There have been a lot of great pitchers throughout baseball history. While many fans might reminisce about how pitchers once completed more of their starts and played through injury, that doesn’t necessarily mean the best hurlers were all from a long gone era.
In fact, over 63.3 percent of the below deemed “greatest franchise pitchers” pitched anywhere from the 1980s to present day. Pitchers like Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and even David Price may not have completed as many games as Cy Young (749), Pud Galvin (646) or Tim Keefe (554), but their extreme talents and contributions are undeniable.
Below is the greatest pitcher in every MLB team’s history.
All statistics sourced from Baseball-Reference.com.
Greg Maddux is widely considered the most intelligent pitcher of all time.
Warren Spahn was a member of both the Boston and Milwaukee Braves, spanning 1942 to 1964. Over that span, Spahn owned 356 personal wins with a 3.05 ERA (a versus park-adjusted 120 ERA+), 1.19 WHIP and 1.81 K/BB.
But despite being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1973, there has still been a better Braves pitcher: Greg Maddux.
Originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs, Maddux joined the Atlanta Braves in 1993. The “Mad Dog” quickly emerged as not only the Braves ace, but also as a historically dominant pitcher.
From 1993 to 2003, Maddux owned a 2.63 ERA (versus 163 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP, 4.77 K/BB and 194 personal wins. The right-hander also won three Cy Young Awards in his 10 seasons with the Braves.
Maddux is first eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014, where he will likely join Spahn.
Tom Seaver certainly earned his nickname.
Matt Harvey might be all the rage now, but the original New York Mets ace was Tom Seaver.
The Mets inked Seaver as a free agent in 1966 and reaped the benefits of him just a year later. In 1967, “Tom Terrific” made his big league debut and captured the Rookie of the Year Award honors behind a 2.76 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 122 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP, 2.18 K/BB and 16 personal wins.
Seaver only got better from there. Over 12 seasons in orange and blue, the right-hander owned a 2.57 ERA (versus 136 ERA+), 1.08 WHIP, 3.00 K/BB and 198 personal wins. As a Met, Seaver also won three Cy Young Awards and made 10 trips to the All-Star Game.
In 1992, Seaver’s 98.84 percent Hall of Fame vote percentage was, and still is, the highest rate in history.
The small-market Montreal Expos more or less gave Pedro Martinez away to the Boston Red Sox.
Even though Pedro Martinez’s career as a member of the Montreal Expos lasted just four seasons, the pitcher made quite an impact. From 1994 to 1997, Martinez combined for a 3.06 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 139 ERA+), 1.09 WHIP and 3.39 K/BB.
The right-hander saved his best performances for 1997, however. Martinez led the league in ERA (1.90), complete games (13), ERA+ (219), WHIP (0.93), hits per nine innings (5.9) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.4). Given his incredible statistics, the Dominican native edged Greg Maddux for the Cy Young Award.
Martinez would then be traded in the offseason to the Boston Red Sox, where he enjoyed one of the most dominant six-year periods in baseball history.
As one of the oldest franchises, it’s not surprising the Philadelphia Phillies have boasted some of the game’s greatest pitchers. Since the turn of the century, the Phillies have trotted out the likes of Curt Schilling, Steve Carlton and Jim Bunning. But Pete Alexander was arguably their finest.
Alexander made his debut on April 15, 1911 at age 24. From 1911 to 1917 (and 21.2 innings in 1930), “Old Pete” owned a 2.18 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 141 ERA+), 1.07 WHIP, 2.51 K/BB and 190 personal wins.
The Nebraska native enjoyed his best career season in 1915, when he won 31 games while tossing a 1.22 ERA (versus 228 ERA+), 0.84 WHIP, and 3.77 K/BB.
The Cy Young Award wasn’t around then, but Alexander did place in the MVP Award vote three times. The right-handed was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1938.
The then-Florida Marlins drafted Josh Johnson in the fourth round of the 2002 draft.
For a franchise that rarely hangs onto any player of value for an extended period of time, the Miami Marlins have few “lifers.” That said, Josh Johnson, who spent parts of eight seasons with the Marlins, is far and away the team’s greatest pitcher of all time.
Johnson, who debuted at age 21, owned a career 3.15 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 134 ERA+), 1.23 WHIP and 2.70 K/BB with the Marlins. The right-hander also made two trips to the All-Star Game and placed fifth in the 2010 Cy Young Award after posting a league-leading 180 ERA+.
