Chicks might dig the long ball, but it's pitching that wins championships.
While relief pitchers might throw harder, nobody is more important to a team's fate than the guy who takes the ball every fifth day—or in some cases, more often than that.
It's no coincidence that two of the stars of that Nike bit, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, were elite starting pitchers during their careers.
When you consider the number of starting pitchers that the game has seen over it's storied history, narrowing the list down to a Top 100 is a daunting task.
A Top 50? You've got to be insane to try that.
Well, call me crazy, because that's what this is all about—narrowing the field down to the 50 best starting pitchers in the history of the game.
Did Glavine and Maddux both make the cut?
There's only one way to find out.
As mentioned in the opening slide, narrowing the field down to a Top 50 is no easy task, and tough choices needed to be made as to who made the cut and who did not.
One way that was accomplished was to not include pitchers who spent the bulk of their careers pitching before the modern era of baseball, widely considered to have begun in 1900.
With that in mind, starters like Kid Nichols, Charles "Old Horse" Radbourn and Charlie Buffinton, among others, were not eligible to be included.
As for modern-era arms who barely missed the cut, here are a few that wound up on the proverbial editing room floor:
Career Stats: 211-144, 3.28 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2,397 K
Baseball's first "$100 million man," Kevin Brown is best remembered for his total collapse with the Yankees in the 2004 playoffs against the Red Sox, but he had an excellent career.
A six-time All-Star, Brown reached double-digit victories in 13 of his 19 big league seasons, leading the American League in strikeouts twice with the Rangers and the National League in ERA twice as a member of the Dodgers.
Career Stats: 260-230, 3.67 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 1,073 K
A three-time 20-game winner who led the American League in wins twice, Ted Lyons reached double-digit victories in 17 of his 21 big league seasons, all spent with the Chicago White Sox.
Career Stats: 204-150, 3.48 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 2,014 K
A three-time All-Star who reached double-digit wins 13 times, Orel Hershiser enjoyed one of the greatest pitching seasons in baseball history in 1988.
Hershiser posted a 23-8 record, 2.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and struck out 178 batters while setting an MLB record with 59 consecutive scoreless innings.
Career Stats: 98-76, 3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1,487 K
Felix Hernandez is well on his way to becoming one of the 25 best starting pitchers that the game has ever seen, but for now, King Felix comes in towards the end of the top 50.
The 26-year-old has posted double-digit wins in six of his eight seasons while pitching for the Mariners, who provide absolutely no run support whatsoever.
Over the past four seasons, the three-time All-Star and 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner has averaged 15 wins, a 2.81 ERA and 224 strikeouts per season.
Career Stats: 207-150, 3.06 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 1,796 K
A six-time All-Star, Hal Newhouser won back-to-back American League MVP awards in 1944 and 1945 for the Detroit Tigers, going a combined 54-18 with a 2.01 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 399 strikeouts over 625.2 innings of work.
A four-time 20-game winner, nearly 73 percent of his career wins came over a seven-year period, from 1944 to 1950. Even with a short window of greatness, Newhouser is clearly one of the 50 greatest starting pitchers that the game has ever seen.
Career Stats: 197-140, 3.24 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 2,045 K
Dazzy Vance didn't get his chance to shine in the major leagues until he was 31 years old, but that didn't stop him from winning 187 games for the Brooklyn Dodgers over the next 11 years.
He'd win the 1924 MVP award with a 28-6 record, 2.16 ERA and 262 strikeouts over 308.1 innings of work.
Vance led the National League in wins twice, ERA three times and strikeouts for seven consecutive seasons, from 1922 through 1927.
Career Stats: 191-102, 3.50 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2,214 K
As consistent a starting pitcher as there is in the game today, CC Sabathia has yet to not make 28 starts or win 11 games in any of his 12 major league seasons, logging 200 or more innings in each of his last five.
A six-time All-Star and the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, Sabathia is a lock to join the 200-win club in 2013.
Career Stats: 224-184, 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2,855 K
A seven-time All-Star, Jim Bunning was the second pitcher in baseball history to record 100 wins and 1,000 strikeouts in both the American and National leagues. Bunning reached double-digit victories in 13 of his 17 seasons, including 11 straight from 1957 to 1967.
