Top 10 Best MLB Pitchers of All Time


Baseball has a long and rich history full of players who inspired a generation. However, that does not make our decision any easier. Instead, it means there are dozens of names to consider when creating a list of the best MLB pitchers of all time. We examined pitchers over the past 130 years to ensure no big names got left behind.

How did we end up with a top ten? For starters, we asked around. We wanted to know what names fans thought of when talking about the best pitchers in MLB history. From there, we had a list of over 50 players that we slowly whittled down. We examined what each player achieved, including the number of innings pitched, strikeouts, and shutouts. After this, we had around 15 names to consider for our top ten. Unfortunately, that means some iconic players will miss out, but that’s just how it goes. 

If you are curious about the best baseball players of all time, Bet Station has several lists that might be of interest. We recently detailed the ten best MLB catchers, the five highest-paid MLB stars, and the 15 best ballparks in America. Anyway, without further delay, let’s see the ten best pitchers to play in the MLB.

10. Clayton Kershaw


To start us off, we have Clayton Kershaw, the only active MLB pitcher in the top ten. Kershaw began his professional career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. He stayed with the Dodgers ever since making his debut in a career that has spanned 16 years so far. Kershaw is a left-handed pitcher that reached the majors at 20 years old. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that he showed the league what he was capable of.

Kershaw made his first of nine All-Star appearances in 2011, the same season he picked up the Triple Crown, Gold Glove, and Cy Young Award. Also, he was the NL wins, ERA, and strikeout leader for the season. On top of winning multiple awards throughout his career, Kershaw pitched a no-hitter in 2014. He was the 22nd player from the Dodgers to do so, earning him caparisons to Sandy Koufax. Looking at his stats, it is easy to see where all the praise comes from. He has the best win-to-loss ratio of anyone on our list with .695 and a WAR of 79.3. Although his career has not yet finished, Kershaw has cemented his place as one of the best MLB pitchers ever.

  • WAR: 79.3
  • Record: 207-91
  • Innings Pitched: 2,676.1
  • Shutouts: 15
  • Strikeouts: 2,912

9. Tom Seaver


The ninth-best MLB pitcher of all time is Tom Seaver. His career began in 1967 with the New York Mets, where he stayed until 1977. From there, he had a lengthy stay with the Cincinnati Reds, then moved back to the Mets in 1983. After this, he had a brief spell with the Chicago White Sox before one last season in Boston with the Red Sox in 1986. While the bulk of Seaver’s success came with the Mets, he achieved a lot throughout his career.

In baseball, my theory is to strive for consistency, not to worry about the numbers. If you dwell on statistics you get shortsighted, if you aim for consistency, the numbers will be there at the end.

- Tom Seaver

Seaver won the World Series in 1969 and made 12 All-Star games. He won the Cy Young Award three times and was also a three-time win and ERA leader. He is the second pitcher on our list with a no-hitter which he got in June 1978. Seaver’s stats show how influential he was in the MLB. He managed a WAR of 109.9 with a win-to-loss ratio of .603. He pitched in 4,783 innings, recording 61 shutouts and 3,640 strikeouts. Plus, out of all the players on our list, Seaver has the most All-Star appearances with 12. Also, he is the only pitcher in our top ten with the Rookie of the Year award. They inducted Seaver into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992 with 98.84% of the first vote.

  • WAR: 109.9
  • Record: 311-205
  • Innings Pitched: 4,783
  • Shutouts: 61
  • Strikeouts: 3,640

8. Sandy Koufax


Sandy Koufax is one of the best MLB pitchers of all time, even though he only played professional baseball for 12 years. Technically, Koufax only played for one team in his career, but the franchise moved in 1958. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955 and then the Los Angeles Dodgers until 1966. Unfortunately, he had to retire aged 30 after developing arthritis in his left elbow.

Although his career ended early, Koufax achieved a lot in an incredibly short period. He was a seven-time All-Star with four World Series victories and NL MVP in 1963. He managed three Triple Crowns in his career and led the MLB in strikeouts on four occasions. Koufax was a two-time World Series MVP, five-time NL ERA leader, and three-time wins leader. He also pitched a perfect game in September 1965 and had four no-hitters in his career. He holds the joint record for most immaculate innings pitched and the joint most pitching Triple Crowns. Koufax also holds the record for most consecutive ERA titles in MLB history.

View post on Twitter

Players like Koufax are rare because there is so much to talk about. He won three Cy Young Awards and was the first pitcher to record a season with 300 or more strikeouts on three occasions. Also, he was the first pitcher to average nine strikeouts per innings and allowed less than seven hits per nine innings. They elected him to the Hall of Fame in the first year he was eligible in 1972. Koufax became the youngest player ever elected into the Baseball HoF.

  • WAR: 48.9
  • Record: 165-87
  • Innings Pitched: 2,324.1
  • Shutouts: 40
  • Strikeouts: 2,396

7. Greg Maddux


Greg Maddux was an MLB pitcher who made his debut in 1986. He played for six teams before retiring in 2008. Maddux started with the Chicago Cubs until 1992. He then played for the Atlanta Braves until 2003 before moving back to the Cubs. After the Cubs came the Dodgers and then the Padres, before a mid-season return to the Dodgers. Even though he had many spells at different teams, Maddux was a force to be reckoned with across his entire career.

