50 Best Pitching Teams in MLB History

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2010

50 Best Pitching Teams in MLB History

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    This year was "the Year of the Pitcher."

    There were perfect games, no hitters and two outstanding pitching teams in the World Series.

    And neither Cy Young winner even made it to the Fall Classic.

    The Giants and Tim Lincecum won the title with outstanding pitching from the top of the rotation all the way to the closer's spot.

    But where do they rank among the best ever?

    Check inside to find out.

No. 50: 1982 Milwaukee Brewers

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    Notables: Pete Vuckovich, Rollie Fingers, Mike Caldwell, Moose Haas

    Although the guys one the staff may have been better known for their facial hair, they were also pretty outstanding.

    Harvey's Wallbangers had a pretty good staff in addition to great bats.

    Fingers, the first true reliever to make the Hall of Fame, won the Cy Young in 1981. A year later, teammate Vuckovich won the award as the club won its only AL Pennant.

    Caldwell contributed as well, with 17 wins, while the aptly named Moose Haas contributed 11 a year before he lead the league in winning percentage.

    Unfortunately, only Caldwell pitched great in the 1982 World Series against St. Louis. He won two starts and posted a 2.04 ERA. None of the other starters did very well and Fingers missed the playoffs with an injury.

No. 49: 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Notables: Bert Blyleven, John Candelaria, Kent Tekulve, Bruce Kison

    Not a great pitching staff, but solid from top to bottom. And they were able to lead a pretty average team (only Willie Stargell was "great") to a World Series title.

    Blyleven is a borderline Hall of Famer and won 12 games and pitched well in two appearances in the World Series against Baltimore. Candaleria and Kison were pretty effective starters as well.

    But Tekulve was the most important man on the staff. He pitched in 94 games, saved 31 (back when that number meant something) and saved three of the club's four World Series wins.

No. 48: 2006 Minnesota Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - APRIL 14: Johan Santana #57 of the Twins receives the 2006 Cy Young Award on April 14, 2007 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
    Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images

    Notables: Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, Brad Radke, Joe Nathan

    Santana was the ace and he won his second Cy Young award in three years at the end of the 2006 season.

    But that was also the year that young Francisco Liriano burst on the scene, winning 11-of-16 starts and posting a 2.15 ERA.

    Radke was at the end of a pretty good career in Minnesota, but the other key player on that staff was Nathan, who saved 36 games and finished 7-0 with a 1.58 ERA.

No. 47: 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers

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    1988:  Pitcher Orel Hershiser of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws the ball during a game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran  /Allsport
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Notables: Orel Hershiser, Tim Belcher, Tim Leary, Fernando Valenzuela, Don Sutton

    Hershiser had one of the greatest seasons in modern history and won the World Series MVP.

    And the two Tims, Leary and Belcher, added 29 wins, a 2.91 ERA and were pretty good in the postseason.

    But two other Dodgers legends were on this staff earlier in the season—Valenzuela started 23 games, while Sutton, in his last year, started 16.

No. 46: 1970 Chicago Cubs

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    Notables: Fergie Jenkins, Milt Pappas, Ken Holtzman, Bill Hands

    A year before he won his only Cy Young Award, Jenkins won 22 games for this second-place club. But he and Ernie Banks weren't the only guys pulling their weight.

    Milt Pappas, the man better known for being the "bad" end of the Frank Robinson-to-Baltimore deal, chipped in 10 wins and a 2.38 ERA.

    Three years before righty Ken Holtzman was part of an even better staff (No. 7 on this list), the 24-year-old won 17 games for this Cubs team.

    But Bill Hands, a 20-game winner the previous season, was the second-leading pitcher in the rotation, winning 18 games.

No. 45: 1995 Cleveland Indians

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    22 Oct 1995:  Pitcher Dennis Martinez of the Cleveland Indians focuses in on home plate as he begins his delivery during the first inning of the Indians game two match up against the Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series Championships at Fulton CountySt
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Notables: Dennis Martinez, Orel Hershiser, Charles Nagy, Ken Hill, Julian Tavarez, Jose Mesa

    Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser were excellent additions to this staff. Both brought tremendous experience as well as 28 regular-season wins and five more in the postseason.

    Nagy was the ace before those two arrived a few years earlier and went 16-6.

    Midseason acquisition Ken Hill was also a huge factor in the pennant win, but the bullpen was the best part of this staff.