He'd also toss a no-hitter in each league, including a perfect game for the Phillies in 1964.
Career Stats: 246-142, 2.66 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 1,068 K
Joe McGinnity didn't break into the big leagues until he was 28 years old and only played for 10 seasons, but he still managed to rack up some incredibly impressive stats.
He'd lead the league in wins five times, but is best remembered for starting both ends of a doubleheader.
In 1903, he started both games of a doubleheader in the same month, somehow managing to win all six games.
Career Stats: 124-65, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1,454 K
Justin Verlander might celebrate his 30th birthday in February, but he's got plenty of baseball left in his dynamic right arm.
A five-time All-Star, Verlander took home both the American League Cy Young and MVP awards in 2011 when he went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, .0.92 WHIP and 250 strikeouts over 251 innings.
Career Stats: 150-83, 3.02 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1,163 K
A broken toe in the 1937 All-Star game forced Dizzy Dean to alter his mechanics, and ultimately destroy his arm, but prior to that, Dean was among the best pitchers in the game.
As a member of the Cardinals, Dean would lead the National League in wins twice and in strikeouts four times, taking home MVP honors in 1934 when he went 30-7 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, striking out 195 batters over 311.2 innings pitched.
Career Stats: 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3,116
A six-time All-Star and three-time 20-game winner, Curt Schilling raised his game when it mattered most.
In 19 postseason starts—including the infamous bloody sock game—Schilling went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over 133.1 innings of work, striking out 120 batters.
Career Stats: 193-143, 2.16 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2,316 K
A strikeout artist who led the American League in the category for six consecutive years from 1902 to 1907, Rube Waddell is one of the premier left-handers in the history of the game.
In 1905, Waddell won the Triple Crown of pitching with 27 wins, 287 strikeouts and a 1.48 ERA.
Career Stats: 300-244, 3.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 2,334 K
A five-time 20-game winner—which all came after he celebrated his 30th birthday—Early Wynn was a consistent starter for more than two decades, primarily for the Indians and Senators.
He'd reach double-digit wins in 15 of his 23 major league seasons, leading the league in wins and strikeouts twice and ERA once.
Career Stats: 229-172, 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2,416 K
Luis Tiant baffled batters with one of the most bizarre pitching deliveries in the history of the game, one where Tiant was essentially turning his back to home plate before exploding forward with the pitch.
A three-time All-Star who led the American League in ERA twice, whether Tiant deserves to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame or not—he currently is not a Hall of Famer—continues to be a topic of heated debate
Career Stats: 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 2,813 K
One of the most consistent pitchers the game has seen over the past 20 years, Mike Mussina reached double-digit victories in 17 of his 18 big league seasons, eclipsing 200 innings of work 11 times.
A five-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, Mussina only had one 20-win season in his career—his last, in 2008.
Career Stats: 213-155, 3.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3,084 K
Yes, Smoltz re-invented himself as a closer after missing the 2000 season and some of his stats are from his time pitching out of the bullpen, but there's no argument to be made that he doesn't belong on this list.
Along with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, Smoltz was one of the premier starting pitchers of the 1990s.
An eight-time All-Star, Smoltz won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award when he led the league with 24 wins and 276 strikeouts.
Career Stats: 286-245, 3.41 ERA, 1,17 WHIP, 2,357 K
A seven-time All-Star, Robin Roberts was the ace of the Phillies in the 1950s and one of the best pitchers of his era.
He won 20 games or more for six consecutive seasons, from 1950 to 1955, leading the league in wins from 1952 through 1955. He also threw more than 300 innings in each of those seasons, leading the league from 1951 through 1955.
Career Stats: 305-203, 3.54 ERA, 1.314 WHIP, 2,607 K
Part of one of the great pitching trios of all-time along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz for the Braves, Tom Glavine was a two-time Cy Young Award winner who dominated batters from the left side of the mound for more than two decades.
A 10-time All-Star and five-time 20-game winner, including three years straight from 1991 through 1993, Glavine's accomplishments were often overshadowed by Maddux, making him one of the more underrated players in the last 30 years.
Career Stats: 318-274, 3.35 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 3,342 K
One of the premier knuckle-ball pitchers of all-time, Phil Niekro was a three-time 20-game winner who led the league in wins twice and losses four times—accomplishing both in 1979 when he went 21-20 and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.
