Where Does Clayton Kershaw Rank Among 50 Best Starting Pitchers in MLB History?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured Columnist

Where Does Clayton Kershaw Rank Among 50 Best Starting Pitchers in MLB History?

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    A lack of postseason success was the one blemish on the resume of Clayton Kershaw, who had otherwise cemented his place as one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history.

    That changed during the Los Angeles Dodgers' run to the 2020 World Series title.

    In five postseason starts, Kershaw went 4-1 with a 2.93 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 30.2 innings, picking up the victory in Games 1 and 5 of the Fall Classic.

    With that monkey off his back, where does he stand among the all-time greats?

    That's the question we set out to answer in ranking the 50 greatest pitchers in MLB history, albeit with a few important caveats:

    • No relief pitchers: Comparing starters and relievers is a true apples-and-oranges situation, so bullpen standouts were excluded from this conversation.
    • No dead-ball era: Pitchers from the dead-ball eragenerally accepted as everything before the 1920 seasonwere excluded from the main list and ranked separately on an honorable mentions slide of sorts at the beginning. It's just too hard to compare modern-era pitchers to guys who were throwing the equivalent of a wadded up ball of wet socks that couldn't be hit out of the infield. Simply put, it was a different game.
    • Ranking Criteria: The biggest statistical factors were career ERA+, career WAR, five-year-peak ERA+ and postseason performance. A full breakdown of the data used to compile the final rankings can be found here, though a healthy amount of subjectivity played a role as well.

    Got all that? Good.

    Now let's get things rolling with the dead-ball era greats.

10 Greatest Pitchers from the Dead-Ball Era

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    Christy Mathewson
    Christy MathewsonAssociated Press

    Before we dive into our top 50 pitchers of all time, it's only fair to shine some light on the legendary hurlers of the dead-ball era, which began at the sport's inception and ran up to the 1920 season, when offensive numbers spiked around the league.

    Here's a quick rundown of the top 10:

    1. Walter Johnson (1907-1927)
    (417-279, 2.17 ERA, 147 ERA+, 3,509 K, 5914.1 IP, 151.9 WAR)

    2. Cy Young (1890-1911)
    (511-315, 2.63 ERA, 138 ERA+, 2,803 K, 7,356 IP, 165.7 WAR)

    3. Christy Mathewson (1900-1916)
    (373-188, 2.13 ERA, 136 ERA+, 2,507 K, 4,788.2 IP, 99.8 WAR)

    4. Pete Alexander (1911-1930)
    (373-208, 2.56 ERA, 135 ERA+, 2,198 K, 5,190 IP, 116.0 WAR)

    5. Kid Nichols (1890-1906)
    (362-208, 2.96 ERA, 139 ERA+, 1,881 K, 5,067.1 IP, 116.7 WAR)

    6. Ed Walsh (1904-1917)
    (195-126, 1.82 ERA, 146 ERA+, 1,736 K, 2,964.1 IP, 63.7 WAR

    7. Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown (1903-1916)
    (239-130, 2.06 ERA, 138 ERA+, 1,375 K, 3,172.1 IP, 57.2 WAR)

    8. John Clarkson (1882-1894)
    (328-178, 2.81 ERA, 133 ERA+, 1,978 K, 4,536.1 IP, 84.9 WAR)

    9. Tim Keefe (1880-1893)
    (342-225, 2.63 ERA, 126 ERA+, 2,564 K, 5,049.2 IP, 89.1 WAR)

    10. Eddie Plank (1901-1917)
    (326-194, 2.35 ERA, 122 ERA+, 2,246 K, 4,495.2 IP, 87.7 WAR)

Nos. 50-46

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    Jack Morris
    Jack MorrisUncredited/Associated Press

    50. LHP Mickey Lolich

    In terms of regular-season work, Lolich falls short of most of the names on this list with 217 wins and a 3.44 ERA (104 ERA+) in 16 seasons. However, his performance during the 1968 World Series was one for the ages with three complete-game victories and a 1.67 ERA to help the Detroit Tigers upend Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.