    Jose Mesa saved 38 straight games, saved 46 overall, posted a 1.13 ERA and was the Cy Young runner-up to Randy Johnson. Often forgotten behind Mesa was an excellent set-up man, Julian Tavarez, went 10-2 with a 2.44 ERA in 57 appearances.

    Too bad they ran into the No. 1 pitching staff on this list.

No. 44: 1912 New York Giants

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    Notables: Christy Mathewson, Rube Marquard, Jeff Tesreau

    Any staff with Mathewson is going to be great: he won 373 games and was arguably the finest pitcher of the dead-ball era. And in 1913, he won 25 games and led the league in ERA.

    But Marquard also turned out to be a Hall of Famer. He won 23 games in 1913—his third-straight 20-win season.

    Tesreau, who would lead the club in wins a year later, also added 22 wins and posted the second-lowest ERA on the team, 2.17.

No. 43: 1985 Kansas City Royals

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    Notables: Bret Saberhagen, Charlie Leibrandt, Bud Black, Dan Quisenberry,

    The 21-year-old Brett Saberhagen won 20 games and his first of two Cy Youngs this year, as the Royals won their only World Series.

    The club also had a terrific closer in Quisenberry, who saved 37 games that year.

    Bud Black was much better the previous season (he went 17-12 in 1984, 10-15 a year later) but pitched great in the ALCS.

    And six years before he allowed the World Series-winning RBI in 1991, Charlie Leibrandt went 17-9 with a team-best 2.69 ERA for the '85 Royals.

No. 42: 1968 Detroit Tigers

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    Notables: Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Pat Dobson

    McLain was the ace in the regular season, becoming the last man to win 31 games and taking home the 1968 Cy Young Award with a 1.96 ERA.

    But Lolich, 17-9 that year, was the ace in the World Series. The big lefty won all three of his starts, including Game 7 against Bob Gibson.

    Not many people know that second-year reliever Pat Dobson, who would one day become a key part of the No. 2 team on this list, pitched in three games for the Tigers during their 1968 World Series win.

No. 41: 1998 San Diego Padres

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    11 Jul 2000: Trevor Hoffman #5 of the National League Team winds back to pitch the ball during the All-Star Baseball Game against the American League Team at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.  The American League Team defeated the National League Team 6-3
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Notables: Kevin Brown, Sterling Hitchcock, Mark Langston, Andy Ashby, Trevor Hoffman

    In his only season with the Padres, Brown was arguably the best pitcher in the NL. He went 18-7 with a 2.38 ERA.

    Andy Ashby also had a career year in 1998, posting a 17-9 record, Sterling Hitchcock won two starts with a 0.90 ERA in the NLCS win over favored Atlanta and former All-Star Mark Langston was a great spot starter and arm out of the pen.

    Still, the best man on the staff, the best reliever in NL history, was Hoffman. He set a league record that year with 53 saves and posted a career-best 1.48 ERA.

    Sadly, none of that mattered as the Padres were swept by the Yankees.

No. 40: 1916 Philadelphia Phillies

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    Notables: Grover Cleveland Alexander, Eppa Rixey, Chief Bender

    Two Hall of Famers and a 266-career game winner on this "old-timers selection."

    Ol' Pete (Alexander) won 33 games that year, en route to his NL record 373 victories. And his 16 shutouts are still the modern day record.

    Chief Bender was at the end of his Hall of Fame career and a year removed from a stint in the ill-fated Federal League. But he still won seven of 13 starts.

    And lefty Eppa Rixey went 22-10 with a 1.95 ERA, his first of four 20-plus winning seasons.

    A season removed from winning their last pennant for for 35 years, this Phillies team finished second to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

No. 39: 1939 New York Yankees

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    Notables: Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing

    Although that year they learned of Lou Gerhig's terminal illness, the Bronx Bombers still won a fourth-consecutive World Series title.

    Joe DiMaggio was a major reason why, but so was the pitching staff.

    Hall of Famer Lefty Gomez went 12-8, Red Ruffing won 21 games, and five others finished the season with double-digit victories.

    But one overall statistic is what earns this team a spot on the list.

    According to Baseball-Statistics.com, this team set the record for fewest runs allowed relative to the rest of the league.

    The 556 runs the 1939 Yanks allowed was better than 30-percent below the league average.