Career Stats: 209-166, 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 2,486 K
One half of one of the most dominating pitching duos of all-time with Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale was one of the premier pitchers of his generation.
A six-time All-Star, Drysdale recorded double-digit wins in all but two of his 14 seasons in the big leagues, including a league-leading 25 in 1962 when he won the National League Cy Young Award.
Drysdale didn't hesitate to throw inside to batters, and his 154 hit batsmen remains a modern-day National League record.
Career Stats: 324-256, 3.26 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3,574 K
A four-time All-Star, Don Sutton reached double-digit wins in each of his first 19 years in the league and in 21 of his 23 major league seasons.
Sutton was as durable as they come, never spending time on the disabled list and striking out at least 100 batters in each of his first 21 seasons.
Career Stats: 199-100, 3.31 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 2,066 K
Roy Halladay is coming off one of the worst seasons of his 15-year career, and perhaps the end is drawing near for the premier pitcher in baseball for the better part of the past decade.
Doc has won a Cy Young Award in each league, has seven top-five finishes in Cy Young voting and has averaged 16 wins a season over the past decade.
Career Stats: 160-97, 1.89 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 920 K
He only lasted nine years in the major leagues before passing away at the age of 31 due to tubercular meningitis, but what a nine years they were.
He won 20 or more games four seasons in a row and never had a record under .500 in his career. Joss threw a perfect game in 1908 and another no-hitter in 1910.
Of his 160 career victories, 45 were shutouts, a 28 percent clip.
Career Stats: 287-250, 3.31 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3,701 K
A two-time World Series champion, Bert Blyleven reached double-digit wins 13 times and ranks fifth on the all-time strikeout list despite only leading the league in the category once.
Career Stats: 284-226, 3.34 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3,192 K
A seven-time 20-game winner and 1971 Cy Young Award winner, Jenkins spent the majority of his career pitching for terrible teams in hitters' ballparks—Fenway Park and Wrigley Field—which makes his accomplishments all the more impressive.
Not an overpowering pitcher, Jenkins changed speeds and used pinpoint control to lead the league in wins twice, in complete games four times and to become the first Canadian to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Career Stats: 314-265, 3.11 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 3,534 K
Gaylord Perry wore a lot of hats over his 22-year major league career—eight to be exact.
A five-time 20-game winner, he won two Cy Young Awards: in 1972 with Cleveland and with San Diego in 1978, becoming the first pitcher to win the award in both leagues.
Career Stats: 195-126, 1.82 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 1,736 K
Ed Walsh used a spitball to keep hitters off-balance for his entire career, which makes you wonder how he'd fare in today's game considering his go-to pitch is no longer allowed.
His career ERA of 1.82 is the lowest of all-time, while his 1.00 WHIP ranks third.
From 1906 through 1912, Walsh averaged 24 wins a season and is best remembered for his 1908 season, when he went 40-15 with a 1.42 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, completing 42 of his 49 starts. He'd also log 464 innings of work while tossing 11 shutouts and striking out 269 batters.
Career Stats: 268-152, 2.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 2,212 K
The greatest pitcher in Baltimore Orioles history, Jim Palmer was a three-time Cy Young award winner who never allowed a grand slam in his 19-year career.
An eight-time 20-game winner, Palmer led the Orioles to six World Series appearances, winning three championships. In 17 postseason appearances, Palmer went 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 90 strikeouts over 124.1 innings of work.
Career Stats: 266-162, 3.25 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2,581 K
Bob Feller missed nearly four full seasons—some of the prime years of his career—serving his country in World War II, but that didn't stop him from having one of the most remarkable careers in the history of the game.
A six-time 20-game winner, Feller threw three no-hitters and 12 one-hitters while leading the league in wins six times and in strikeouts seven times.
Without question, Feller would have reached the 300-win club had he not been called into military service.
Career Stats: 243-142, 2.89 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2,303 K
A six-time 20-game winner and nine-time All-Star, Juan Marichal quickly became a fan favorite thanks to his signature high-leg kick and pinpoint control, often busting batters inside to move them off of the plate.