    49. RHP Luis Tiant

    With a deceptive corkscrew delivery and electric stuff, Tiant assembled a dominant peak with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox. He won ERA titles in 1968 (21-9, 1.60 ERA, 186 ERA+) and 1972 (15-6, 1.91 ERA, 169 ERA+), finishing his career with 229 wins and a 3.30 ERA (114 ERA+) in 3,486.1 innings.


    48. RHP Dazzy Vance

    The ace of the Brooklyn Dodgers staff during the 1920s, Vance led all pitchers in WAR (50.2) during the decade amid the sport's first offensive explosion. He won NL MVP honors in 1924 when he led the league in wins (28), ERA (2.16), WHIP (1.02), strikeouts (262) and complete games (30), and when he retired in 1935, he was just the eighth pitcher in MLB history with 2,000 strikeouts.


    47. RHP Jack Morris

    A workhorse with one of the best big-game track records in MLB history, Morris led the majors in wins (162) and innings (2,443.2) during the 1980s. He was the ace of the 1984 Detroit Tigers team that won the World Series, and he filled the same role for the Minnesota Twins in 1991 when he tossed his legendary 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the World Series.


    46. LHP Andy Pettitte

    The all-time leader in postseason innings pitched (276.2), Pettitte went 19-11 with a 3.81 ERA in 44 playoff starts while winning five World Series rings. He was a three-time All-Star and finished in the top five in Cy Young voting four times, but it's his consistency in October that earned him a spot inside the top 50.

Nos. 45-41

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    Orel Hershiser
    Orel HershiserRUSTY KENNEDY/Associated Press

    45. RHP Bret Saberhagen

    In 1985, Saberhagen won AL Cy Young honors and led the Kansas City Royals to a title. He threw a five-hit shutout in Game 7 of the World Series for his second complete game of the set to win MVP of the Fall Classic. He added a second Cy Young Award in 1989 when he led the AL in wins (23), ERA (2.16) and WHIP (0.96), and he appeared to be on a Hall of Fame path before injuries derailed his career.


    44. RHP Corey Kluber

    A late bloomer who didn't become a full-time member of the Cleveland Indians rotation until his age-27 season, Kluber quickly emerged as a bona fide ace. During the five-year stretch from 2014 to 2018, he posted a 151 ERA+ and 10.1 K/9 while averaging 218 innings and winning a pair of AL Cy Youngs. Even if he fails to return to that level, he deserves to be remembered for his elite peak.


    43. RHP Felix Hernandez

    One of the best pitchers in MLB history to never pitch in the postseason, King Felix enjoyed a stellar career with some mediocre Seattle Mariners teams. He won AL Cy Young in 2010 with a 2.27 ERA and finished runner-up two other times. His diminished stuff down the home stretch of his career makes it easy to forget how dominant he was at his peak.


    42. RHP David Cone

    Arguably the most underrated pitcher of the 1990s, Cone won five World Series titles in his 17-year career. He was 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA in 111.1 postseason innings, and he also threw a perfect game in July 1999. He won AL Cy Young during the strike-shortened 1994 season and ranks 26th on the all-time strikeouts list with 2,668 punchouts.


    41. RHP Orel Hershiser

    Hot take: Orel Hershiser belongs in the Hall of Fame. At his peak in 1988, he was the best pitcher in baseball. He went 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA while leading the league in complete games (15), shutouts (8) and innings (267) and ripping off a 59-inning scoreless streak. He also won NLCS and World Series MVP that year, going 3-0 with a save while posting a 1.05 ERA in 42.2 postseason innings. An effective starter into his late 30s, he won ALCS MVP in his age-36 season and started two World Series games at age 37.