No. 38: 1990 Cincinnati Reds

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    Notables: Jose Rijo, Tom Browning, The Nasty Boys (Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, Randy Myers)

    Rijo certainly came away with the biggest performance on the biggest stage. The 25-year-old righty, who went 14-8 in 1990, capped off a good season with a historic World Series. He won his two starts, allowing just one run during a four-game sweep of Oakland.

    Browning was actually the team's ace that season, however. Two years after his perfect game, Browning won 15 games and two more in the playoffs.

    But the Nasty Boys, the bullpen trio of Charlton, Dibble, and Myers, were the face of the staff. Together, in 339 innings, they combined for a 2.28 ERA.

No. 37: 1927 New York Yankees

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    Notables: Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, Urban Shocker, George Pipgrass, Dutch Ruether, Wilcy Moore

    Hoyt was the only Hall of Famer on this staff, and he went 22-7 in 1927. But there were some greats of the era as well.

    Pipgrass, who led the majors with 24 wins a year later, went 10-3 in 1927, his first full season in the big leagues.

    Ruether and Shocker chipped in 31 wins and reliever Wilcy Moore won 19 games as well.

No. 36: 1975 Cincinnati Reds

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    Notables: Gary Nolan, Don Gullett, Pat Darcy, Jack Billingham, Rawly Eastwick

    Of course the position players (Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, George Foster, and the rest) were the reason this team was "The Big Red Machine" and won back-to-back World Champions.

    But the pitching staff was one of the most complete, top to bottom, in the modern era. There weren't Hall of Famers, but there was incredible depth.

    Nolan, Billingham, and Gullett, won 15 games each. Rawly Eastwick was one of the great early closers and Clay Carroll and Pedro Borbon were excellent bullpen arms.

No. 35: 1953 New York Yankees

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    Notables: Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds, Eddie Lopat, Vic Rashi, Johnny Sain

    Ford was essentially a rookie this year, having returned from fighting in Korea. But he didn't pitch like he was a 24-year-old who had missed the previous two seasons: he went 18-6.

    Reynolds had been the ace of the staff, but at 36 years old, he was winding down his career. He still won 13.

    Johnny Sain (of "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" fame) was another key veteran that season. But junkballer Eddie Lopat had the best season—16-4, 2.42 ERA.

    On their way to winning a record fifth World Series title, Sain, Reynolds and Lopat each claimed victories in the six-game triumph over the Dodgers.

No. 34: 1986 New York Mets

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    Notables: Dwight Gooden, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling, Bob Ojeda, Roger McDowell, Jesse Orosco

    The 21-year-old Doc Gooden won 17 games for the famous 1986 Mets, but the staff was incredibly balanced.

    They had a great righty-lefty duo out of the bullpen in Orosco and McDowell.

    And Fernandez and Darling combined to win 31 games that year.

    The oft-forgotten man in that staff was Ojeda, who went 18-5 with a team best 2.53 ERA. In two World Series starts, he allowed just three runs against the Red Sox.

No. 33: 1961 New York Yankees

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    Notables: Whitey Ford, Ralph Terry, Bill Stafford, Bob Turley

    Nine years after Ford's breakout season, he won a career-best 25 games and the only Cy Young of his Hall of Fame career. In the Yankees five-game World Series win over the Reds, Ford allowed no runs in two starts and won the MVP. 

    Then 25-year-old Ralph Terry overcame the "trauma" of surrendering Bill Mazeroski's World Series winning home run a year earlier to go 16-3.

    An even younger righty, 21-year-old Bill Stafford, went 14-9 and led the Yanks with a 2.68 ERA.

    And Bob Turley, three years removed from his own Cy Young win, tossed out a few fine starts as well.

No. 32: 2003 Chicago Cubs

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    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 15:  Starting pitcher Kerry Wood #34 of the Chicago Cubs throws against the Florida Marlins during game seven of the National League Championship Series on October 15, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  The Marlins defeated the
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Notables: Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, Kyle Farnsworth, Matt Clement

    This Cubs rotation had several big names and bigger expectations they never lived up to.

    Still, in 2003, this Cubs team that came so close to the World Series was pretty stacked in terms of pitching.

    Wood had rebounded nicely from his 1999 arm injury. And Prior was outstanding at 18-6 with a 2.42 ERA. Fellow 22-year-old Carlos Zambrano was pretty good also, going 13-11.

    Nevertheless, they couldn't beat those Marlins...

