The Best Pitchers of the Early Days of Baseball

BobAnalyst IFebruary 18, 2008

5. Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander (1911-1929)

In his 1911 debut, Alexander led the league in wins (28), complete games (31), innings pitched (367), and shutouts (7). He also was second in strikeouts and fourth in earned run average.

Not bad for a rookie season.

He played for Philadelphia Phillies, the Chicago Cubs, and the St. Louis Cardinals throughout his career.

He won the National League pitcher's Triple Crown four times throughout his career.

He finished his career with a 373-208 career record, a 2.56 career earned run average, and 2,198 career strikeouts.


4. Christopher "Christy" Mathewson (1901-1915)

Mathewson also played in the dead ball era where low scoring characterized the games. The game overall was more strategy-driven with stolen bases and hit-and-run type plays dominated the league.

Mathewson finished his career with a 373-188 record, a earned run average of 2.13, 79 career shutouts, and 2502 career strikeouts.

He is credited with the development and creation of the screwball, which he actually called the "fadeaway".

He threw 2 career no-hitters.

He also won at least 20 games 13 times throughout his career including 4 seasons where he won at least 30 games.

His brother also played on the Giants with him; they hold the most career wins held by a brother duo. He won 373 games, his brother won 0.

He finished his career a five-time earned run average champion and a five-time strikeout champion of the National League. 


3. Walter Johnson (1907-1927)

Johnson throughout his storied career was known most for his fastball.

Ty Cobb once said, "...The first time I faced him, I watched him take that easy windup. And then something went past me that made me flinch. The thing just hissed with danger. We couldn't touch him... every one of us knew we'd met the most powerful arm ever turned loose in a ball park."

He had a career record of 417-279, an earned run average of 2.17, and 3509 strikeouts.

His record 3509 strikeouts lasted for than 55 years before three men broke it in 1983.

His huge strikeout total was due mostly to his furious fastball.

He is second only to Cy Young in career wins still today.


2. Denton True "Cy" Young (1890-1911)

Cy Young retired with 511 career wins. His name is almost as synonymous with baseball as Ruth's and each league's best pitcher is given a trophy at the end of the year in honor of him.

Young pitched the very first perfect game in baseball's "modern" era, pitched three no hitters in his career, and threw 76 career shutouts.

Young won at least 30 games in a season five times, also winning at least 20 games in 15 of his 22 seasons.

Young's only downfall was the loss column.

Though he won the most games in the history of baseball he also lost the most games in the history of baseball.

A whopping 316 losses were recorded in Young's career before he retired from the game in 1911.

Young had a career earned run average of 2.63 and also 2798 career strikeouts.


1. George "Babe" Herman Ruth, Jr. (1914-1935)

Ruth definitely deserves the No. 1 spot in my top five list. No other man has changed baseball so much.

Ruth's nicknames included "Babe", "The Great Bambino", "The Sultan of Swat", and more.

He might not have been a pitcher his entire career but who can argue with a double threat who can throw a shutout and hit several homeruns in one game?

Babe Ruth has many honors under his name; he was years above his competition. Ruth was named the Greatest Player Ever in 1969. According to ESPN, he was the first true American sports celebrity.

How can you argue with people giving you that kind of credit?

As a pitcher, he once pitched 13 scoreless innings in the World Series, a record that still stands. Over his years as a pitcher he finished with an 89-46 record. He pitched 29 2/3 scoreless World Series innings.

He actually only moved from pitcher to first base and outfielder to help his team on a day to day basis with the hitting side of the game.

Ruth consistently led or was in the top ten in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, total bases, home runs, RBIs, and walks.

He also held the career home run record of 714 until it was broke by Henry (Hank) Aaron in 1974.


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