They inducted Maddux into the Hall of Fame in 2014 with 97.2% of the vote. He also made both the Cubs and Braves Hall of Fame, plus they both retired the number 31 jersey. If you are looking for players that dominated, Maddux won 18 Gold Gloves from 1990 to 2008. He was a four-time MLB ERA leader and a four-time recipient of the Cy Young Award. He set multiple records, such as being the first pitcher to win four consecutive Cy Young Awards. Maddux also holds the record for most putouts from a pitcher with 546.

  • WAR: 106.6
  • Record: 355-227
  • Innings Pitched: 5,008.1
  • Shutouts: 35
  • Strikeouts: 3,371

6. Pedro Martínez


Next on our list is Pedro Martínez. Martínez began his career with the Dodgers in 1992 but moved to the Montreal Expos in 1994. In 1998 he joined the Red Sox before moving to the Mets in 2005. He had one last season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 before retiring from the game. Even though he played for five teams, Martínez was at his best when he was in Boston.

View post on Twitter

Delving into Martínez’s statistics, he had a fantastic win-to-loss percentage of .687. He won 219 games and only lost 100 in his entire MLB career. Martínez is an eight-time All-Star with one World Series win in 2004. He is also a five-time MLB ERA leader, three-time AL strikeout leader, and a winner of the Cy Young Award on three occasions. He holds the record for the lowest single-season WHIP and the lowest single-season FIP in the live-ball era. Many players on our list came into a strong team and made it better, but Martínez helped end the 86-year wait for the Red Sox to win a World Series.

  • WAR: 83.9
  • Record: 219-100
  • Innings Pitched: 2,827.1
  • Shutouts: 17
  • Strikeouts: 3,154

5. Randy Johnson


Now that we are in the top five pitchers of all time, it only gets tougher. Each one achieved a lot, but some contributed more to baseball than others. Next up, we have Randy Johnson, a player with one of the longest careers as a pitcher. As well as having a long career, the 6ft 10 pitcher had a wicked fastball and impressive slider. His 303 career victories leave him the fifth-highest for left-handers in the history of MLB.

Johnson played for seven teams throughout his career, beginning in 1988 with the Expos. He then moved to the Mariners in 1989, where he stayed until 1998. After a brief stint with the Astros, Johnson had another lengthy stay with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2005, he made it to the Yankees before returning to the Diamondbacks in 2007. In 2009, he had one last season in San Francisco with the Giants before retiring at 45.

He played in ten All-Star games and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series in the franchise’s fourth season. He was a nine-time strikeout leader and a four-time ERA leader. Johnson also won the Cy Young Award five times, four of which were in succession. Only Greg Maddux and Johnson have won four consecutive Cy Young Awards and Johnson won them in different leagues. He also pitched a no-hitter in both leagues and at 40 years old, he pitched a perfect game. Pitchers like Johnson are special. Not just because the man was a giant, but because of the longevity of his career and his remarkable achievements.

  • WAR: 101.1
  • Record: 303-166
  • Innings Pitched: 4,135.1
  • Shutouts: 37
  • Strikeouts: 4,875

4. Roger Clemens


Roger Clemens is the second player on our list not currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. We are not here to discuss the controversy. Instead, let’s focus on what the player achieved. Clemens began his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1984. He then moved to the Toronto Blue Jays in 1997 and then to the Yankees in 1999. After the Yankees came to the Astros in 2004 before he returned to the Yankees in 2007 before retiring.

Clemens is an eleven-time All-Star with two World Series wins in 1999 and 2000. He won seven Cy Young Awards during his career, starting in 1986 and the final one coming in 2004. He is a seven-time ERA leader and five-time AL strikeout leader, plus he was the MLB wins leader on four occasions. Clemens has the record for striking out 20 batters in a single game, something he did twice in his career. Plus, he is the only player in baseball history to register over 350 wins and 4,500 strikeouts.

View post on Twitter

If the allegations about using steroids did not come to light, Clemens would have certainly made the Hall of Fame. They cleared him of all charges, so it seems harsh for a player to miss out for such a reason. If the allegations were true, then it’s for the best he never made it into the HoF. Even with the court cases, he is still one of the best pitchers the MLB has seen.

  • WAR: 139.2
  • Record: 354-184
  • Innings Pitched: 4,916.2
  • Shutouts: 46
  • Strikeouts: 4,672

3. Christy Mathewson


The third-best MLB pitcher of all time is Christy Mathewson. His professional career began in 1900, playing for the New York Giants. Mathewson remained with the Giants for most of his career before moving to the Cincinnati Reds in 1916. He only pitched in one game for the Reds before retiring from the sport after 17 years.

Mathewson was one of the first five players elected to the Hall of Fame. He is joint third for the most career wins in the MLB, tied with Grover Alexander but behind Walter Johnson and Cy Young. He helped the Giants win their first World Series in 1905, where he pitched three shutouts. A deeply religious man; Mathewson never pitched on Sunday.