No. 31: 2003 Florida Marlins

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    RONX, NY - OCTOBER 25:  The Florida Marlins hoist up pitcher Josh Beckett #21 the 2003 World Series MVP after defeating the New York Yankees 2-0 in game six of the Major League Baseball World Series on October 25, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Notables: Josh Beckett, Carl Pavano, Dontrelle Willis, Brad Penny

    Pavano had a decent season for the club, winning 12 games. And so did Penny, who won 14.

    But the two stars were their rookie left-hander and the fireballing right-hander.

    Dontrelle Willis won the Rookie of the Year in 2003, finishing 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA. And he was outstanding in his short appearances in the World Series against the Yankees, not allowing a run in three-and-two-third innings of relief work.

    Of course, teammate Josh Beckett won the World Series MVP for his incredible performance—two starts, one win, 1.10 ERA and a complete-game shutout in the Game 6 clincher at Yankee Stadium.

No. 30: 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks

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    4 Nov 2001: Randy Johnson #51 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers during game seven of the Major League Baseball World Series against the New York Yankees at Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks won 3-2 to capture the World Series titl
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Notables: Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling

    Whoever manager Bob Brenly trotted out in the third and fourth starter's spots didn't really matter when he had Johnson and Schilling on the staff.

    And although Byung Hyun-Kim was a capable closer (minus those two games in the World Series), the bullpen wasn't all that vital either.

    Johnson went 21-6 with a 2.49 ERA in 2001 and won a third-straight Cy Young. Schilling went 22-6 with a 2.98 ERA and led the NL in wins.

    And in the postseason, the two combined for nine victories.

No. 29: 1969 New York Mets

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    Notables: Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Gary Gentry, Nolan Ryan, Tug McGraw

    Seaver was just 24 years old when the Miracle Mets won the World Series, but he won a career-best 25 games that year.

    And combined Jerry Koosman and rookie Gary Gentry won another 30.

    Nolan Ryan had yet to become an overpowering figure, but he was a great help out of the bullpen, as was future All-Star Tug McGraw.

No. 28: 1993 Toronto Blue Jays

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    5 May 1996:  Pitcher Pat Hentgen of the Toronto Blue Jays winds up to throw a pitch during the Blue Jays 11-4 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. Mandatory Credit: Rick Stewart/ALLSPORT
    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Notables: Pat Hentgen, David Wells, Juan Guzman, Dave Stewart, Jack Morris, Al Leiter, Duane Ward 

    Morris won 21 games the previous year but was ultimately left off the postseason roster. Still, they were not lacking for World Series heroes when the Blue Jays attempted a repeat in 1993.

    Dave Stewart came over from Oakland, won 12 games and was predictably great in the ALCS.

    Juan Guzman went 14-3, extending his overall record during the 1992-93 championship run to 30-8.

    Pat Hentgen burst on to the scene with a stunning 19-9 record and closer Duane Ward saved 44 games.

No. 27: 2004 Boston Red Sox

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    ST LOUIS - OCTOBER 26:  Starting pitcher Pedro Martinez #45 of the Boston Red Sox throws a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning of game three of the World Series on October 26, 2004 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.(Photo b
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Notables: Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe, Bronson Arroyo

    Pedro went 16-9 in 2004 while Schilling went 21-6 and was the Cy Young runner-up for an unprecedented third time in four seasons.

    But it was the back end of the staff that earns this team a spot on the list.

    Wakefield and Lowe were nice third and fourth starters. And although it didn't happen in Boston, Bronson Arroyo would turn into a very good starter just a few seasons later with Cincinnati.

No. 26: 1968 St. Louis Cardinals

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    Notables: Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Nelson Briles

    Bob Gibson in 1968? Need we say more? He went 22-9 with 13 shutouts and a ridiculous 1.12 ERA.

    But there were a few other notables on that pitching staff, including a 23-year-old named Steve Carlton. Lefty went 13-10 with a 2.99 ERA.

    And Nellie Briles, was outstanding as well. He went 19-11 with a 2.81 ERA as the Cardinals won the pennant for a second straight year.

    Tim McCarver should probably get a mention here as the club's catcher.

No. 25: 1992 Texas Rangers

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    1992:  Pitcher Nolan Ryan of the Texas Rangers winds up for the pitch during spring training. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Notables: Nolan Ryan, Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown, Bobby Witt, Jose Guzman

    This staff gets higher marks for past and future achievements than for what they actually achieved in 1992.