One of the first stars from the Dominican Republic, the Dominican Dandy twice led the National League in complete games and shutouts.
Career Stats: 324-292, 3.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5,714 K
The greatest strikeout artist in the history of the game, Nolan Ryan led the league in strikeouts 11 times and ERA twice over a 27-year career.
Baseball's all-time leader in strikeouts and no-hitters, with seven, Ryan never won a Cy Young award, finishing in the top five on five different occasions.
Career Stats: 253-154, 2.98 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 1,677 K
A two-time National League MVP, Carl Hubbell won at least 20 games for five consecutive seasons from 1933 to 1937, pitching to a 2.52 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, leading the league in ERA three times.
His signature achievement, however, didn't come during a game that counted.
In the 1934 All-Star game, Hubbell mowed down five consecutive American League batters who you may have heard of: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin—all future Hall of Famers—as was Hubbell, who was elected to the Hall in 1947.
Career Stats: 236-106, 2.75 ERA, 1.215 WHIP, 1,956 K
The chairman of the board, Whitey Ford is the greatest pitcher in the history of the New York Yankees.
A six-time World Series champion and 1961 AL Cy Young Award winner, Ford led the American League in wins three times and in ERA and innings pitched twice.
He still holds multiple World Series records, including 10 career wins, and he once threw 33 consecutive scoreless innings in the Fall Classic.
Career Stats: 219-100, 2.93 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 3,154 K
A three-time Cy Young award winner and five-time ERA champion, Pedro Martinez was one of the most dominant pitchers in recent memory.
From 1997-2003, an average season for Pedro was 17-5 with a 2.20 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 252 strikeouts.
Winner of pitching's Triple Crown in 1999, when he went 23-4, 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts, Pedro's biggest accomplishment may be that he helped lead the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years when they finally broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004.
Career Stats: 239-130, 2.06 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 1,375 K
With literally only three fingers on this throwing hand due to a farming accident, Mordecai Brown won 20 or more games for six consecutive seasons, from 1906 through 1911.
During that stretch with the Chicago Cubs, an average season for "Three-Finger" was 25-9 with a 1.63 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 288 innings pitched.
Career Stats: 326-194, 2.35 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2,246 K
Eddie Plank made 529 career starts and completed more than 77 percent of them.
Think about how incredible that stat is for a second.
No left-hander in the history of the game has more complete games (410) or shutouts (69) than Plank, who won 20 games eight different times, including four seasons in a row from 1902 to 1905. With him at the front of their rotation, the Philadelphia Athletics won six pennants.
Career Stats: 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 143 ERA+, 4,672 Ks, 4,916.2 IP
"Oh my goodness gracious," I've got a suspected cheater on the list.
Put a big fat asterisk next to this one if you want, but there's no question that what Roger Clemens accomplished during his 24-year career was extraordinary.
A seven-time Cy Young award winner, seven-time ERA champion, five-time strikeout king and 1985 American League MVP, Clemens was one of the best pitchers that the game has ever seen.
Career Stats: 329-244, 3.22 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4,136 K
The first pitcher to win four Cy Young awards, Steve Carlton picked up 241 of his 329 wins playing on some really awful Philadelphia Phillies teams.
In 1972, the Phillies finished in last place, winning only 59 games. Carlton went 27-10, taking home the NL Cy Young award, but more impressively, accounting for nearly 46 percent of his team's wins on the season.
A six-time 20-game winner and five-time strikeout champion, Carlton trailed only Nolan Ryan on the all-time strikeout list when he retired and currently sits in fourth place.
Career Stats: 363-245, 3.09 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 2,583 K
Warren Spahn's major league career didn't really get underway until 1947 due to World War II, but what a career it was.
Spahn averaged 20 wins a season for more than a decade, from 1947 to 1963, pitching to a 2.96 ERA and throwing an amazing 361 complete games.
A 13-time 20-game winner, Spahn led the league in wins eight times, including five years in a row from 1957 to 1961.
Career Stats: 251-174, 2.91 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 3,117 K
A former member of the Harlem Globetrotters, Bob Gibson was one of the most intimidating pitchers in the history of the game, fearless about brushing batters back off of the plate.
