There have been some truly outstanding pitchers in baseball history. For a team to have success, it must have quality pitching to limit the opposition as much as possible. The 25 players who made this list produced in the regular season in the postseason on more than one occasion.
Who are the best pitchers of all time? While the order can be debated for years and years, it’s hard to argue with the credentials of these guys. All of them found ways to have success for a sustained time.
Here are the 25 best pitchers of all time.
25. Nolan Ryan
There’s a lot to love about Nolan Ryan when looking at the raw numbers. He finished with 5714 strikeouts and was the most feared pitcher of his generation. He might be the most feared pitcher in baseball history.
This is also a guy who walked a lot of batters, didn’t always give his team a chance to win, and stuck to his way of pitching for better or worse.
For as great as he was, it’s hard to put him any higher on this list because he never figured out a way to tone it down just a little bit. Even throwing at his 90% would have left hitters baffled.
24. Max Scherzer
A lot of baseball fans aren’t quite aware of just how good Max Scherzer has been during his career. He has three Cy Young Awards to his name, and he was a huge part of the Washington Nationals World Series team in 2019.
He’s still one of the best pitchers in the game, meaning that he has the most left in the tank out of the three current players on this list. Now that he’s with the New York Mets, he could raise his profile even more.
23. Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander is still plugging along as a solid pitcher in baseball. His career will make him an instant Hall of Famer, as he has a pair of Cy Young and MVP Awards to his name.
The eight-time All-Star was a strikeout pitcher early in his career, but he’s found a way to reinvent himself while not throwing as hard. That’s allowed him to stay effective during the second half of his career with the Houston Astros.
22. Carl HubbellEmbed from Getty Images
A lot of outstanding hitters claimed that no one was tougher to face than Carl Hubbell during his prime. The left-hander had a devastating screwball that kept a lot of hitters off-balance.
He holds the record for most consecutive wins with 24, which only tells a small part of his story. Any pitcher who picks up a pair of MVPs in his career is going to make a list like this.
21. Mariano Rivera
The only closer to making this list is Mariano Rivera. It just goes to show how dominant he was for so long for the New York Yankees.
He finished his career with 652 saves, but it was his true dominance in clutch situations that made him truly one of a kind. To have an idea of what others think of him, he’s the only unanimous Hall of Famer in history.
20. Bob FellerEmbed from Getty Images
A true fireballer for his era, Bob Feller dominated for the Cleveland Indians. As great as numbers are, he would probably even be higher on a list like this if not for missing three seasons due to military service.
After getting back from World War II, he promptly became the best strikeout pitcher in the game.
19. Clayton Kershaw
As a current player, Clayton Kershaw sometimes gets overlooked as one of the all-time greats. If he retired today, he would be one of the very best to ever play.
He has three Cy Young Awards to his name, and he pulled off the rare feat of winning the National League MVP in 2014 as well.
He’s spent his entire career with the Los Angeles Dodgers to this point, picking up the World Series championship recently to solidify his spot amongst the all-time greats.
18. Jim Palmer
There have been a lot of career Baltimore Orioles throughout baseball history, but Jim Palmer is one of the very best. He won three Cy Young Awards in the 1970s, and he played an integral role in three World Series championships as well.
The six-time All-Star found a way to win 20 games seemingly every year in his prime, making him a star in the American League.
17. Bert Blyleven
He was never quite as dominant as some of the other names on this list, but his consistency over 22 seasons shows that he was one of the best in the game. Some might call him a compiler, but his curveball helped him win a total of 287 games over his career.
He’s fifth all-time in shutouts with 60, and 3701 strikeouts aren’t too bad either. He only found a way to make the All-Star team twice, but it’s hard to look past his numbers for his career.
16. Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry became the first pitcher ever to win a Cy Young Award in the National League and American League. A strong and steady pitcher throughout his career, his longevity has him up near the top of his list.
As a known spitballer, Perry was always a bit polarizing during his playing days. However, his numbers show that he’s deserving of being on any top 25 list.
He pushed the rules a bit, and is one of the main reasons why spitballs are much more thoroughly outlawed now.
15. Satchel PaigeEmbed from Getty Images
Look only at his MLB statistics, and those unfamiliar might wonder how Satchel Paige made this list. He’s the only guy in the top 25 who played most of his career in the Negro Leagues.
Major League Baseball didn’t welcome him in until he was 42 years old, but he still found a way to be productive during his short run.
In his prime, Paige was considered to be in a class of his own. Pitching most notably for the Kansas City Monarchs, Paige dominated MLB hitters during exhibitions and barnstorming tours.
Those in his era knew that one of, if not the best pitcher in baseball was left on the outside looking in due to the color barrier.
14. Warren SpahnEmbed from Getty Images
The peak years of Warren Spahn might not be as great as some of the other pitchers on this list, but it’s hard to argue with his longevity with production. He made his MLB debut in the 1940s, but would pitch for more than 20 years for mostly the Boston/Milwaukee Braves.
The 1957 Cy Young award winner also claimed his only World Series championship that year. He always had one of the lowest ERAs in the league, giving his team a chance to win.