    Bobby Witt had won 17 games two years earlier so he was pretty good. So was Guzman who won 16 of his 33 starts. Then 27-year-old reliever Kenny Rogers would soon turn into a very reliable starter and throw a perfect game just two years later. 

    And the Ryan Express was coming to a stop that year, but Nolan still started 27 games and struck out 157 batters.

    But the anchor of the staff was Kevin Brown, who won a league-best 21 games, the only time he would break that milestone in his long-and-decorated career.

No. 24: 1986 Houston Astros

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    Notables: Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Bob Knepper, Jim Deshaies

    Nolan Ryan was 39 years old in 1986. Still, he was Nolan Ryan.

    But the real ace was Mike Scott, who went 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA. And in the NLCS, Scott was incredible, allowing one earned run in two complete games against the Mets.

    Bob Knepper also did a fine job on Hal Lanier's staff. He went 17-12.

    And if that wasn't enough, there was rookie Jim Deshaies, who went 12-5 and, late in the season, set a record by striking out the first eight batters of a start against the Dodgers.

No. 23: 2008 Cleveland Indians

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    BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 23:  Cliff Lee #31 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox on September 23, 2008 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Notables: Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona

    With the defending Cy Young winner and the man who would win the award at season's end, the 2008 Indians deserve a spot on this list, even if both players were promptly dealt away.

    Sabathia won the 2007 Cy Young but was sent to Milwaukee in early July.

    Still, for half the season, he and Cliff Lee also played together. Lee would finish the season 22-3 with a 2.53 ERA.

    And with 24-year-old Fausto Carmona having won 19 games a year earlier, the talent on this staff was incredible.

No. 22: 1968 Cleveland Indians

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    Notables: Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert, Luis Tiant

    With Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, and Jim Hunter in the mix, Sam McDowell is often lost in the shuffle. But in the mid-to-late 1960s, there wasn't a better strikeout artist in the American League.

    From 1965-70, he led the league in strikeouts every season but one. And in 1968, while Denny McLain was lighting up the rest of the league, McDowell won 15 games and fired off a 1.81 ERA.

    His teammate Luis Tiant did even better—21-9, 1.60 ERA. Together, Tiant and McDowell struck out more than 500 batters in 1968.

    Sonny Siebert was also a fine pitcher. A year before being dealt to Boston, Siebert went 12-10 with a 2.97 ERA.

No. 21: 1998 Houston Astros

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    23 Sep 1998:  Pitcher Randy Johnson #51 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Astros defeated the Cardinals 7-1. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet  /Allsport
    Vincent Laforet/Getty Images

    Notables: Randy Johnson, Mike Hampton, Jose Lima, Shane Reynolds, Billy Wagner

    The Astros were a good club at the All-Star break in 1998. Shane Reynolds was having a solid year and he would finish the season 19-8.

    They had a great young closer in Billy Wagner, who saved 30 games and had a 2.70 ERA.

    But trading for Randy Johnson made the Astros a contender. He joined the club at the deadline and went on to win 10 of his 11 starts and post a 1.28 ERA in the process.

    Johnson left the next season, but his mark was obvious. A year later Mike Hampton and Jose Lima each won 20 games.

No. 20: 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Notables: Elroy Face, Vern Law, Harvey Haddix, Bob Friend

    Although Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski were the legendary players on this team, the staff was excellent.

    A year after forkballing his way to an 18-1 record, Elroy Face won 10 more games out of the bullpen in 1960.

    Vern Law led the team with 20 wins and Bob Friend added another 18.

    And just a year removed from retiring 36 consecutive batters against the Milwaukee Braves, Harvey Haddix started 28 games for the Buccos in 1960. And, thanks to Mazeroski's home run, he recorded the win in Game 7 of the upset over the Yankees.

No. 19: 2010 Philadelphia Phillies

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    SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 21:  Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants in Game Five of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 21, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Notables: Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, Brad  Lidge

    Halladay won the Cy Young with a 21-10 record and a 2.44 ERA, then threw the first postseason no-hitter in 54 years.

    Adding his resume to that of Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer and Cole Hamels—an NLCS and World Series MVP—along with Brad Lidge as the closer, produced an incredible staff.

    Still, it's not the best in the game today...

