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MLB's 10 Best Left-Handed Starting Pitchers of All Time

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MLB's 10 Best Left-Handed Starting Pitchers of All Time
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There have been hundreds of left-handed starting pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball.

The question is, who is the best ever?

Rating is both hard and easy.

What statistical categories do you look at? Which are important and which aren’t?

How much weight do you put on each category?

Is adjusted career more important than peak career?

 

Length of career is of importance.  

How much do I adjust for the decade they played in?

All of these things, and many more, have to be seriously considered when rating a player.

As most great historians do, this is a mathematical approach to the rating of every left-handed starting pitcher in the history of MLB, and these are the top 10.

I’m a great mathematician, and most good historians that I’ve run across are also, but many of them simply put the wrong weights on the above mentioned areas.

With all of the above things in mind, this is what my mathematical formula tells me.

 

A purely scientific approach.

When this list presented itself from my formula, it also made sense as a fan of the game.

There is an interesting thing about rating left-handed relief pitchers compared to any other position in the history of MLB.

It is the fact that almost every historian ever will rate the same 10 left-handed pitchers.

You just don’t see this with any other position.

For example, you might see five or six of the same players on a top 10 all time second base list, third base list, or centerfield list. 

But not the exact same 10 on any of those lists.

This makes rating left-handed relief pitchers very unique.

However, they are rarely in the same order. 

No argument here. I have the same 10 names, but in my own order.

In my opinion, if we polled the 100 most respected baseball historians in North America, here’s what the top 10 left-handed starting pitcher list would look like:

1.Lefty Grove (1930s)

2. Sandy Koufax (1960s)

3. Warren Spahn (1950s)

4. Randy Johnson (2000s)

5. Carl Hubbell (1930s)

6. Steve Carlton (1970s)

7. Whitey Ford (1950s)

8. Eddie Plank (1900s)

9. Hal Newhouser (1940s)

10. Rube Waddell (1900s)

That’s more or less what the list would look like. No way anyone would move more than two spots from where they are shown above, I can almost guarantee you.

Now my list is close, and the same 10 names, as most would have these 10.

I have Spahn down in the eight spot, down five spots from where we’re used to seeing him.

Why?

Here’s the simplified answer: When I compare Warren Spahn’s numbers to his peer from the 1950s, Whitey Ford, I find that Ford has better numbers.

For example, if I look at ERA, ERA+, W%+, H/9, SHO/40, and K/BB, I find that Spahn isn’t better than Ford in any of those categories.

Those are six statistical categories that most historians agree are extremely important stats for a starting pitcher, and Spahn isn’t better than Ford in any of them.

My point is, Ford was a higher caliber starting pitcher than Spahn.

Of course, caliber is only part of the equation and at the end of the day, I have Spahn rated higher than Ford.

This is mainly because Spahn had a longer career than Ford and it puts Spahn ahead of Ford by the time the rating is finalized, as it should.

It’s why I don’t think Spahn should be as high as we usually see him on these lists. But it’s obviously hard to argue he was better. He just happened to play longer. 

Put enough weight on the length of career and you could call him the best left-handed relief pitcher ever. I put enough weight on length of career to call him better than Whitey Ford.

Now, one that I have overrated compared to most historians is Eddie Plank. Plank will usually show up around the eight spot on historians' lists and I have him in the four spot.

I think the main reason for the underrating by most historians is the fact that they over-adjust for the fact that he pitched in the pitcher friendly decade of the 1900s.

Of course, they might say that I don’t adjust enough.

I just wanted to bring up the two that I’m the most far off on when compared to most historians. Again, the same 10 are almost always rated and I rate the same 10 in a different order.

Here is the order they should be in, according to my mathematical and scientific formula.

 

An Explanation of the Stats

The statistics used will be Games Pitched, Games Started, Innings Pitched, ERA, ERA+, W, W%+, H/9 (OBA), WHIP (OOB%), SHO, SHO/40 (per 40 games started), Ks, and K/BB (ratio). I will also letter-grade their length of career adjusted per their decade.

First, I will include their raw career numbers. 

Second, I will include their adjusted career numbers, if they had a long career (which most have).

Adjusted career is this: Let’s take Randy Johnson, for example. Johnson has had a long career. So in order to find his real numbers, I have to exclude some late seasons during his career to find the numbers that he really carried during his career, since he’s pitched past his prime.