13. Lefty GroveEmbed from Getty Images
Lefty Grove had a very dominant career for the Philadelphia Athletics and Boston Red Sox. He was a huge reason why the Athletics won back-to-back World Series in 1929 and 1930.
In 1931, he was hoping to lead them to a third title, but he didn’t get as much support during his only MVP season.
Winning the pitching Triple Crown is nearly impossible, and Grove did it twice in his career. He was as dominant as they come during his era, even if people have forgotten about him a bit.
12. Steve Carlton
Steve Carlton is one of the most underrated pitchers of all time. After having some solid seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Steve Carlton took off as a dominant pitcher once traded to the Philadelphia Phillies.
He would spend 15 seasons in Philadelphia, winning a total of four Cy Young Awards. His devastating slider became one of the toughest pitches in baseball history to handle as a hitter.
11. Bob GibsonEmbed from Getty Images
Bob Gibson didn’t choose Baseball, Baseball chose him. After contemplating a career in professional basketball, Bob Gibson decided to go the baseball route with the St. Louis Cardinals.
It turned out to be a great career move, as he won two Cy Young Awards and turned in one of the greatest pitching years ever in 1968. His dominance as a pitcher that year led to rule changes with the mound shortly after.
A lot of great pitchers have come through the St. Louis Cardinals organization, but many believe he’s the best of the best.
10. Tom Seaver
Tom Seaver‘s most remembered for his decade of strong play for the New York Mets. He also had some good years with the Cincinnati Reds.
He took home a total of three National League Cy Young awards, including winning it in 1969 when the Mets won the World Series.
He was a dominant pitcher from the very beginning, and his longevity gave him the distinction of being arguably the best pitcher in the 1970s.
9. Christy MathewsonEmbed from Getty Images
Mathewson is another one of those dead ball pitchers who put up numbers that are impossible for the modern player to match. He’s third all-time in wins with 373.
He was a workhorse for the New York Giants for 17 seasons. He possessed one of the best fadeaway pitches of all time, and he was always talked about with high praise amongst his peers.
Along with Walter Johnson, he was the only other pitcher to make the inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1936.
8. Sandy Koufax
It was a relatively short career for Sandy Koufax, as he retired at age 30. However, from 1961 until his retirement in 1966, there was no one nearly as dominant.
He won three Cy Young Awards during that span, and also picked up the 1963 National League MVP. He was a main cog for the dominant Los Angeles Dodgers, as they won three World Series during his time.
7. Cy YoungEmbed from Getty Images
The man with the award named after him for pitching excellence has to be on this list somewhere. Cy Young might not be the greatest pitcher of all time, but he was a dominant force in his era who lives on thanks to the two trophies handed out each year.
He owns one of the unbreakable records in baseball, finishing his career with 511 wins. Yes, he pitched in an era where pitchers threw much more than they ever do now, but he still found a way to outpace all of his peers.
6. Pete AlexanderEmbed from Getty Images
Peter Alexander didn’t waste much time making a name for himself in the majors when he was a rookie in 1911. He finished his first season with 28 wins, a 2.57 ERA, and 227 strikeouts to almost win the National League MVP Award.
He didn’t slow down much after that, as he turned into the ace the Philadelphia Phillies desperately needed. He then moved to the Chicago Cubs and put up productive years for them as well. His 90 shoutouts still rank him second all-time in baseball history.
5. Randy Johnson
An intimidating presence at 6‘10“ tall, the left-hander was the most feared pitcher in the game during his prime. He won a total of five Cy Young Awards, including four in a row in the National League from 1999 to 2002.
Very few pitchers can match his strikeout totals, as he finished with 4875 for his career. It was routine for him to pick up 10 or more strikeouts per outing.
4. Greg Maddux
The beauty of Greg Maddox is that he was a pitcher who didn’t kill people with velocity or outstanding stuff in general. It was mostly about location for Maddux, and he arguably has the best control in pitching history.
A standout for the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves, he was able to win four consecutive National League Cy Young awards from 1992 to 1995.
He is viewed by many as the greatest fielding pitcher of all time as well, taking home 18 Gold Gloves.
3. Roger Clemens
The dominance and longevity of Roger Clemens give him numbers that are hard to top. He holds the record with seven Cy Young Awards in his career, and he was constantly redefining himself as he aged.
There will always be that little bit of cloud around him because of performance-enhancing drugs, but he still did what few were able to even come close to matching. His intimidating presence on the mound put teams in a tough situation every single start.
2. Pedro Martinez
The most underrated pitcher ever? Pedro Martinez doesn’t have the eye-popping career numbers of some of the other pitchers on this list, but it needs to be said that he pitched in the middle of the steroid era. He had a way of standing out so much more compared to others of that era.
For seven years, he was the most dominant pitcher in baseball. He won three Cy Young Awards, and then played a major role in the Red Sox finally winning a World Series in 2004.
1. Walter JohnsonEmbed from Getty Images
It’s virtually impossible to find anyone who was even alive when Walter Johnson was pitching in the majors these days. He played for the Washington Senators throughout his career, finishing with two MVP awards and a 1924 World Series championship ring to his name.
He was a man who threw harder than just about anyone else in the league at this time, and became an inaugural Hall of Fame member in 1936.
His numbers, and the ability to be so much above his peers, put him at or near the top of any list.