No. 18: 2010 San Francisco Giants

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    SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 03:  (L-R) San Francisco Giants pitchers Brian Wilson, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain speak to fans outside San Francisco city hall during the Giants' victory parade and celebration on November 3, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Th
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Notables: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain,  Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, Brian Wilson

    Lincecum is obviously the ace of this staff. He won back-to-back Cy Youngs in 2008 and 2009 and he was electric in the postseason.

    But in 2010, Cain and Sanchez were very good, combining for 26 wins and a handful of fine playoff outings.

    Former Cy Young-winner Barry Zito was on the staff during the regular season, but in the postseason, it became clear that Bumgarner was the future.

    And he may not have the career numbers yet, but in 2010 Brian Wilson was the best closer in the NL, saving 48 games and boasting a 1.81 ERA.

No. 17: 1907 Chicago Cubs

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    Notables: Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, Orval Overall, Jack Taylor

    Brown is really the only name history remembers—he went 20-6 that season with a 1.39 ERA. But it was hardly his finest year.

    Overall led the team with 23 wins and Carl Lundgren chipped in another 18.

    But the reason this staff earns such high marks?

    They hold the major-league record for lowest team ERA, 1.73.

No. 16: 2002 Oakland A's

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    SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 24:  Pitcher Barry Zito #75 of the Oakland Athletics looks in for the sign during the MLB game against the Seattle Mariners on September 24, 2002 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won 8-7. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Ge
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Notables: Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Cory Lidle, Billy Koch

    The knock that this staff never won a playoff game is a reasonable one. Especially if "pitching wins championships."

    Still, this was an incredible collection of arms.

    Zito went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA that year. Naturally, he won the Cy Young.

    Mulder was nearly as efficient, finishing the season 19-7.

    And Tim Hudson was 15-9 with a 2.98 ERA.

    Manager Art Howe also had a phenomenal closer in Billy Koch, who saved 44 games and won 11.

No. 15: 1990 Oakland A's

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    OAKLAND, CA - CIRCA 1990:  Dave Stewart #34 of the Oakland Athletics looks on during an MLB game circa 1990 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Notables: Dave Stewart, Bob Welch, Scott Sanderson, Dennis Eckersley

    A decade before the incredible Zito-Hudson-Mulder Oakland staff failed to win a championship for the Athletics, the 1990 edition did the same.

    Stewart won 20-plus games for the fourth straight season in 1990. But he didn't lead the league. In fact, he didn't come close. Teammate Bob Welch won 27, a number no one else has reached since Sandy Koufax did it in 1966.

    Scott Sanderson and Mike Moore added another 30 wins.

    And although Dennis Eckersley (48) didn't lead the league in saves (Bobby Thigpen somehow saved 57 games that year), he had perhaps the greatest single season any closer ever had. Eck allowed five earned runs in 73.1 innings for a 0.61 ERA.

No. 14: 1933 New York Giants

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    Notables: Carl Hubbell, Freddie Fitzsimmons, Hal Schumacher

    During his era, Hubbell might have been the finest pitcher in the National League. And in 1933, a year before he struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx, and Joe Cronin in the All-Star Game, Hubbell won 23 games.

    And during a time overrun with home-run hitters and RBI machines, his 1.66 ERA and 10 shutouts that season were mind-boggling.

    Two teammates were also outstanding that year as the Giants won their first pennant under a manager not named John McGraw.

    "Fat" Freddie Fitzsimmons went 16-11 and 22-year-old Hal Schumacher won 19 games and threw seven shutouts of his own.

    Together, the staff threw an incredible 22 shutouts. Every seventh game they played was a shutout. It's little wonder they won the World Series. They allowed 14 runs in five World Series games against the Senators.

No. 13: 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers

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    Notables: Don Newcombe, Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine, Sal Maglie, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax

    Perhaps the greatest collection of pitching icons in baseball history were members of this 1956 Dodger team.

    Newcombe won the first-ever Cy Young award that year, posting a 27-7 record. Former Giant and Dodger-killer Maglie won 13 games, as did Carl Erskine.

    Rookie Don Drysdale made 12 starts that year and had a short appearance in Game 4 of the World Series loss to the Yankees.

    And some 20-year-old second-year left-hander named Koufax also made 10 starts, but he wasn't good enough to make the postseason roster. Whatever happened to him?

No. 12: 1967 San Francisco Giants

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    Notables: Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Mike McCormick

    Although the St. Louis Cardinals teams had Bob Gibson and won pennants in 1967 and 1968, the Giants had the better staff of pitchers.