With Johnson, I’d exclude his 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009 seasons. That is his adjusted career. If I don’t list an adjusted career under a player’s raw career numbers, then it means they didn’t play long enough to adjust or it means they didn’t have any bad seasons late in their career.

Third, I will include peak career numbers. Many like short peaks, not me. I include the best seasons equaling at least 200 games for a peak. It takes away the possibility of a pitcher having one or two lucky seasons. The 200-game peak will let us know how good the pitcher was at his best.

Note: W%+ is a statistic that I have invented. It takes the team's W% into account. It is very complicated as different weights are applied to seasons depending on how many games and innings a pitcher accumulated during a single season. Having said that, here’s the simple version.

If a starting pitcher has a career .500 W% during the 2000s and that pitcher pitched for the Yankees, .500 is not good. But, if that pitcher pitched for the Royals, then .500 is good. This is the reasoning behind W%+. It is to W% what ERA is to ERA+. It’s not foolproof, but neither is ERA+, just another piece of the puzzle and far, far more important than raw W%.

By the way, my invented W%+ uses a linear equation, not a power equation. I’m not trying to over inflate the numbers, like ERA+, which uses a power equation. OPS+ uses a linear equation, like my W%+ does. Like OPS+ and ERA+, 100 is the normal. Anything over 100 is good and anything under 100 is bad, like OPS+ and ERA

 

The Top 10

 

10. Whitey Ford (1950s)

Career Length Grade: B

Raw Career: 498 G, 438 GS, 3,170.1 IP, 2.75 ERA, 133 ERA+, 236 W, 115 W%+, 7.9 H/9, 1.22 WHIP, 45 SHO, 4.1 SHO/40, 1,956 K, and 1.8 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 461 G, 402 GS, 2,926 IP, 2.70 ERA, 135 ERA+, 220 W, 115 W%+, 7.8 H/9, 1.22 WHIP, 43 SHO, 4.3 SHO/40, 1,794 K, and 1.7 K/BB (exclude his 1965 season)

Peak Career: 212 G, 173 GS, 1,301.2 IP, 2.37 ERA, 156 ERA+, 92 W, 116 W%+, 7.5 H/9, 1.18 WHIP, 25 SHO, 5.8 SHO/40, 802 K, and 1.8 K/BB (include his 1950, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1964, 1966, and 1967 seasons)

He’s a Hall of Fame starting pitcher that picked up the Cy Young Award during the 1961 season.

His career 133 ERA+ still remains as the 17th best ERA+ in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher.

He led the league in ERA twice during his career and by the time he was through, he posted a 2.75 career ERA, which is the best from the decade. In fact, of the four HOF starting pitchers from the 1950s, each of them has higher than a 3.05 career ERA. 

He also led the League in wins three times during his career and recorded over 235 by the time he was through.

He was just a winner, plain and simple. He led the league in W% three times during his career and he had over a .550 W% during each of his 14 seasons in the league. That’s incredible. His career .690 W% still remains as the second best W% in the history of MLB for a starting pitcher.

Ford was his name, winning was his game. He helped his Yankees teams to the World Series during 11 of his first 13 seasons with them. 

They won the World Series championship during six of those 11 seasons. He posted good World Series numbers, too. In the combined 11 World Series, Ford recorded a 2.71 ERA; just a tick better than his career regular season ERA.

He certainly had plenty of moments of dominance during his career, leading the league in SHO twice and posting 45 SHO by the time he was through.

What a career; what a starting pitcher.

9. Hal Newhouser (1940s)

Career Length Grade: A-

Raw Career: 488 G, 374 GS, 2,993 IP, 3.06 ERA, 130 ERA+, 8.0 H/9, 1.31 WHIP, 207 W, 107 W%+, 33 SHO, 3.5 SHO/40, 1,796 K, and 1.4 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 439 G, 337 GS, 2,718.2 IP, 2.96 ERA, 134 ERA+, 7.9 H/9, 1.31 WHIP, 192 W, 105 W%+, 32 SHO, 3.8 SHO/40, 1,695 K, and 1.5 K/BB (exclude his 1951, 1952, 1953, and 1955 seasons)

Peak Career: 227 G, 163 GS, 1,421 IP, 2.26 ERA, 167 ERA+, 7.2 H/9, 1.18 WHIP, 116 W, 118 W%+, 23 SHO, 5.6 SHO/40, 945 K, and 1.8 K/BB (include his 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948, and 1954 seasons)

He started his Hall of Fame Major League Baseball career as an 18-year-old during the 1939 season.