Nos. 40-36

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    Madison Bumgarner
    Madison BumgarnerDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    40. LHP CC Sabathia

    In the era of pitch counts and innings limits, Sabathia ripped off 13 straight seasons with at least 180 innings to begin his career. He will be best remembered for his durability and imposing 6'6", 300-pound frame, but at his peak, he was an ace. During the five-year span from 2007 to 2011, he went 95-40 with a 3.09 ERA (142 ERA+) while averaging 217 strikeouts and 240 innings. He took home AL Cy Young honors in 2007 and pitched the Milwaukee Brewers into the 2008 postseason as one of the best deadline rentals in MLB history.


    39. RHP Jim Bunning

    The definition of a workhorse, Bunning averaged 36 starts, 269 innings and 17 wins during the 11-year stretch from 1957 to 1967, posting a 3.00 ERA and 126 ERA+. He never played in the postseason while pitching for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, but did enough during the regular season to earn Hall of Fame induction from the Veterans Committee in 1996.


    38. RHP Zack Greinke

    With 208 wins and a 3.37 ERA (125 ERA+) in 2,939 career innings, Greinke is building a compelling Hall of Fame case in an era when 300 wins is no longer attainable. He won AL Cy Young as a 25-year-old in 2009 and finished as the NL runner-up in 2015 when he posted a pristine 1.66 ERA (222 ERA+) in 222.2 innings. The 37-year-old is still a top-tier starter and will continue to climb this list as he builds his counting numbers.


    37. RHP Don Drysdale

    Drysdale won three strikeout titles and 1962 NL Cy Young honors while pitching in the shadow of Sandy Koufax as one of the best No. 2 starters in baseball history. He was 3-3 with a 2.95 ERA in seven World Series appearances, including a three-hit shutout in Game 3 in 1963, and he won three titles in his 14 seasons with the Dodgers.


    36. LHP Madison Bumgarner

    Based solely on regular-season production, Bumgarner is a fringe candidate for a spot in the top 100 with 120 wins and a 3.20 ERA (118 ERA+) in 1,887.2 innings. However, you can count on one hand the number of pitchers with a more impressive postseason resume. The 6'4" left-hander is 8-3 with a 2.11 ERA in 102.1 career playoff innings, and his 2014 run is perhaps the most impressive individual October performance in MLB history.

Nos. 35-31

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    Dizzy Dean
    Dizzy DeanAssociated Press

    35. LHP Johan Santana

    Another player who received a boost thanks to the emphasis placed on a five-year peak, Santana finished in the top five in Cy Young voting each year from 2004 to 2008. He won the award in 2004 and 2006 and logged a 2.82 ERA and 157 ERA+ during that stretch, claiming three ERA titles and three strikeout crowns. Injuries limited him to 117 innings after his age-31 season, or he might be even higher on this list.


    34. RHP Phil Niekro

    The best knuckleballer in MLB history, Niekro pitched 24 MLB seasons, tossing 138.2 innings in 1987 at age 48. He ranks fourth on the all-time list in innings pitched (5,404) and still posted a 3.35 ERA and 115 ERA+ during his career. Longevity made him a Hall of Famer, but he also had a strong peak, finishing in the top 10 in NL Cy Young voting five times.


    33. RHP Fergie Jenkins

    The highest-ranked pitcher on this list to never appear in a postseason game, Jenkins spent the bulk of his career pitching for the Chicago Cubs. During his five-year peak starting in 1967, he averaged 21 wins while posting a 2.96 ERA and 129 ERA+, and he completed 59.1 percent of his starts. He won NL Cy Young honors in 1971.


    32. RHP Gaylord Perry

    Perry was the first pitcher to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues, taking home the hardware for the Cleveland Indians in 1972 and the San Diego Padres in 1978 when he was 38 years old. He played 22 MLB seasons and finished sixth all-time in innings pitched (5,350) while tallying 314 wins and pitching to a 3.11 ERA and 117 ERA+.


