This list is for starting pitchers who had the majority of their career before the year 1950. A list for the best starting pitchers ever post-1950 will be made within the next few days.
10. Mickey Welch
Welch was a dominant pitcher in the late 1800's. In his 13 year career, he had a 307 - 210 record, an amazing 525 complete games in 565 starts, 1850 strikeouts and a 2.71 E.R.A. He ranks 20th all time in wins and had nine seasons with 20 or more wins. His best season came in 1885 as he had a 44 - 11 record, 258 strikeouts and a 1.66 E.R.A. Finally, he won two championships with the New York Giants in 1888 and 1889.
9. Kid Nichols
Nichols was a fantastic pitcher from the late 1800's and into the early 1900's. In his 15 year career, he had 361 - 208 record, 1868 strikeouts and a 2.95 E.R.A. He led the league in wins three times, saves four times and ranks fourth all time in career complete games with an amazing 531.
His best season came in the 1898 season as he had a 31 - 12 record along with 138 strikeouts and a 2.13 E.R.A. He had eleven seasons with twenty or more wins and seven seasons with thirty or more wins. Finally, he led his team to win in the 1892 championship series.
8. Lefty Grove
Grove was an amazing starting pitcher from the 1920's and into the 1940's. In his 17 year career, he had a 300 - 141 record, 2266 strikeouts and a 3.06 E.R.A. He was selected to the All Star team six times and he led the league in E.R.A. an unheard of nine times and wins four times.
He won the AL Triple Crown award in back to back seasons in 1930 and 1931. In 1931, he won his only MVP award. In that season, he had a 31 - 4 record, 175 strikeouts and a 2.06 E.R.A. He ranks ninth all time in winning % with an amazing 68%. Finally, he led the Athletics to the World Series three times, winning it all twice in 1929 and 1930.
7. Charley Radbourn
Radbourn was an unbelievable pitcher in the 1800's. In his short 11 year career, he had a 309 - 195 record, 1830 strikeouts and a 2.67 E.R.A. He had twenty or more wins in nine of his eleven seasons and had arguably the greatest season for a pitcher before 1950.
In 1884, he had a 59 - 12 record, 73 complete games in 73 games started, 441 strikeouts and a 1.38 E.R.A. He also had eleven shutouts and pitched an amazing 678.7 innings. He won the NL Triple Crown that season and he helped lead the Providence Grays to a victory in the World Series in that season.
6. John Clarkson
Clarkson was another dominant pitcher in the 1800's. In his twelve year career, he had a 328 - 178 record, 1978 strikeouts and a 2.81 E.R.A. He had six seasons of thirty or more wins and he led the league in wins three times, in E.R.A. once and in strikeouts three times 308 being his career high.
His best season came in the 1885 season when he had a 53 - 16 record, 68 complete games in 70 games started, 10 shutouts, 308 strikeouts and a 1.85 E.R.A. Finally, he never won a championship as he lost two times in the World Series and tied in another appearance.
5. Tim Keefe
Keefe was arguably the greatest pitcher who played his entire career in the 1800's. In his 14 year career, he had a 342 - 225 record, 2562 strikeouts and a 2.62 E.R.A. He led the league in E.R.A. three times, wins twice and strikeouts twice. He ranks third all time in career complete games with a fantastic 554 in 594 games started.
His best season came in the 1888 season as he had a 35 - 12 record, 335 strikeouts, a 1.74 E.R.A., 48 complete games and eight shutouts in 51 games started. He had a six year stretch from 1883 until 1888 where he had a minimum of 32 wins in each season. Finally, he led the Giants to back to back championships in 1888 and 1889.
4. Grover Cleveland Alexander
Alexander was dominant for nearly 20 years throughout the 1910's and 1920's. In his career, he had a 373 - 208 record, 2198 strikeouts and a 2.56 E.R.A. He ranks third all time in career wins, 2nd all time in career shutouts with 90 and 13th all time in career complete games with 437. He led the league in strikeouts six times, in wins six times and in E.R.A. four times.
His best season came in 1915 as he had a 31 - 10 record, 36 complete games and 12 shutouts in 42 games started, 241 strikeouts and a 1.22 E.R.A. He had nine seasons with at least twenty wins and three consecutive seasons with thirty or more from 1915 until 1917. Finally, he won three Triple Crown Awards and he led the Cardinals to a championship in 1926.
3. Christy Mathewson
Matthewson was a dominant pitcher in the early 1900's. In his 17 year career, he had a 373 - 188 record, 2502 strikeouts and an amazing 2.13 E.R.A. He won the Triple Crown Award twice, led the league in E.R.A. five times and in wins four times. He ranks 8th all time in E.R.A., tied for 3rd in total wins, 29th in total strikeouts and 3rd in shutouts with 79.
His best season came in 1908 when he had a 37 - 11 record, 259 strikeouts, a 1.43 E.R.A., 34 complete games in 44 games started and 11 shutouts. He had 13 seasons with twenty or more wins, including a 12 year stretch from 1903 until 1914 where had a minimum of twenty wins in each season. Finally, he the Giants to the World Series four times, winning his only championship in the 1905 season as he pitched three shutouts in each of his starts in the World Series.
2. Cy Young
Young is the most known out of these pitchers as he has record for total wins with 511 and because the Cy Young Award is named after him. In his long 22 year career, he had a 511 - 316 record, 2803 strikeouts and a 2.63 E.R.A. He led the league in E.R.A. twice, in wins five times and in strikeouts twice. He had an amazing 15 seasons with at least twenty wins and five seasons with at least thirty wins.
His best season came in 1901 when he won his only Triple Crown Award. In that season, he had a 33 - 10 record, 158 strikeouts and a 1.62 E.R.A. along with an amazing 38 complete games in 41 games started. He also holds the record for total innings pitched with 7354.7 and complete games with an unheard of 749 in his amazing career. Finally, he won his only championship in 1903 with Boston.
1. Walter Johnson
Johnson is the greatest pitcher ever before 1950. In his 21 year career, he had a 417 - 279 record, 3509 strikeouts and a 2.17 E.R.A. He had twelve seasons with twenty or more wins, including two with thirty or more wins. He led the league in E.R.A. five times, in wins six times and in strikeouts twelve times. He ranks 4th all time in total complete games with 531, 1st in shutouts with 110, 9th in total strikeouts and 2nd in total wins.
He won the Triple Crown Award three times and he even won the AL MVP Award twice in the 1913 and 1924 seasons. His best season came in 1913 when he had a 36 - 7 record, 243 strikeouts and a 1.14 E.R.A. along with 29 complete games and eleven shutouts in 36 games started. He had eleven seasons with an E.R.A. under 2 and he led the Washington Senators to a championship in 1924.
I will be making a top ten list of the greatest starting pitchers after 1950 within the next few days.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!