Though he was young, he was good right out of the gate, but it did take him two or three seasons to turn into the dominant Hal Newhouser that we have come to know and love.

Once he really got started, he was unstoppable.

He led the league in wins during four of the five seasons from 1944-1948, winning over 20 games during those four seasons. By the time his career was through, he recorded almost 210 wins.

He led the league in H/9 during three of the five seasons from 1942-1946 and had under 7.0 H/9 during each of those three season and in ERA and ERA+ during two consecutive seasons in 1945 and 1946. He had less than a 1.95 ERA and more than a 185 ERA+ during those seasons.

He also led the league in Ks during two consecutive seasons in 1944 and 1945.

As you can see from his above league leading stats and facts, he was a dominant starting pitcher.

8. Warren Spahn (1950s)

Career Length Grade: A+

Raw Career: 750 G, 665 GS, 5,243.2 IP, 3.09 ERA, 118 ERA+, 363 W, 110 W%+, 8.3 H/9, 1.20 WHIP, 63 SHO, 3.8 SHO/40, 2,583 K, and 1.8 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 636 G, 577 GS, 4,604.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 125 ERA+, 329 W, 112 W%+, 8.1 H/9, 1.18 WHIP, 58 SHO, 4.0 SHO/40, 2,261 K, and 1.8 K/BB (exclude his 1960, 1964, and 1965 seasons)

Peak Career: 220 G, 204 GS, 1,636.2 IP, 2.59 ERA, 140 ERA+, 126 W, 119 W%+, 7.9 H/9, 1.11 WHIP, 26 SHO, 5.1 SHO/40, 730 K, and 1.9 K/BB (include his 1947, 1953, 1956, 1957, 1962, and 1963 seasons)

He’s in the Hall of Fame and picked up the Cy Young Award during the 1957 season.

He was a dominant starting pitcher that led the league in wins seven times during his career, posting over 20 wins all seven times.

He recorded at least 20 wins during 13 of the 17 seasons from 1947-1963. He posted over 360 wins by the time his career was through.

Here are some other impressive league leading stats and facts:

He led the league in SHO four times during his career and posted over 60 by the time he was through, led in Ks during four consecutive seasons from 1949-1952 and recorded almost 2,600 Ks by the time his career was through, and led in WHIP four times during his career, in ERA three times, and in ERA+ twice during his career.

He easily has the most impressive league leading stats of any starting pitcher from the 1950s.

7. Rube Waddell (1900s)

Career Length Grade: C-

Raw Career: 407 G, 340 GS, 2,961.1 IP, 2.16 ERA, 135 ERA+, 193 W, 110 W%+, 7.5 H/9, 1.10 WHIP, 5.9 SHO/40, and 2.9 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 397 G, 338 GS, 2,928.1 IP, 2.15 ERA, 136 ERA+, 190 W, 105 W%+, 7.5 H/9, 1.10 WHIP, 5.9 SHO/40, and 2.9 K/BB (exclude his last season)

Peak Career: 238 G, 204 GS, 1,820.1 IP, 1.95 ERA, 152 ERA+, 124 W, 106 W%+, 7.2 H/9, 1.06 WHIP, 5.7 SHO/40, and 3.2 K/BB (exclude his 1899, 1901, 1906, 1907, 1909, and 1910 seasons)

His 2.16 ERA still ranks as the seventh best ERA in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. Furthermore, his 1.10 WHIP still ranks as the 13th best WHIP in history and his 135 ERA+ still ranks as the 13th best ERA+ in history. 

Also, his 7.5 H/9 still ranks as the 20th best H/9 in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher.

As you can see, that puts Waddell in the top 20 all time in four of the most important starting pitcher stats in history.

It’s why he’s in the HOF and belongs on this list, even with a slightly below average length of career.

He led the league in Ks for six consecutive seasons from 1902-1907; and by the time his career was through, he had also led the League in ERA+ three times, ERA twice, and H/9 twice.

He was dominant. I’ll let this legendary Tommy Leach quote help explain it. 

“Waddell was an overgrown boy. It was a riot. I remember one time he called the outfield in and pitched an inning without any outfielders…somebody in the stands threw an egg at him and hit him right on top of the head. You couldn’t faze that guy, though…So he showed them how good he was by calling in the outfield and striking out the side. I used to stand there at third base and watch him throw. I wasn’t playing, I was watching! “How can a man throw that hard?” I used to wonder to myself. He had a terrific curveball, too, and great control." 