    31. RHP Dizzy Dean

    The ace of the legendary St. Louis Cardinals Gashouse Gang in 1934 that won a World Series, Dean went 30-7 with a 2.66 ERA and 159 ERA+ in 311.2 innings that season to take home NL MVP. He suffered a fractured toe in the 1937 All-Star Game, and the consequent changes he made to his mechanics led to arm issues that derailed his career. Still, his six full seasons were enough to make him a Hall of Famer.

Nos. 30-26

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    Tom Glavine
    Tom GlavineJames Finley/Associated Press

    30. RHP Kevin Brown

    On the strength of one of the best five-year peaks in MLB history, Brown earns a higher spot on this list than most might have guessed. At the height of the steroid era from 1996 to 2000, he logged a 2.51 ERA and 164 ERA+, serving as the ace of the Florida Marlins and San Diego Padres teams that won the NL pennant. The scrutiny that came with signing baseball's first $100 million contract and some late-career injuries tarnished his legacy, but he was overpowering at his peak.


    29. LHP Lefty Gomez

    The ace of the New York Yankees during the 1930s, Gomez won five World Series titles and went 6-0 with a 2.86 ERA in seven career starts in the Fall Classic. He won the pitching Triple Crown in 1934 (26-5, 2.33 ERA, 158 K) and 1937 (21-11, 2.33 ERA, 194 K) and was an All-Star in seven straight seasons during his prime.


    28. RHP Robin Roberts

    Not to be confused with Bip Roberts, right-hander Robin Roberts was the ace of the Philadelphia Phillies staff and one of the best pitchers of the 1950s. He won 199 games and averaged 301 innings per season during the decade, earning seven All-Star selections and tossing a complete game in his lone World Series start in 1950. His 83.0 career WAR rank 22nd all-time among pitchers.


    27. RHP Bert Blyleven

    The 14th time was a charm for Blyleven when he was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. The fact that it took that long for a pitcher who ranks among the all-time leaders in WAR (96.1, 12th), strikeouts (3,701, fifth) and shutouts (60, ninth) to be enshrined is ridiculous. He finished his 22-year career with a 3.31 ERA and 118 ERA+ in 4,970 innings, winning 287 games while playing for some bad teams.


    26. LHP Tom Glavine

    While Greg Maddux and John Smoltz were both outside additions, Glavine was a homegrown Atlanta Braves talent as a second-round pick in 1984. He won 305 games and posted a 3.54 ERA and 118 ERA+ in 22 seasons, taking home NL Cy Young honors in 1991 (20-11, 2.55 ERA, 153 ERA+) and 1998 (20-6, 2.47 ERA, 168 ERA+). His 218.1 postseason innings trail only Pettitte on the all-time list, and he won World Series MVP in 1995.

Nos. 25-21

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    Jacob deGrom
    Jacob deGromNick Wass/Associated Press

    25. RHP Jacob deGrom

    Too soon? Maybe, but it's hard to argue with where deGrom's numbers rank among the all-time greats. Of all pitchers in MLB history with at least 1,000 career innings, his 150 ERA+ trails only Mariano Rivera (205), Kershaw (158) and Pedro Martinez (154). He's already one of just 21 pitchers with multiple Cy Young Awards, and he was excellent in his lone postseason run with a 2.88 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 25 innings in 2015. He was elite once again in 2020 and has plenty of prime seasons left to cement his place on this list.


    24. RHP Mike Mussina

    In 18 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees, Mussina piled up a staggering 82.8 WAR, good for 23rd all-time among pitchers. He finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting nine times, including sixth at age 39 in his final MLB season. Armed with a good fastball and a wicked knuckle curve, he wrapped up his career with a 3.68 ERA, 123 ERA+ and 2,813 strikeouts in 3,562.2 innings.


    23. RHP Juan Marichal

    Part of the conversation for best pitcher of the 1960s along with Koufax and Gibson, Marichal had a sub-3.00 ERA every year from 1963 to 1969 as the ace of the San Francisco Giants. He was an All-Star every season during that stretch, posting a 2.34 ERA and 146 ERA+ while averaging 22 wins and 289 innings.