    A year after Juan Marichal won 25 games, an injury cost him a few starts, and he only went 14-10.

    But teammate Mike McCormick took advantage of Marichal's absence and went 22-10 with a 2.85 ERA and won the first ever N.L. Cy Young Award.

    And 28-year-old Gaylord Perry, on his way to a Hall of Fame career, tossed in another 15 wins and 2.67 ERA.

    Curiously, the team's cumulative ERA was just 2.92 (better than the Cardinals 3.05), yet the Giants still finished 10.5 games out of first place.

No. 11: 2005 Houston Astros

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    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22:  Pitcher Roger Clemens #22 of the Houston Astros reacts on the mound against the Chicago White Sox in Game One of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Notables: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge

    Clemens, age 42, joined the team late but still went 13-7 with a 1.87 ERA. The man who convinced him to come back, Pettitte, was just as good, winning 17 games and posting a 2.39 ERA.

    Clemens and Pettitte were the big names and World Series heroes on this club, but Roy Oswalt was the only 20-game winner.

    And although later that season he would surrender the horrific home run to Albert Pujols, the one that sent his career into a tail-spin, Brad Lidge was an outstanding closer that year—2.29 ERA, 42 saves.

No. 10: 1978 New York Yankees

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    ANAHEIM, CA - 1987:  Ron Guidry #49 of the New York Yankees pitches during a game in the 1987 season against the California Angels at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images)
    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Notables: Ron Guidry, Ed Figueroa, Catfish Hunter, Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage

    In 1978, lefty Ron Guidry had one of the finest individual years of anyone since the wacky pitcher-stat-happy years of the late 1960s. He went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA and 244 strikeouts.

    But he was hardly a one-man show. Figueroa also won 20 games and, despite an ailing arm, Catfish Hunter won another 12.

    Even the bullpen was filled with stars. Sparky Lyle won the Cy Young a year earlier and Goose Gossage was becoming the AL's top closer.

No. 9: 1948 Cleveland Indians

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    Notables: Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden

    Feller was the centerpiece of the Indians during this and the previous decade.

    But he wasn't at his best in 1948—for the first time in six full seasons, he didn't win 20 games. He even lost both of his World Series starts. But he was still Bob Feller.

    The other Bob, Bob Lemon, helped pick up the slack. He won 20 games in 1948 (he would do so five more times in the following six years) and won both his World Series starts.

    But it was left-hander Gene Bearden who led the team in winning percentage (he, too, won 20 games) and ERA.

    And 41-year-old Satchel Paige didn't do so bad either that season. He went 6-1 in seven regular season starts and didn't allow a run in one brief World Series appearance against the Boston Braves.

No. 8: 1979 Baltimore Orioles

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    Notables: Jim Palmer, Steve Stone, Dennis Martinez, Mike Flanagan

    Aside from 1974, Palmer won 20 games almost every season during the 1970s—until 1979, when he missed a handful of starts because of injury and only went 10-6.

    Nevertheless, Flanagan filled the void and went 23-9 for manager Earl Weaver and won the Cy Young Award.

    Young Dennis Martinez won 15 and led the league in innings pitched and complete games (18).

    Still, the best pitcher on the rotation may have been 31-year-old right-hander Steve Stone who, just a year later, would win his own Cy Young thanks to an amazing 25-7 record.

    So if you're keeping score: From 1976-80, the Orioles had three different Cy Young winners—Palmer, Flanagan and Stone.

No. 7: 1973 Oakland A's

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    Notables: Catfish Hunter, Vida Blue, Ken Holtzman, Rollie Fingers

    Catfish Hunter went 21-5 in 1973 and led the league in winning percentage.

    Not to be outdone, teammate Vida Blue won 20 games as well. But, at least in 1973, Blue wasn't even the best left-hander on the A's staff.

    Acquired from the Chicago Cubs a year earlier, lefty Ken Holtzman went 21-13 with a 2.97 ERA in 1973.

    Rollie Fingers owned the back end of games, posting a 1.92 ERA in 123 innings of work.

    That staff made it easy on manager Dick Williams, and the club won a second-straight World Series.

No. 6: 1905 Philadelphia A's

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    Notables: Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, Chief Bender

    Sixty-eight years before Vida Blue, Jim Hunter and Ken Holtzman led the A's to an American League pennant, A's owner/manager Connie Mack had his own trio of aces.