I’m not saying he’s better than Roger Clemens from the 1990s, but I bet Clemens never called the outfield in and struck out the side. Gee, that would make the highlights on the MLB network, huh?

6. Steve Carlton (1970s)

Career Length Grade: A

Raw Career: 741 G, 709 GS, 5,217.1 IP, 3.22 ERA, 115 ERA+, 329 W, 109 W%+, 8.1 H/9, 1.25 WHIP, 55 SHO, 3.1 SHO/40, and 2.3 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 640 G, 622 GS, 4,650.1 IP, 3.02 ERA, 122 ERA+, 301 W, 111 W%+, 7.9 H/9, 1.22 WHIP, 55 SHO, 3.5 SHO/40, and 2.4 K/BB (exclude his 1984, 1986, 1987, and 1988 seasons)

Peak Career: 219 G, 206 GS, 1,631.3 IP, 2.38 ERA, 158 ERA+, 120 W, 128 W%+, 7.3 H/9, 1.11 WHIP, 19 SHO, 3.7 SHO/40, and 2.9 K/BB (include his 1965, 1969, 1972, 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1981 seasons)

He ended his career with over 4,135 Ks and that still ranks fourth all time in the history of Major League Baseball. He led the league in Ks five times by the time his career was through.

While collecting four Cy Young awards during his career, he also led the league in wins four times, ERA+ twice, and K/BB twice. He recorded 55 SHO and almost 330 wins during his career.

He was an easy pick for the Hall of Fame.

There are eight HOF starting pitchers from the 1970s, but Carlton, Palmer, and Seaver really separate themselves from the other five HOFers from the decade.

It’s why I’m keeping this Carlton write-up short and sweet. He was the real deal and we all know it.

5. Carl Hubbell (1930s)

Career Length Grade: B

Raw Career: 535 G, 431 GS, 3,590.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 130 ERA+, 8.7 H/9, 1.17 WHIP, 253 W, 114 W%+, 36 SHO, 3.3 SHO/40, 1,677 K, and 2.3 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 442 G, 351 GS, 2,988.2 IP, 2.80 ERA, 139 ERA+, 8.5 H/9, 1.13 WHIP, 216 W, 112 W%+, 33 SHO, 3.8 SHO/40, 1,424 K, and 2.6 K/BB (exclude his last four seasons)

Peak Career: 205 G, 151 GS, 1,363.2 IP, 2.25 ERA, 164 ERA+, 8.0 H/9, 1.04 WHIP, 99 W, 119 W%+, 18 SHO, 4.7 SHO/40, 596 K, and 2.9 K/BB (include his 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, and 1939 seasons)

He was a very nice man that arguably ended up having the best screwball the game has ever seen. He also had unbelievable control.

He’s in the Hall of Fame and here’s one of those HOF type of stories. It happened during the 1934 All-Star game.

He struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin. He struck all five of them out consecutively.  Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx are arguably the three best hitters that the game has ever seen, period. I suppose that was a HOF moment there.

Hubbell led the league in a lot of areas during his career and I want to cover some of those areas.

He led the League in WHIP during six of the eight seasons from 1931-1938, in K/BB during five of the seven seasons from 1932-1938, in wins during three of the five seasons from 1933-1937 and he won over 20 games during all five of those consecutive seasons. He also led the league in ERA during three of the four seasons from 1933-1936.

He helped his teams to the World Series three times during his career and his team won the World Series during the 1933 season. In the combined three World Series, Hubbell posted a 1.79 ERA.

He led the League in ERA+ during three of the four seasons from 1933-1936, in H/9 three times during his career, in W% during two consecutive seasons in 1936 and 1937 and posted over a .730 W% each of those two seasons. In fact, he recorded over a .535 W% during each of his first 12 seasons in MLB and he posted over a .535 W% during 14 of the 16 seasons during his career.

4. Eddie Plank (1900s)

Career Length Grade: A

Raw Career: 623 G, 529 GS, 4,495.2 IP, 2.35 ERA, 122 ERA+, 326 W, 109 W%+, 7.9 H/9, 1.12 WHIP, 5.2 SHO/40, and 2.1 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 548 G, 477 GS, 4,067.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, 125 ERA+, 293 W, 110 W%+, 7.9 H/9, 1.12 WHIP, 4.9 SHO/40, and 2.0 K/BB (exclude his 1913 and 1914 seasons)

Peak Career: 216 G, 178 GS, 1,517 IP, 2.09 ERA, 141 ERA+, 117 W, 120 W%+, 7.8 H/9, 1.12 WHIP, 5.3 SHO/40, and 2.0 K/BB (include his 1903, 1909, 1911, 1912, 1915, and 1917)

His 2.35 ERA still remains as the 15th best ERA in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher.