    22. RHP John Smoltz

    In his time as a starter, Smoltz won 209 games with a 3.40 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 2,804 strikeouts in 3,211.2 innings spanning 481 starts. After missing the 2000 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, he returned as a reliever and spent four seasons as Atlanta's closer before three more years as an elite starter. One of the best postseason pitchers of all time, he was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in 209 playoff innings.


    21. RHP Roy Halladay

    Truly a throwback to another generation, Halladay threw 61 complete games during his peak from 2003 to 2011. To put that into perspective, Sabathia was second during that span with 31 complete games. Halladay won AL Cy Young in 2003 and NL Cy Young during a 2010 season that included a no-hitter in the playoffs. He finished his career with 203 wins, a 3.38 ERA (131 ERA+) and 2,117 strikeouts in 2,749.1 innings.

Nos. 20-16

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    Bob Feller
    Bob FellerAssociated Press

    20. RHP Max Scherzer

    After Scherzer showed flashes early in his career, everything clicked for him in 2013 with the Detroit Tigers when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214.1 innings to win his first Cy Young Award. He won the award two more times with the Washington Nationals, in 2016 and 2017, vaulting into the "best pitcher in baseball" conversation. Over the past eight seasons, he's posted a 2.86 ERA (147 ERA+), 1.00 WHIP and 11.3 K/9, and he helped pitch the Nats to a title in 2019.


    19. RHP Bob Feller

    After four straight AL strikeout titles and a trio of top-three finishes in AL MVP voting, Feller spent the bulk of four prime seasons serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He picked up right where he left off upon returning to the Cleveland Indians, but there's no telling how much higher he might rank on this list had he not missed that time. He finished with a 3.25 ERA and 122 ERA+ while leading the league in punchouts seven times thanks to his legendary fastball velocity.


    18. RHP Hal Newhouser

    In the days before the Cy Young Award was handed out (pre-1956), Newhouser won back-to-back AL MVPs in 1944 and 1945 with the Tigers. During his five-year peak from 1944 to 1948, he went 118-56 with a 161 ERA+ and a pair of AL strikeout titles. He had a pair of complete-game victories in the 1945 World Series, including a 10-strikeout performance in Game 7.


    17. RHP Jim Palmer

    At a time when winning 20 games still meant something, Palmer did it eight times during the 1970s. He won AL Cy Young honors in 1973, 1975 and 1976, capturing the ERA title in '73 (2.40) and '75 (2.09), and he shined in the postseason with an 8-3 record and 2.61 ERA in 124.1 innings en route to three World Series titles.


    16. RHP Curt Schilling

    Already a well-established strikeout artist with a strong performance during the 1993 postseason, Schilling became even better upon joining the Arizona Diamondbacks at age 33 in 2000. One of the best postseason pitchers of all time, he went 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 133.1 playoff innings, including 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA in seven World Series starts en route to three titles.

Nos. 15-11

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    Nolan Ryan
    Nolan RyanRed Saxon/Associated Press

    15. LHP Warren Spahn

    Spahn served in World War II just as his MLB career was getting started, and he didn't spent his first full season in the majors until his age-26 campaign. Despite the late start, he still played 21 seasons and won 363 games, the most ever by a southpaw. He was a 17-time All-Star, won 20 games 13 times, and his 382 complete games leave him as the only pitcher with a color picture on the all-time leaders page of Baseball Reference.


    14. RHP Justin Verlander

    Verlander went 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA to win AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, and he has essentially been part of the "best pitcher in baseball" conversation since. He won AL Cy Young and MVP in 2011 when he was 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts in 251 innings. He added another Cy Young in 2019 and finished second in the voting three other times. A surefire Hall of Famer, he has a 3.33 ERA and 129 ERA+ with more strikeouts (3,013) than innings pitched (2,988) in his 16-year career.


