. He has a World Series ring to go along with his 4 consecutive Cy Young awards. With 355 career wins, and well over 3,000 career strikeouts it would be hard to justify keeping him off this list.
5 – Pedro Martinez
Perhaps no other pitcher in the game has as strong an arsenal as Pedro Martinez. Whether it is his fastball, his curveball or his change-up, Martinez consistently has opposing batters frustrated as they go down swinging. Though he only has a little over 200 career wins, his career winning percentage is higher than any other pitcher who has won 200+ games, and with more than 3,000 strikeouts his resume is impressive enough to put him in the top half of the top 10 baseball pitchers of all time.
4 – Randy Johnson
This 6′ 10″ 100 MPH-fastball-hurling giant is probably the most imposing player to ever take the mound in the history of the sport. “The Big Unit” was the most dominant pitcher in the game for about a decade starting in the mid-90s. With 5 Cy Young awards, and an astounding 4,8752 strikeouts in just 618 games, his career numbers speak for themselves.
3 – Sandy Koufax
Though his career was relatively short, Koufax was so dominant during his brief playing time that he must be given a spot on this list. Known for his curveball, which many baseball historians consider to be the greatest in history, Koufax spent a five year span between 1962 & 1966 where he dominated like no other pitcher ever has. During that span he had a stingy ERA of 1.93 and struck out nearly 300 batters a year on route to 111 victories.
2 – Nolan Ryan
The career strikeout leader by a country mile with 5,714, Ryan is often the forgotten man when people name their top 10 baseball pitchers of all time. However, with his incredible longevity, his 324 career wins, his incredible 7 career no-hitters, and his wide lead in career strikeouts I will slot him in the number 2 spot on my list.
1 – Roger Clemens
It is a shame that recent allegations of steroid use and other deviant behavior have tarnished the legacy of this great pitcher. However, whatever the truth of these alleged actions are, no one can deny Clemens was the most dominant pitcher on the planet for the better part of 2 decades, and arguably the greatest hurler of all time. He won an impressive 7 Cy Young awards during his career, racking up well over 300 wins and 4,600 strikeouts along the way.