He had over a .565 W% during each of his first seven seasons and led the league in SHO twice.

He won over 325 games and recorded almost 70 SHO by the time his career was through.

He’s in the Hall of Fame and he still arguably remains one of the 20 best starting pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball, righty or lefty.

Plank gets this spot over Hubbell because Plank had a longer career.

Plank was great, don’t get me wrong. He is a superb starting pitcher compared to most. But let’s not act like he was a higher caliber starting pitcher than Hubbell.

3. Sandy Koufax (1960s)

Career Length Grade: C

Raw Career: 397 G, 314 GS, 2,324.1 IP, 2.76 ERA, 131 ERA+, 165 W, 115 W%+, 6.8 H/9, 1.11 WHIP, 40 SHO, 5.1 SHO/40, 2,396 K, and 2.9 K/BB

Peak Career: 235 G, 216 GS, 1,674.1 IP, 2.21 ERA, 155 ERA+, 131 W, 124 W%+, 6.5 H/9, 0.98 WHIP, 37 SHO, 6.9 SHO/40, 1,743 K, and 4.0 K/BB (exclude his 1956-1960 seasons)

He started pitching in Major League Baseball as a teenager during the 1955 season. He stopped pitching at the age of 30 because arthritis made his arm feel like it was going to fall right off of his body after each start. 

The difference between Koufax and his peers from the 1960s, Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal, is purely academic. In my mind, Koufax was actually a slightly higher caliber pitcher, but Gibson and Marichal are rated better because of their longer careers. It’s just the way it works out.

Koufax is in the Hall of Fame, of course. He won the Cy Young award during three of the last four seasons of his career. It’s why people couldn’t believe he stopped pitching when he did because it seemed he was getting better and better every year. 

His career 6.8 H/9 still remains as the second best H/9 in the history of MLB for a starting pitcher. In fact, he led the league in H/9 for five consecutive seasons from 1961-1965.

His career 1.11 WHIP still remains as the 16th best WHIP in the history of MLB for a starting pitcher, and he led the league in WHIP for four consecutive seasons from 1962-1965.

He led the league in ERA during each of his last five seasons, in Ks during four of his last six seasons, and in wins during three of his last four seasons. In fact, he recorded at least 25 wins during each of those three seasons that he led the league.

He led the league in K/BB during three of the five seasons from 1961-1965, in SHO during three of his last four seasons in, and in W% twice during his career. He also led the league in ERA+ during two of his last three seasons. 

 

Koufax helped lead his teams to the World Series four times, winning the championship three times. During those four seasons, he ended up with a 0.95 ERA, 5.7 H/9, 0.83 WHIP, and 5.6 K/BB. 

 

2. Lefty Grove (1930s)

Career Length Grade: A

Raw Career: 616 G, 457 GS, 3,940.2 IP, 3.06 ERA, 148 ERA+, 8.8 H/9, 1.28 WHIP, 300 W, 118 W%+, 35 SHO, 3.1 SHO/40, 2,266 K, and 1.9 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 551 G, 403 GS, 3,544 IP, 2.86 ERA, 158 ERA+, 8.6 H/9, 1.26 WHIP, 278 W, 119 W%+, 34 SHO, 3.4 SHO/40, 2,107 K, and 2.0 K/BB (exclude his 1934, 1940, and 1941 seasons)

Peak Career: 229 G, 178 GS, 1,555 IP, 2.52 ERA, 186 ERA+, 8.3 H/9, 1.19 WHIP, 124 W, 122 W%+, 17 SHO, 3.8 SHO/40, 910 K. and 2.2 K/BB (include his 1926, 1930, 1931, 1935, 1936, and 1939 seasons)

His career 148 ERA+ still remains as the second best ERA+ in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. He led the league in ERA+ nine times during his Hall of Fame career.

He also led the league in ERA nine times during his career and helped his Philadelphia A’s to the World Series three times, capturing the World Series championship twice. During those combined three World Series, he posted a 1.75 ERA.