    13. LHP Steve Carlton

    A four-time Cy Young winner, Carlton won it for the first time in 1972 for a Philadelphia Phillies team that went 59-97. The Phillies were 29-12 (.707) in games he started, compared to 30-85 (.261) when anyone else toed the rubber. His 4,136 strikeouts rank fourth all-time, and at his peak he was as good as any left-handed pitcher the game has ever seen.


    12. LHP Whitey Ford

    Ford pitched in 11 World Series, going 10-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 22 starts to help lead the Yankees to six titles during the 1950s and 1960s. The left-hander tallied 236 wins with a 2.75 ERA and 133 ERA+ in 16 seasons, all spent in pinstripes, winning AL Cy Young honors in 1961.


    11. RHP Nolan Ryan

    The decision to leave Ryan outside the top 10 is sure to ruffle a few feathers. When he was firing on all cylinders, there's never been a more unhittable pitcher, and his record 5,714 strikeouts speak for themselves. However, he's also the all-time leader in walks (2,795), he never won a Cy Young Award and he played a minimal role in the one World Series title of his career. His blazing fastball and absurd longevity have earned him a spot at the table in the best-ever conversation, but he's merely an observer.

Nos. 10-6

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    Clayton Kershaw
    Clayton KershawTony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    10. LHP Carl Hubbell

    This is likely an unfamiliar name to casual baseball fans. Hubbell starred for the New York Giants during the 1930s, winning NL MVP in 1933 (23-12, 1.66 ERA, 193 ERA+) and 1936 (26-6, 2.31 ERA, 169 ERA+). From 1931 to 1936, he posted a 2.44 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 152 ERA+ to establish one of the most impressive peaks in MLB history. He famously struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Croninfive future Hall of Famersin order at the 1934 All-Star Game.


    9. RHP Tom Seaver

    During his first 10 seasons in the majors, pitching for the New York Mets, Seaver won three Cy Young Awards, three ERA titles, five strikeouts titles and earned nine All-Star selections. The trade that sent him to the Cincinnati Reds in 1977 remains one of the darkest days in Mets history, and he continued adding to his Hall of Fame resume over nine more seasons. He finished with 311 wins and a 2.86 ERA (127 ERA+) in 4,783 innings.


    8. LHP Sandy Koufax

    Starting with the 1962 season, Koufax went 111-34 with a 1.95 ERA (167 ERA+) and 0.93 WHIP while averaging 289 strikeouts and 275 innings during one of the most impressive five-year peaks in baseball history. He led the NL in ERA all five years, won a trio of Cy Young Awards and took home 1963 NL MVP. He also had a 0.95 ERA in eight World Series appearances spanning 57 innings, claiming Fall Classic MVP honors in '63 and '65. Arthritis in his left elbow cut his career short at age 30.


    7. RHP Bob Gibson

    A fierce competitor, Gibson was so dominant in 1968 that the mound was lowered. He went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA (258 ERA+) and 268 strikeouts in 304.2 innings, tallying 28 complete games and 13 shutouts in 34 starts to win Cy Young and MVP. He won World Series MVP in 1964 and 1967 and went 7-2 with a 1.89 ERA and eight complete games in nine career stats in the Fall Classic.


    6. LHP Clayton Kershaw

    The 158 ERA+ that Kershaw has logged in 13 MLB seasons is the best ever by a starting pitcher with at least 1,000 innings. There are 945 pitchers who fulfill that criteria, and he is No. 1 on that list. In his prime from 2011 to 2017, he went 118-41 with a 2.10 ERA (179 ERA+) and 10.1 K/9, earning seven All-Star selections, one NL MVP, three Cy Young Awards and four other top-five finishes in the voting. Despite all that's been made of his postseason struggles, he's 13-12 with a 4.19 ERA in 189 career innings, and he was integral in the Dodgers' title push this year.

Nos. 5-1

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    Pedro Martinez
    Pedro MartinezED BETZ/Associated Press

    5. LHP Lefty Grove

    Grove split his Hall of Fame career between the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Sox, turning in an all-time great five-year peak with each team.