Owner of the greatest single-season performance of any pitcher in history, when he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 268 strikeouts for the Cardinals in 1968—a season that earned him both the NL Cy Young and MVP awards.
Gibson was at his best when the stakes were highest, winning seven consecutive World Series starts and striking out 10 or more batters in five World Series starts.
His 17 strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the 1968 Fall Classic remains a World Series record.
Career Stats: 300-141, 3.06 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2,266 K
From 1927 to 1933, Lefty Grove went 172-54 with a 2.74 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for the Philadelphia Athletics, leading them to three consecutive World Series, winning two championships.
Owner of the highest winning percentage of any member of the 300-win club, Lefty Grove won a ridiculous nine ERA titles, including four straight from 1929 to 1932 and seven strikeout titles.
Without a doubt, he is the greatest left-handed pitcher the game has ever seen.
Career Stats: 303-166, 3.29 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 4,875 Ks
A five-time Cy Young award winner and nine-time strikeout champion, Randy Johnson intimidated batters for more than two decades with a fastball that routinely topped 100 mph and a slider that was virtually untouchable.
Second all-time to Nolan Ryan in career strikeouts, Johnson's 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings of work is the highest in the history of the game.
Career Stats: 311-205, 2.86 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 3,640 K
Over the first 11 seasons of his career, from 1967 to 1977, Tom Seaver went 203-113 with a 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 2,530 strikeouts, earning 10 All-Star selections and winning three National League Cy Young awards.
The 1967 National League Rookie of the Year, Seaver finished his career leading the league in wins and ERA three times and five times was crowned the strikeout king of baseball.
Career Stats: 355-227, 3.16 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3,371 K
The most dominant starting pitcher the game has seen over the last 30 years, Greg Maddux didn't overpower hitters with a blazing fastball, instead relying on pinpoint control and a wide assortment of pitches to keep hitters off-balance for more than two decades.
A four-time Cy Young award winner, Maddux averaged 17 wins a season from 1988 through 2006, winning at least 15 games in 18 of those 19 seasons.
Career Stats: 165-87, 2.76 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 2,396 K
One of the most dominant pitchers in the history of the game, Sandy Koufax won five consecutive ERA titles from 1962 to 1966. With a combined record of 111-34, an ERA of 1.95 and 1,444 strikeouts over 1,377 innings of work, no pitcher has ever had as incredible a stretch as Koufax did.
A three-time Cy Young award winner, Koufax very well could have become the greatest pitcher in the history of the game had arthritis in his left arm not forced him to retire at the age of 30.
511-316, 2.63 ERA, 138 ERA+, 1.130 WHIP, 2,803 Ks, 7,356 IP
Baseball's all-time leader in wins (511), losses (316), innings pitched (7,356), starts (815) and complete games (749). Is there any question why the biggest pitching award in the game bears his name?
He won at least 20 games 15 times, 30 games five times and won two games in the first modern-day World Series, leading Boston to the championship.
Career Stats: 373-208, 2.56 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 2,198 K
Alexander did not make his big-league debut until the age of 24, but still managed to pitch 20 seasons and rack up the third-most wins of all-time.
He led the league in ERA four times, wins and complete games six times and shutouts seven times.
From 1911 to 1917, he averaged 27 wins and 356 innings pitched a season, with an ERA of 2.12 and a WHIP of 1.07.
Career Stats: 373-188, 2.13 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 2,507 K
Acquired by the New York Giants from the Cincinnati Reds in one of the most lopsided trades in major league history, Christy Mathewson won 22 or more games for 12 consecutive seasons from 1903 to 1914.
A four-time 30-game winner, Mathewson led the league in wins four times, ERA and strikeouts five times and set the modern-day National League record with 37 wins in 1908.
In the 1905 World Series, Mathewson tossed three complete game shutouts over a six-day span, allowing 13 hits and one walk while striking out 18 batters.
Career Stats: 417-279, 2.17 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3,509 K
The "Big Train" spent his entire 21-year career with the Washington Senators, winning 417 games—second only to Cy Young—while pitching on some awful teams. His 110 shutouts are more than anyone else in the history of the game, and from 1910 through 1919, Johnson averaged 26 wins a season.
He led the league in wins, complete games and shutouts six times, ERA five times and a dozen times was the strikeout king of baseball.