He led the league in K/BB eight times during his career, in Ks during each of his first seven seasons in MLB, and in WHIP during five of the first seven seasons of the 1930s, from 1930-1936.

He led the league in four seasons from 1928-1933, winning over 20 games during each of those four seasons. In fact, he recorded at least 20 wins during eight seasons from 1927-1935 and finished his career with 300 wins.

He led the league in W% five times during his career and posted a .680 career W%. It is the highest career W% in the history of MLB of any pitcher that has won at least 300 games. 

He also led the league in SHO three times during his career and recorded 35 SHO by the time he was through.

As you can see from his above league leading stats, he was just a dominant pitcher during his era.

 

1. Randy Johnson (2000s)

Career Length Grade: A (so far)

 

Raw Career: 618 G, 603 GS, 4,135.1 IP, 3.29 ERA, 136 ERA+, 124 W%+, 7.3 H/9, 1.17 WHIP, 2.5 SHO/40, and 3.3 K/BB

Adjusted Career: 481 G, 471 GS, 3,309.5 IP, 3.04 ERA, 147 ERA+, 130 W%+, 6.9 H/9, 1.16 WHIP, 3.1 SHO/40, and 3.3 K/BB (exclude his 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009 seasons)

Peak Career: 200 G, 198 GS, 1,457.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 190 ERA+, 137 W%+, 6.8 H/9, 1.04 WHIP, 3.2 SHO/40 and 4.7 K/BB (include his 1995, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2002 seasons)

His peak career is off the charts, just look at it again. Wow.

I'll admit that I've never been a Johnson fan.

I never got over that Yankee/reporter fiasco when he signed in New York. I'm probably being unfairly hard on the guy. Funny, the things that stick with you. 

Like him or not, he's the best lefty of all time.

His 136 ERA+ is 12th all time in the history of Major League Baseball for a starting pitcher. The fact that he has put up these numbers during the single worst era in the history of Major League Baseball for starting pitcher numbers makes it even all the more impressive.

He hasn't pitched well during his last couple of seasons and he has made it clear that he is retired and will not pitch in 2010. We’ll see.

 

The Honorable Mentions

Here are the ten left-handed starting pitchers that just missed the top 10 for various reasons. I will list them in order from oldest to newest:

Wilbur Cooper (1910s)

Hippo Vaughn (1910s)

Eppa Rixey (1920s)

Billy Pierce (1950s)

Vida Blue (1970s)

Jerry Koosman (1970s)

Tommy John (1980s)

Frank Tanana (1980s)

Tom Glavine (1990s)

Johan Santana (2000s)

 

The 10 Highest Caliber Left-Handed Starting Pitchers of All Time

I consider this to be the Smoky Joe Wood section. Who’s the best left-handed pitcher, putting some other things aside that affect a starting pitchers overall rating? So, these aren’t the best careers, but the best pitchers.

Like Smoky Joe Wood in the 1910s, he was a starting pitcher that many historians feel is one of the 10 highest caliber starting pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball. But with his short overall career, he’s never rated that high when you see historians rate starting pitchers because they are almost always rating the best careers.

Don’t get me wrong, caliber is part of historians formula too, it’s just a smaller part of the overall equation; and smaller than it should be, if you ask me, but that’s another article.

Smoky Joe Wood’s overall rating and career value is lower because of his short career and some other factors. But if a highest caliber list were made, Smoky Joe Wood would appear on many historians all time top 10 lists. 

I hope that makes sense. This is basically what I’m doing here with this list.

This list is the highest caliber left-handed starting pitchers. Here it is.

10. Hal Newhouser (1940s)

9. Steve Carlton (1970s)

8. Eddie Plank (1900s)

7. Whitey Ford (1950s)

6. Carl Hubbell (1930s)

5. Lefty Grove (1930s)

4. Rube Waddell (1900s)

3. Johan Santana (2000s)

2. Sandy Koufax (1960s)

1. Randy Johnson (2000s)

 

The Caliber Honorable Mentions (listed in order from oldest to newest):

Ed Morris (1880s)

Noodles Hahn (1900s)

Nap Rucker (1910s)

Reb Russell (1910s)

Hippo Vaughn (1910s)

Harry Brecheen (1940s)

Warren Spahn (1950s)

Vida Blue (1970s)

Ron Guidry (1980s)

John Tudor (1980s)

There you go, the best left-handed starting pitchers of all time, the 10 best careers, and the 10 highest caliber left-handed starting pitchers.

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