The former fourth-round pick was traded away this past offseason to the Toronto Blue Jays. In Johnson’s place, rookie Jose Fernandez has filled the void (159 ERA+ and 3.10 K/BB) and could eventually eclipse the 29-year-old as the franchise’s greatest pitcher.
With the exception of 1906, Babe Adams was a Pittsburgh Pirates’ lifer. From 1907 to 1926, Adams combined for a 2.74 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 118 ERA+), 1.09 WHIP, 2.42 K/BB and 194 personal wins.
The right-hander’s finest campaign came in 1911, when he posted a 2.33 ERA (versus 147 ERA+), 1.01 WHIP, 3.17 K/BB and 22 personal wins.
But perhaps his most impressive feat was winning three World Series games in the 1909 series against the Detroit Tigers. Adams hurled 27 innings of 1.33 ERA ball—including one shutout—en route to the Pirates' first World Series victory.
The St. Louis Cardinals have witnessed a variety of talented pitchers, including Hall of Fame inductee Dizzy Dean. But no other pitcher besides Bob Gibson has dominated in a Cardinals uniform for as long as he did.
From 1959 to 1975, Gibson owned a 2.91 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 127 ERA+), 1.19 WHIP, 2.33 K/BB and 251 personal wins. Gibby’s greatest season was in 1968, when he pitched to the tune of a 1.12 ERA (versus 258 ERA+), 0.85 WHIP and 4.32 K/BB. The big right-hander not only captured the Cy Young Award, but also nabbed the NL MVP Award.
Gibson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Fergie Jenkins was perhaps the most recent Chicago Cubs ace, but in terms of all-time greats, the nod has to go to Mordecai Brown.
Nicknamed “Three Finger” due to an early life factory accident, Brown didn’t let his handicap get in his way. From 1904 to 1912, the right-hander owned a dominant 1.75 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 156 ERA+), 0.99 WHIP, 2.34 K/BB and 186 personal wins. He even accumulated 39 saves during that span too.
Brown was released from his contract with the Cubs after the 1912 season and he spent the next three seasons bopping around between the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Terriers, Brooklyn Tip-Tops and Chicago Whales. The Cubs signed Brown in 1916, but the 39-year-old was a shell of his former self (74 ERA+).
Mordecai Brown was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1949.
Jose Rijo was one of the most exciting pitchers to watch during the early 1990s.
The Cincinnati Reds have trotted out the likes of Gary Nolan, Bucky Walters, Noodles Hahn and Eppa Rixey, but arguably, no Reds pitcher has been as dominant as Jose Rijo.
After four mediocre seasons between the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics, the Reds acquired Rijo for Dave Parker in 1987. Despite Rijo’s past production, he emerged as a completely reinvented pitcher in 1988.
From 1988 to 1995, the right-hander owned a superb 2.71 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 143 ERA+), 1.16 WHIP and 2.83 K/BB. The then-25-year-old also won two games in the 1990 World Series, hurling 15.1 innings of 0.59 ERA baseball.
Rijo retired due to injury after the 1995 season, but made an unceremonious comeback in 2001. He retired again after the 2002 season.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ franchise has been better known for their ability to churn out great hitters, like Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. But people need not forget about pitcher Teddy Higuera.
Higuera spent his entire, truncated nine-year career with the Brewers. From 1985 to 1994, the southpaw owned a 3.61 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 117 ERA+), 1.24 WHIP and 2.44 K/BB. In 1986, his sophomore season, Higuera lost out to only Roger Clemens in the AL Cy Young Award vote after posting a 156 ERA+ season.
Injuries got the best of Higuera, who missed significant time in 1991, sat out the entire 1992 season and was never the same until he retired after 1994.
Photo source: MLBReports.com
It took awhile for Sandy Koufax to come into his own, but when he did (in 1961), there was no one better. From 1961 until his final season in 1966, Koufax owned a historically dominant 2.19 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 156 ERA+), 0.97 WHIP, 4.16 K/BB and 129 personal wins.
Over that span, the southpaw took home three NL Cy Young Awards and placed third in the 1964 voting (losing out to Dean Chance and Larry Jackson).
Koufax retired after the 1966 season due to injury, and in 1972, became the youngest player (age 36) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Randy Johnson was 35 years old when he joined the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1999. But luckily for the Snakes, the Big Unit aged like a fine wine. In his first season as a Diamondback, Johnson hurled a 2.48 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 184 ERA+), 1.02 WHIP and 5.20 K/BB, including 364 strikeouts.