    Eddie Plank (24-12, 2.26 ERA) and Chief Bender (18-11, 2.83 ERA) would later become Hall of Famers.

    And a right-hander named Andy Coakley won 18 games for the club as well.

    But Rube Waddell was the star. The lefty won a league-best 27 games, to go with a league best 1.48 ERA. And although his strikeout numbers fell substantially (a year earlier, he set a record that would stand for six decades with 349), he still forced 287 batters to whiff.

    Only running into Christy Mathewson in the second-ever Fall Classic kept this team from winning a World Series.

No. 5: 2003 New York Yankees

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    BRONX, NY - OCTOBER 16:  Pitcher Roger Clemens #22 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch against the Boston Red Sox in the first inning during game 7 of the American League Championship Series on October 16, 2003 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York.
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Notables: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, David Wells, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera

    Clemens and Pettitte are well documented on this list. And in 2003, they combined for 38 victories.

    And with Wells and Mussina contributing another 32 wins between the two of them, the Yankees rotation was by far the best in baseball.

    But when you add in the greatest closer of all-time, Rivera, it's hard to argue that the Yankees didn't have one of the greatest pitching staffs of all-time as well.

No. 4: 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Notables: Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Claude Osteen, Don Sutton

    Lefty Claude Osteen was excellent in his second season with the Dodgers, winning 17 starts and recording a 2.85 ERA.

    Rookie Don Sutton (interesting how Sutton's rookie season and final season, both with the Dodgers, make it on this list) contributed plenty as well—12-12 record, 2.99 ERA.

    And although perennial All-Star Don Drysdale started to decline in production (for the first time in five years, his ERA topped 3.00), Koufax was at his best in 1966.

    He won a third Cy Young in four seasons thanks to a 27-9 record, a career-best 1.73 ERA and 317 strikeouts.

    If only the Dodgers hadn't committed so many errors in the World Series against Baltimore, this staff would have celebrated a second-consecutive title.

No. 3: 1954 Cleveland Indians

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    Notables: Early Wynn, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, Hal Newhouser

    Hall of Famer Bob Feller was actually the fourth starter on this team, that's how good the 1954 Indians staff was.

    Feller won 13 of his 19 starts that year, but Garcia (19-8, 2.64 ERA), Lemon (23-7, 2.72) and Wynn (23-11, 2.73) were even more integral to the Indians club that won a record 111 games.

    Interestingly enough, Hal Newhouser, the former Tiger who won 118 games from 1944-48, was a relief arm on this club.

    Still, all those wins weren't enough for the Tribe to defeat Willie Mays and company in the Fall Classic.

No. 2: 1971 Baltimore Orioles

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    Notables: Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson,

    Since Babe Ruth and the advent of the "modern" game, no team has boasted a staff that featured four 20-game winners. That was until the 1971 Baltimore Orioles.

    For the third straight season in 1971, Cuba's Mike Cuellar and his famous screwball won 20 or more games.

    But that was only tied, along with future Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and former Padre Pat Dobson, for second on his team.

    Lefty Dave McNally went 21-5 in 1971.

    Together, those four posted an ERA far under 3.00 and helped the Orioles win a third consecutive pennant. 

No. 1: 1995 Atlanta Braves

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    Notables: Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Steve Avery, Mark Wohlers

    Do you notice a theme running through the last five spots on this list? The 1971 Orioles, the 1954 Indians, the 1966 Dodgers, the 2003 Yankees, the 1905 A's. 

    What do they all have in common?

    Hall of Fame starters and World Series failure.

    What other team is famous for those two things? The 1990s Atlanta Braves dynasty, of course.

    But because one of those Bobby Cox teams managed to win the whole thing, they deserve the top spot on this list.

    Well, for that reason and because they had three future Hall of Famers in the prime of their careers.

    Maddux had his finest season in the strike-shortened 1995 season, going 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. Glavine won 16 games that season and would claim the World Series MVP thanks to two terrific outings against Cleveland.

    And although Smoltz only won 12 games that season, within a year he would double that total and give the Braves a third Cy Young arm on the staff.

    And since Mark Wohlers hadn't yet had his much publicized control problems, this Braves team also had an All-Star closer.

    Finally, there is Steve Avery, the prospect once as heralded as any in the game. His best season was actually two years earlier, but if he doesn't allow one run in six innings in Game 4 of the Fall Classic, the Braves might not have ever won a World Series under Bobby Cox.