Weekly Dime–Top 10 Starting Pitchers of All Time

I love top 10’s, but this was one of the most difficult categories to narrow down. Largely due to the challenging attempt at providing the best algorithm possible. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I had to put my personal biased aside and dig deep into the research where I surprisingly found that almost every avenue I went there was a different pitcher who made strong arguments to be atop the list. (as opposed to hitters, fielders, etc.) But basically my main formula broke down as such: era, stats, impact, dominance, durability, consistency, legacy, and postseason. Some obviously have more stock than others, like stats, which speaks for themselves and the dead-ball, live, and steroid eras all have their own weight. To balance out the weight of the rankings, I chose to focus on combining all of these factors from the most rational, objective perspective possible.

Honorable Mention: Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Clayton Kershaw, Lefty Grove, Pete Alexander, Satchel Paige, Warren Spahn, Jim Palmer, Bert Blyleven, Bob Feller

Seaver, Carlton, and Kershaw were the most difficult not to include due to their incredible stats and how much they dominated during their respected careers. (Kershaw is still going strong and could easily make this list when it’s all said and done but complete body of work is still tbd.) Seaver was by far the toughest to leave off and I’ll be second-guessing it for eternity while also accepting the amount of hate mail I’ll receive which I deserve. And, of course, Paige probably would’ve easily been top 10; but, unfortunately, we’ll never know…

10. Cy Young

Reasons For: Most wins of all time, most innings pitched, most starts, 749 complete games, 25 1/3 consecutive hitless innings pitched.

Reasons Against: Dead-ball era

In summary: Despite the time period in which he pitched in, the stats are eye-popping compared to his fellow ballplayers and I simply cannot deny his stamp on the game. After all, the most prestigious pitching award is named after him.

9. Nolan Ryan

Reasons For: Most strikeouts of all time (5, 714), 7 career no-hitters, 11x strikeout leader, 324 wins

Reasons Against: 27 seasons with no Cy Young award, 81.3 career WAR

In Summary: This old-school, flame-throwing, country boy nicknamed “The Express” had to crack my top 10. I mean.. it’s Nolan Ryan.

8. Bob Gibson

Reasons For: 2x World Series MVP, NL MVP, 2x NL Cy Young Award winner, 9 Gold Gloves

Reasons Against: 89.2 WAR, short of 300 wins (251)

In Summary: “Gibby” was so insane in 1968 posting a 1.12 ERA with 13 shutouts that they literally lowered the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches and reduced the height of the strike zone from the batter’s armpits to the jersey numbers. That, and his multiple dominating World Series performances were a no-brainer.

7. Pedro Martinez

Reasons For: 3x Cy Young Award winner, Triple Crown winner, 5x MLB ERA leader

Reasons Against: 83.9 WAR, 219 wins (but only 100 losses, so there’s that.)

In Summary: Arguably the most dominant pitcher of his day, who’s highest peak came in the heart of the steroid era. (And no, Pedro was not connected to PEDs.) 2 year stretch, ’99 and ’00, where he might’ve been the most unhittable pitcher ever.

6. Sandy Koufax

Reasons For: 4x World Series Champion, 3x Cy Young Award winner, 3x Triple Crown winner, 2x World Series MVP, NL MVP, 5x NL ERA leader, 3x MLB wins leader

Reasons Against: Short career due to injury

In Summary: If this dominant lefty would’ve played another 6-10 years, he probably would be my clear #1. Sandy’s six year run from ’61-’66 is without question the most outstanding in the history of baseball.

5. Christy Mathewson

Reasons For: Win-Loss Record: 373-188, 2.13 ERA, 3 shutouts in the same World Series, 5x NL ERA and strikeout leader, 2x Triple Crown, 2x World Series champion.

Reasons Against: Dead-ball era

In Summary: On wikipedia they should add Mathewson’s name to the definition of “dead-ball era” since nobody could hit him. The balls were dead but so were his opponents’ bats. He ranks in the top 10 in every significant pitching category.

4. Greg Maddux

Reasons For: 355 wins, 4x Cy Young award winner, 18 Gold Gloves, 4x ERA leader, 3x Wins leader, World series Champion

Reasons Against: Not a lot. Maybe the 227 losses?

In Summary: With incredible control, “The artist”, located almost every pitch with precision; painting the corners and freezing hitters with that gorgeous-moving two-seam fastball.

3. Roger Clemons

Reasons For: 139.2 WAR, 7x Cy Young Award winner, 7x ERA leader, MVP, 2x Triple Crown, 5x strikeout leader, 4x Wins leader, 2x World Series champion, MLB record: 20 strikeouts in a game (twice)

Reasons Against: Steroids

In Summary: Yes, “The Rocket”, is directly connected to steroids. But, 2 things.. 1), the majority of great players he was facing were also on steroids. (no excuse, but fact) 2), three, if not four, of his Cy Young awards were before the era and his connection with. Besides that, he was a top 3 Cy Young Award finalist 3 other seasons.

2. Randy Johnson

Reasons For: Win-Loss Record: 303-166, 4,875 strikeouts (2nd), 5x Cy Young Award winner, World Series MVP, Triple Crown, 9x strikeout leader, 4x ERA leader, Perfect Game, No Hitter

Reasons Against: Honestly can’t think of one. He checks every box that curated my formula.

In Summary: “The Big Unit” may indeed be the most feared pitcher of all time not only because the 6’10” lefty threw a 102 mph fastball, but he literally killed a bird mid-flight.

1. Walter Johnson

Reasons For: 164.9 WAR, 417 wins, 2.17 ERA, 3,508 strikeouts, 110 shutouts, 12x strikeout leader, 6x wins leader, 5x ERA leader, 3x Triple Crown winner, 2x MVP, World Series champion, no-hitter

Reasons Against: Time period… kind of…

In Summary: “The Big Train” pitched in both the dead-ball era and the live-ball era and was just as good in both. For example, Walter faced Babe Ruth 107 times. Johnson struck out arguably the greatest hitter in his prime out 25 times and held him to a .280 average. (Babe’s average in his prime was around .370.) Johnson’s lighting fast sidearm delivery helped him become the only pitcher in history with 400 wins and more than 3,500 strikeouts. But the number that jumps out to me the most is the ridiculous 110 shutouts. I repeat, one hundred and ten shutouts. If you were to explain to someone who knows nothing about baseball, you might simply say that the goal for a pitcher is to not allow the other team to score. Well, Walter Johnson did that. 110 times.


  • Ryan_Hughes

    Passionate storyteller and lifelong Royals, Chiefs, and Mizzou Tiger fan. Graduate of Chicago's Second City Conservatory and selected writer for the CBS Diversity Showcase. A member of the sketch comedy group, "Genuine Jerks". Founder of Planet H Productions located in Southwest Missouri.

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