But that was just the start of it.
From 1999 to 2004, Johnson owned a 2.65 ERA (versus 175 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP, 5.10 K/BB and 103 personal wins. The left-hander also struck out 1,832 batters and won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1999 to 2002.
With Johnson’s help, the Diamondbacks advanced to the playoffs three times, including a World Series victory over the New York Yankees in 2001.
He might not have tough competition, but Ubaldo Jimenez was the best pitcher to don a Colorado Rockies jersey.
Pitching in Colorado is never a fun chore. The notorious hitters park has helped propel many Colorado Rockies hitters' careers—but very few pitchers. The one exception to date has been Ubaldo Jimenez.
From 2006 to 2011, Jimenez owned a 3.66 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 128 ERA+), 1.28 WHIP and 2.08 K/BB. The right-hander’s best season came in 2010, when he hurled a 2.88 ERA (versus 161 ERA+), 1.15 WHIP, 2.33 K/BB and 19 personal wins. Jimenez would make a trip to the All-Star Game and also finish third in the Cy Young Award ballot.
Since his Rockies days, ironically, Jimenez has not been the same pitcher. In his third season with the Cleveland Indians, the 29-year-old has posted a combined 4.86 ERA (versus 80 ERA+), 1.53 WHIP and 1.71 K/BB.
With iconic pitchers like Gaylord Perry, Carl Hubbell and Juan Marichal all wearing a Giants jersey, it’s difficult to just pick one “best ever.” But New York Giants ace Christy Mathewson was just a slight notch above the rest.
In the early 1900s, Mathewson was one of the game’s finest pitchers. From 1900 to 1916, the “Big Six” owned a 2.12 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 136 ERA+), 1.06 WHIP, 2.96 K/BB and 373 personal wins. In fact, Mathewson won 20 or more games 13 times.
The big right-hander was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936, capturing 90.7 percent of the vote.
Trevor Hoffman saved 601 games in his career.
Few relievers have enjoyed a more successful career than Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman, who was acquired by the San Diego Padres in 1993, took hold of the closer role until 2008.
During that span, the right-hander owned a 2.76 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 146 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP, 4.04 K/BB and 552 saves. Hoffman also placed in the Cy Young Award voting four times and made six trips to the All-Star Game as a Padre.
The Padres made an unpopular move by not re-signing Hoffman after the 2008 season, marking the end of an illustrious 16-year marriage. The closer spent two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers, retiring at age 42.
The 2013 season seems to be Mariano Rivera's last.
Even with Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing and Ron Guidry all wearing pinstripes, the ageless “Sandman” is still king. Mariano Rivera is not only the best closer of all time, but also one of the best pitchers too.
Rivera owns major league records for saves (644), games finished (940) and park-adjusted ERA+ (204). No reliever has come close to mirroring the Panama native’s consistency and perpetual dominance out of the bullpen.
And the amazing part is that Rivera has accomplished everything with just a two-pitch repertoire (fastball and cutter).
Pedro Martinez's tenure with the Boston Red Sox was one of historic proportions.
The Boston Red Sox have arguably boasted the best individual starting pitchers in baseball history. With hurlers like Cy Young, Lefty Grove, Smoky Joe Wood and Roger Clemens being candidates, picking the “greatest” is not a simple choice.
But as great as each of these pitchers were, none matched the dominant streak Pedro Martinez enjoyed from 1998 to 2003.
The Red Sox stole Martinez from the Montreal Expos in exchange for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas on November 18, 1997. After hurling a 1.90 ERA and a park-adjusted 219 ERA+ in his final season with the Expos, the Red Sox had high hopes for the young ace.
Martinez did not disappoint.
From 1998 to 2003, Pedro posted a Sandy Koufax-esque 2.26 ERA (versus 212 ERA+), 0.94 WHIP, 5.87 K/BB and 101 personal wins. During that span, the right-hander captured two Cy Young Awards and placed within the top three in the voting another three times.
Martinez’s final season in Boston was in 2004, hurling a comparatively mediocre—but still very good—3.90 ERA (versus 124 ERA+), 1.17 WHIP and 3.72 K/BB.
Considering the above, it is likely that Martinez will be enshrined as a Boston Red Sox come 2015, when he is first eligible for the Hall of Fame.
Sorry, Scott Kazmir and James Shields, David Price has been the franchise's best.
The Tampa Bay Rays have only been around since 1998, but current ace David Price has still been the franchise’s best pitcher.