    • 1928-32: 1,408.1 IP, 128-33, 2.56 ERA (171 ERA+), 44.7 WAR
    • 1935-39: 1,143.0 IP, 83-41, 2.83 ERA (173 ERA+), 42.6 WAR

    He won nine ERA titles and went 300-141 with a 3.06 ERA and 148 ERA+ in 3,940.2 career innings during the regular season, and he was 4-2 with two saves and a 1.75 ERA in eight World Series appearances to help the A's to a pair of titles.


    4. RHP Roger Clemens

    With seven Cy Young Awards on his mantel, Clemens is undeniably one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history. He had an ERA+ above 150 in 10 different seasons, leading his respective league in that category eight times.

    He won his first Cy Young age 23 and his final Cy Young at age 41, finishing his 24-year career with 354 wins (ninth all-time) and 4,672 strikeouts (third all-time) to go along with a 3.12 ERA and 143 ERA+ in 4,916.2 innings.


    3. LHP Randy Johnson

    After an excellent run in Seattle that included a Cy Young Award in 1995 and three other top-three finishes in the voting, the Big Unit cemented his legendary status with four straight NL Cy Young Awards in an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform. During that streak, he had a 2.48 ERA and 187 ERA+ while averaging 354 strikeouts in 258 innings, and he won World Series MVP in 2001.

    All told, he had a 3.29 ERA and 135 ERA+ while finishing second on the all-time strikeouts list with 4,875 punchouts.


    2. RHP Greg Maddux

    Following an NL Cy Young win with the Chicago Cubs in 1992, Maddux joined the Atlanta Braves in free agency and put together one of the greatest runs in MLB history:

    • 1993: 20-10, 2.36 ERA (170 ERA+), 1.05 WHIP, 5.8 WAR
    • 1994: 16-6, 1.56 ERA (271 ERA+), 0.90 WHIP, 8.5 WAR
    • 1995: 19-2, 1.63 ERA (260 ERA+), 0.81 WHIP, 9.7 WAR
    • 1996: 15-11, 2.72 ERA (162 ERA+), 1.03 WHIP, 7.2 WAR
    • 1997: 19-4, 2.20 ERA (189 ERA+), 0.95 WHIP, 7.8 WAR
    • 1998: 18-9, 2.22 ERA (187 ERA+), 0.98 WHIP, 6.6 WAR

    Tallying all that up, he went 107-42 with a 2.15 ERA and 195 ERA+ with a 0.96 WHIP in 1,407.1 innings, winning three more Cy Young Awards and four ERA titles. His 1994 and 1995 ERA+ marks are both in the top 10 all-time.

    It was a truly epic run that represented the peak of a 23-year career that included 355 wins and a 132 ERA+ in 5,008.1 innings.


    1. RHP Pedro Martinez

    Fans who watched Martinez pitch at some point during the seven-year stretch from 1997 to 2003 witnessed the greatest pitcher in MLB history.

    The numbers speak for themselves, with league-leading marks indicated in bold:

    • 1997: 17-8, 1.90 ERA (219 ERA+), 0.93 WHIP, 9.0 WAR
    • 1998: 19-7, 2.89 ERA (163 ERA+), 1.09 WHIP, 7.3 WAR
    • 1999: 23-4, 2.07 ERA (243 ERA+), 0.92 WHIP, 9.8 WAR
    • 2000: 18-6, 1.74 ERA (291 ERA+), 0.74 WHIP, 11.7 WAR
    • 2001: 7-3, 2.39 ERA (188 ERA+), 0.93 WHIP, 5.1 WAR
    • 2002: 20-4, 2.26 ERA (202 ERA+), 0.92 WHIP, 6.5 WAR
    • 2003: 14-4, 2.22 ERA (211 ERA+), 1.04 WHIP, 8.0 WAR

    He had a 213 ERA+ during that seven-year stretch, meaning he was 113 percent better than the league-average pitcher. He doesn't quite have the counting numbers of some of the other legends on this list, but no one was more dominant at his peak.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.


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