MLB Power Rankings: The Top 10 Curveballs in Baseball History

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2011

MLB Power Rankings: The Top 10 Curveballs in Baseball History

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    It's one of the hardest things in sports to execute. It gives the opposition fits when thrown properly. It can ruin a career.

    The curveball has been around for ages and has taken many forms throughout the history of baseball.

    There's the looping 12-6 curveball, which drops off the table just as the hitter thinks he has a read on it. A curveball can also be thrown with some velocity in an attempt jam a hitter. And let's not forget the classic knee-buckling curveball that has made countless hitters look foolish. 

    This list is composed based not just on the nastiness of the curveball but also on how effectively it was used along with the pitcher's other weapons.

    Enjoy this run through the 10 best curveballs in the history of baseball.

10. Jerry Koosman, New York Mets

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    Jerry Koosman was a two-time, all-star for the New York Mets and, like most lefties, relied heavily on his curveball for success.

    The left-hander won over 200 games and struck out over 2,500 batters in his 18-year MLB career.

    Koosman was also an crucial piece to the Mets improbable World Series Championship in 1969.

    Koosman's catcher in his Mets days, J.C. Martin, once said that Koosman could throw his 11-5 curveball "any time."

9. Mike Cuellar, Baltimore Orioles

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    Mike Cuellar was one of the filthiest breaking ball pitchers the game has ever seen.

    Possessing both a screwball and a curveball to go with a deceptive palmball, Cuellar was nearly untouchable in the prime of his career.

    The Orioles legend has four 20-win seasons, a World Series title and a Cy Young Award to his name.

8. Sal Maglie, New York Giants

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    Nicknamed "the Barber," Sal Maglie commanded the corners of the plate as well as any pitcher in the history of baseball.

    Maglie's numbers are not overly impressive due to his stint in the Mexican League that got him banned from Major League Baseball. However, during his time in the Mexican League, he was coached by Dolph Lugue, a curveball mastermind, which helped him rely on the pitch upon returning to the majors.

7. Nolan Ryan, Texas Rangers

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    Nolan Ryan is widely considered one of the most dominant pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball.

    His fastball overpowered hitters and was clearly the pitch he relied on most heavily. However, the velocity on his fastball adding to the effectiveness of his curveball.

    How is a batter supposed to hit a curveball when he constantly has to be ready for the 100 mile per hour heater?

6. Ron Necciai, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Ron Necciai is one of the most dominating pitchers that never materialized in the Major Leagues.

    His career was put on hold by a stint with the United States Armed Forces. Upon his return, he was plagued by chronic stomach ulcers and a torn rotator cuff.

    So how does he earn a spot on this list? Well, his curveball was good enough to strike out 27 batters in a nine-inning game at Class D Bristol and followed that up with a 24-strikeout performance. His breaking ball was literally untouchable. 

    He struck out 109 batters in 43 innings in his first season and 172 in his 126 career innings in Class D.

5. Satchel Paige, Cleveland Indians

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    Much like Nolan Ryan, Satchel Paige did not use his curveball as his primary pitch, but he still had a damn good one.

    Jack Brickhouse, a Chicago Cubs broadcaster, described the pitches Paige threw as "not quite legal but not quite illegal." 

    Paige has a unique ability to blow hitters away and come right back and make them look foolish.

    He may have been the best pitcher in the history of baseball.

4. Camilo Pascual, Washington Senators

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    Camilo Pascual threw only two pitches, his fastball and his nasty overhand curveball, so as one can imagine those pitches were dominant.

    Ted Williams called Pascual's curveball the "most feared curveball in the American League for 18 years."

3. Dwight Gooden, New York Mets

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    In a list full of "Uncle Charlies" (a common nickname for a curveball), Doc Gooden's deuce is "Lord Charles."

    Paired with his 98 mile-per-hour fastball, Gooden's sweeping curve made him one of the league's most feared pitchers during his playing days.

    If it weren't for drug and injury issues late in his career, he easily could have reached the 3,000-strikeout plateau.

2. Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins

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    Two words Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson used to describe Bert Blyleven's curveball: "nasty" and "knee-buckling."

    Blyleven was recently inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame after recording over 3,700 strikeouts in his career.

    He pitched a no-hitter, was chosen to a pair of All-Star teams and also won two World Series Championships.

    Blyleven was the epitome of dominant.

1. Sandy Koufax, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Despite retiring at age 30, Sandy Koufax recorded 2,396 strikouts, won four World Series Championships and three Cy Young Awards.

    Koufax combined his rising fast ball with an overhand 12-6 curveball that embarrassed hitters.

    The youngest player to ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at age 34, Sandy Koufax is the best left-handed pitcher to ever take the mound.