Since 2009, Price, the Rays' first overall pick in the 2007 draft, has been a rock in their rotation. The left-hander has owned a combined 3.20 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 122 ERA+), 1.17 WHIP and 2.99 K/BB. The three-time All-Star also won the 2012 Cy Young Award behind a 2.56 ERA (versus 150 ERA+) after placing second in the voting in 2010.
Even though Price got off to a rough start in 2013, the pitcher still leads the league in walks per nine innings (1.3) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.58). Now entering his second year of arbitration, the Rays will likely begin to entertain trade offers for their young ace.
It might be a bold decision, but Mike Mussina—not Jim Palmer—has been the best Baltimore Orioles pitcher to-date.
Palmer is a Hall of Famer and owns a career 2.86 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 125 ERA+), 1.18 WHIP, 1.69 K/BB and three Cy Young Awards, but Moose simply possesses better overall statistics.
From 1991 to 2000, Mussina was quietly one of the best pitchers in baseball. The right-hander owned a 3.53 ERA (versus 130 ERA+), 1.18 WHIP, 3.29 K/BB and 147 personal wins. Compared to Palmer, Mussina walked fewer batters (.9 per nine innings less during his time in Baltimore) and struck out more, too (1.9 per nine innings more). In addition, Mussina’s average WAR of 4.8 per season with the Orioles blows Palmer’s 3.6 average WAR out of the water.
Mussina never won a Cy Young Award, but with consistently stiff competition like David Cone, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and more, his lack of awards was not indicative of his production.
Roy Halladay spent the first 12 years of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Roger Clemens certainly had the two most dominant seasons in a Toronto Blue Jays uniform and Dave Stieb was a key factor in the team’s early 1990s winning ways, but homegrown ace Roy Halladay was still the best.
From 1998 to 2009, Halladay owned a 3.43 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 133 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP, 3.29 K/BB and 148 personal wins. Doc also won a Cy Young Award with the team during the 2003 season, after posting a 145 ERA+ and 6.38 K/BB.
Halladay has aged well, even after being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, posting a 3.20 ERA (versus 124 ERA+), 1.10 WHIP and 5.14 K/BB—including a second Cy Young Award. The right-hander is currently rehabbing a rotator-cuff injury, but should be back in the saddle come 2014.
Few pitchers in the early 1900s were as reliable and consistent as Chicago White Sox hurler Ed Walsh. The right-hander aptly named “Big Ed” owned a 1.81 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 146 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP, 2.85 K/BB, 195 personal wins and even 35 saves over his 13-year White Sox career.
Walsh pitched over 400 innings twice in his career and won 40 games in 1908. To date his career 1.82 ERA is still a Major League Baseball record.
The pitcher was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Old Timers Committee in 1946.
It’s essentially a tossup between Bret Saberhagen and Dan Quisenberry. But considering Saberhagen was a starting pitcher and took home two Cy Young Awards, the “greatest” honors go to him.
The Royals drafted Saberhagen in the 19th round of the 1982 draft. Needless to say, the righty exceeded expectations.
Sabes owned a 3.21 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 128 ERA+), 1.13 WHIP, 3.30 K/BB and 110 personal wins from 1984 to 1991. His finest season as a Royal was in 1989, when he led the league in wins (23), ERA (2.16), complete games (12), innings (262.1), ERA+ (180), WHIP (0.96) and K/BB (4.49). The performance earned him his second Cy Young Award.
The Royals dealt Saberhagen to the New York Mets on Dec. 11, 1991, where he enjoyed some success, but his career eventually succumbed to a flurry of injuries.
Justin Verlander won the 2011 AL Cy Young Award.
The Detroit Tigers have witnessed Hal Newhouser, Tommy Bridges and Dizzy Trout take the mound, but no pitcher has been nearly as dominant as current ace Justin Verlander.
Verlander was the second overall pick in the 2004 draft, but didn’t truly come into his own until the 2009 season. From 2009 to 2012, the right-hander owned a 2.95 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 144 ERA+), 1.08 WHIP, 3.89 K/BB and 78 personal wins. With a fastball averaging in the mid-90s—as well as a devastating four-pitch arsenal—Verlander’s success was well founded.
The 30-year-old has taken a slight step back in 2013, posting a 3.51 ERA (versus 119 ERA+), 1.34 WHIP and 2.71 K/BB. But Tigers nation still has faith that the ace will bounce back in time for the playoffs.