View post on Twitter

In his career, Mathewson pitched two no-hitters and two Triple Crowns. He was also pretty handy with the bat, recording an average of .215; way above average compared to most pitchers on our list. Mathewson was a five-time NL ERA and NL Strikeout leader, plus he was the NL wins leader on four occasions. He recorded a WAR of 106.5 and 373 wins with only 188 losses. That led to 4,788.2 innings pitched with 79 shutouts and only 89 home runs allowed.

Yes, you must look back pretty far to see any of Mathewson’s contributions to baseball. However, that does not diminish what he achieved. Including his military service, football, and baseball career, it was clear he grew up in a completely different time. Even though he played over 100 years ago now, he was still a massive influence on pitchers for generations to come.

  • WAR: 106.5
  • Record: 373-188 
  • Innings Pitched: 4,788.2
  • Shutouts: 79
  • Strikeouts: 2,507

2. Cy Young


Second, on our list of all-time dominant pitchers is Cy Young. After all, you can’t have an award for pitching named after you and not be one of the greatest to play. Young began his career with the Cleveland Spiders in 1890. In 1899, he joined the St. Louis Perfectos, which then became the Cardinals. Then he joined the Boston Americans in 1901, who changed their name to the Red Sox. In 1909, he joined the Cleveland Naps before moving to the Boston Rustlers in 1911, where he retired.

Throughout his lengthy career, Young set multiple records, several of which remain to this day. He has the record for the most wins and also the most losses. He started 815 games and completed 749, both records for pitchers. Also, he pitched in 7,356 innings and faced 29,565 batters, both records. Young won the World Series in 1903 and a year later, he pitched a perfect game. During his career, he pitched a remarkable three no-hitters. He is a five-time ERA leader, five-time wins leader, and two-time strikeout leader.

Young was also handy with the bat, scoring an average of .210 and registering 325 runs. He has the most runs from any pitcher on our list. What makes Young so special is that he had a wicked fastball. When his power diminished in the later stages of his career, he adapted his game and remained lethal, even over the age of 40. While we have focused on many talented pitchers over the years, few can hold a light to Cy Young.

  • WAR: 163.6
  • Record: 511-315
  • Innings Pitched: 7,356
  • Shutouts: 76
  • Strikeouts: 2,803

1. Walter Johnson


Walter Johnson is one of the best baseball players of all time. Plus, he is the best pitcher in MLB history. Johnson began his career in 1907 with the Washington Senators. He remained with the Senators until retiring as a player in 1927. In 1929, he came back to manage the side before moving to the Cleveland Indians as a manager until 1935.

Johnson set many records during his career, most of which modern players have now surpassed. However, one record that nobody has come close to beating is the 110 shutouts he achieved. He was the only player to record 3,000 strikeouts until 1974; now 18 pitchers have joined the club. Out of the 18 members of the 3,000 strikeouts club, Johnson has the lowest number of strikeouts per nine innings pitched and most innings pitched. Plus, he was a part of the first five members elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Out of all the players on our list, Johnson has the highest WAR with 165.1 and the best batting average. He won the AL MVP award in 1913 and 1924, the same year he won the World Series. Johnson is a 12-time AL strikeout leader, six-time wins leader, and five-time ERA leader. He achieved a Triple Crown three times in his career and pitched a no-hitter in July 1920. In baseball history, he is the only pitcher with 400 wins and 3,500 strikeouts.

Johnson was more special than a lot of fans give him credit for. All you need to know about Johnson is in this quote from Ty Cobb, the fifth-best baseball player of all time.

On August 2, 1907, I encountered the most terrifying sight I ever saw on the ball field. He was a rookie, and we licked our lips as we warmed up for the first game of a doubleheader in Washington. He was a tall, shambling galoot of about twenty; with a sidearm delivery that looked unimpressive at first glance. The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn’t touch him. Every one of us knew we’d met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ballpark.

- Ty Cobb
  • WAR: 165.1
  • Record: 417-279
  • Innings Pitched: 5,914.1
  • Shutouts: 110
  • Strikeouts: 3,509

Honorable Mentions

If you want to know who the best pitcher is of all time, it’s Walter Johnson. While many of his records no longer stand, he showed everyone across the MLB what damage an aggressive pitcher can do. His remarkable speed and lengthy career are exactly what pitchers across the MLB hope to achieve to this day. Sure, there are players like Nolan Ryan with significantly more strikeouts, but Walter thrived at a different time. When he was a pitcher, only two other men pre-WWII had over 1,000 strikeouts. Who knows how many more he could have had if he was born in a different decade?

While we have a complete top ten best pitchers of all time, there are a few players that deserve some recognition. All the names listed below are fantastic pitchers that narrowly missed out. Plus, if you are a baseball fan, we have plenty of other lists you should check out. You can find out who are the ten worst players to play in the MLB and the 15 best stadiums to watch a ball game. Make sure you visit Bet Station later to see the new lists we added.

  • Steve Carlton
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Grover Alexander
  • Lefty Grove
  • Satchel Paige
  • Bob Gibson
  • Lefty Grove

Related Posts