Bob Feller might be widely considered the best Cleveland Indians pitcher of all time, but Deadball Era hurler Addie Joss put up the more impressive numbers.
In his nine-year career, spanning 1902 to 1910, Joss owned a 1.89 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 142 ERA+), 0.97 WHIP, 2.53 K/BB and 160 personal wins. In fact, Joss’s career 0.96 WHIP is still an MLB record.
The right-hander was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Veteran’s Committee in 1978 despite only accumulating nine seasons.
Many consider Walter Johnson to be the greatest pitcher of all time. In his 21-year career—all with the Washington Senators (who became the Minnesota Twins in 1961)—Johnson owned a 2.17 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 147 ERA+), 1.06 WHIP, 2.57 K/BB and 417 personal wins.
Johnson put up some pretty incredible career totals, too. In addition to 417 wins, “The Big Train” also pitched 5,914.1 innings, struck out 3,509 batters and owns the shutout record with 110 eggs.
The big right-hander won the MVP Award twice (in 1913 and 1924) and was rightfully inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936.
Nolan Ryan was an old-timer (41 years old) when he signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers in 1988. But Ryan still had plenty left in the tank.
From 1989 to 1993, the right-hander owned a 3.43 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 116 ERA+), 1.13 WHIP, and 2.66 K/BB. Even though Ryan was well into his 40s, the Texas native still had unhittable stuff—which was illustrated quite clearly when he no-hit the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays in 1990 and 1991, respectively.
Ryan retired after the 1993 season, but certainly left his mark on the Rangers.
Felix Hernandez might soon take over the honors, but in the meantime, Randy Johnson is the greatest Seattle Mariners pitcher of all time.
The Mariners acquired a 25-year-old Johnson from the Montreal Expos in 1989, but he was hardly a polished pitcher then. After leading the league in walks from 1990 to 1992, something clicked for the Big Unit.
Johnson fired a 3.24 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 135 ERA+), 1.11 WHIP and 3.11 K/BB in 1993, placing second in the Cy Young Award voting. But that was just the start of it. From 1993 to 1997, Johnson emerged as one of the finest pitchers in the American League. During that span, the lefty owned a dominant 2.86 ERA (versus 162 ERA+), 1.10 WHIP and 3.50 K/BB.
The Mariners dealt Johnson to the Houston Astros in the middle of the 1998 season, acquiring helpful assets like Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen in return. Even though Johnson won a Cy Young Award in 1995 with the Mariners, the pitcher’s career truly took off post-trade.
Johnson would win four consecutive Cy Young Awards with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1999 to 2002.
Jered Weaver struck out 233 batters in 2010.
You know you’re a good pitcher when you’re picked over Nolan Ryan, Dean Chance and Frank Tanana. And Jered Weaver is just that.
Weaver was drafted with the 12th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the then-Anaheim Angels. Two years later, the right-hander got the call and hasn’t slowed down since.
From 2006 to 2013, Weaver has pitched to the tune of a 3.27 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 126 ERA+), 1.15 WHIP, 3.17 K/BB and 109 personal wins. The pitcher has placed within the top five of the Cy Young Award vote three times, but has yet to take home the honors.
Weaver is signed through 2016, but if he were to re-up with the Angels again, the pitcher has a rare chance to be an Angels lifer.
Roy Oswalt racked up 143 wins with the Astros.
For most of the 2000s, Roy Oswalt carried the Houston Astros’ rotation.
From 2001 to 2010, Oswalt owned an impressive 3.24 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 133 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP, 3.57 K/BB and 143 personal wins. The right-hander never won a Cy Young Award, but did place within the top five vote five times.
Wanting to rebuild, the Astros dealt their longtime ace to the Philadelphia Phillies at the 2010 trade deadline. The trade landed the Astros three promising players, including Jonathan Villar, who will likely be the team’s shortstop for the next decade or so.
Before becoming a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1934, Lefty Grove was first an ace for the then-Philadelphia Athletics. From 1925 to 1933, Grove owned a 2.88 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 151 ERA+), 1.25 WHIP, 2.06 K/BB and 195 personal wins.
Still in the pre-Cy Young Award days, the left-hander captured the coveted MVP Award in 1931, behind a microscopic 2.06 ERA (versus 217 ERA+), 1.08 WHIP, 2.82 K/BB and 31-win season.
Even though Grove enjoyed more productive seasons with the Athletics, the pitcher was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1947 as a member of the Red Sox.