25 Best Non-Strikeout Pitchers in MLB History

Robert Knapel@@RobertKnapel_BRCorrespondent INovember 3, 2011

25 Best Non-Strikeout Pitchers in MLB History

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    Power pitchers seem to generate most of the attention in baseball. They have hard fastballs and sliders that they can blow by hitters. Non-strikeout pitchers also have a place amongst the greatest players in baseball history.

    These other players put much more of an emphasis on control. They were able to use their pinpoint accuracy amongst other things to get batters out.

    While this list is about non-strikeout pitchers, there are a few players on this list who are near the top of the career strikeout charts as a product of their longevity.

25) Hoyt Wilhelm

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    Even though he did not break into the major leagues until he was 29 years old, Hoyt Wilhelm managed to pitch in the majors for 21 seasons. Wilhelm was primarily a reliever but he did make a number of starts during his career. He was one of the first truly dominant relievers in MLB history and was elected to the Hall of Fame.

    He was the first pitcher to ever appear in 1,000 games in his career and he was a shut-down reliever. Wilhelm not only gained acclaim for his on-the-field actions, but also his actions off of it. He won a Purple Heart after he participated in the Battle of the Bulge.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

24) Joe McGinnity

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    Joe McGinnity was one of the best pitchers of the early 20th century, and he had a Hall of Fame career. McGinnity was able to have all of this success without every really striking out that many hitters. He had a career strikeout rate of 2.8 K/9.

    One of the things that McGinnity is most famous for is pitching both games of a doubleheader. He did this not once, not twice, but three times in one month in 1903. Most amazingly, he won all six of these games.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

23) Eddie Cicotte

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    During five different seasons in his major league career, Eddie Cicotte had a sub-2.00 ERA. He managed to do this while never striking out more than 150 batters in a seasons during his career.

    The knuckleballer made use of his outstanding control to get hitters out. Despite all of his success, Cicotte is most well known for being one of the members of the 1919 White Sox team that threw the World Series.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

22) Jim Bunning

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    Jim Bunning is one of the players that was alluded to in the intro slide that is high on the strikeout list even though he was not a strikeout pitcher. Bunning ranks 17th all-time in strikeouts.

    However, he struck out just 6.8 batters per nine innings during his major league career. That number puts him outside of the top 100 in that category.

    In 1974, Bunning had the shining moment of his career when he threw a no-hitter against the New York Mets.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

21) John Clarkson

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    It may seem odd that a pitcher that led his league in strikeouts three times and that twice struck out over 300 hitters in a season is on a list of non-strikeout pitchers. However, John Clarkson also threw over 600 innings in some of these seasons.

    For his career, Clarkson had a 3.9 K/9 rate. Clarkson had one season in which he won 53 games and another one in which he won an NL Pitching Triple Crown. He was also a threat with the bat and hit 24 home runs during his career.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

20) Tommy John

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    Tommy John is most famous for the ligament surgery that now bears his name, but he also has an incredible legacy as a starting pitcher. He managed to pitch in the majors for 26 years.

    John was not much of a strikeout pitcher before he was injured, and he struck out even fewer hitters after he underwent surgery. His highest single-season strikeout total was 138, a number which he reached twice in his career.

19) Phil Niekro

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    Phil Niekro ranks 11th on the all-time strikeout list but he also pitched for 24 seasons and threw over 5,400 innings during his career. Even with 3,342 career strikeouts, Niekro boasts a K/9 rate of just 5.6.

    Opposing hitters hated facing Niekro's knuckleball. He was able to use the pitch very effectively and Niekro won 120 games after he turned 40 years old.

18) Mike Mussina

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    Mike Mussina is likely the closest thing to a strikeout pitcher that will be found on this list. Even so, Mussina was a control king, and he struck out 7.1 batters per nine innings.

    He spent 10 seasons of his career in Baltimore, but Mussina is known more for his time with the New York Yankees. Mussina helped lead them to a number of playoff appearances.

17) Old Hoss Radbourn

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    In 1884, Old Hoss Radbourn put together what is arguably the greatest pitching season in MLB history. He won a record 59 games and had a 1.38 ERA. Radbourn also struck out 441 hitters that season. This was his highest single season strikeout total and yet he only had a 5.8 K/9 rate.

    In fact, Radbourn only had a 3.6 K/9 rate for his career, which is certainly not the mark of a strikeout pitcher. Radbourn collected 309 wins in 11 seasons during his Hall of Fame career.

16) Don Sutton

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    Just like a number of other pitchers that have already been on this list, Don Sutton has a high career strikeout total, but he was not a strikeout pitcher. Sutton ranks seventh all-time with 3,574 strikeouts.

    During his 22-year career, Sutton struck out over 200 hitters five times during his career. Other than these seasons, Sutton was never much of a strikeout pitcher. His career K/9 rate is 6.1, and his career strikeout total is a testament to his longevity.

15) Whitey Ford

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    The New York Yankees' success during the 1950s and 1960s had a large part to do with Whitey Ford. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball history and was a key part of the Yankees' rotation.

    The Chairman of the Board only broke the 200 strikeout total during one season of his career. With just a 5.6 career K/9 rate, it is not possible to call Ford a strikeout pitcher.

14) Ed Walsh

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    No pitcher in major league history has a lower career ERA than Ed Walsh. He is the MLB record-holder with a career 1.82 ERA. The most shocking part about this is that he only led the American League in ERA twice during his 14 year career.

    Walsh was an absolute workhorse which lends itself to a number of his higher strikeout totals throughout the years. However, Walsh did not strikeout that many batters per nine innings.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

13) Tim Keefe

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    One of the first true aces in major league history, Tim Keefe absolutely dominated 19th century baseball. He stared his career off on a high note when he posted an 0.86 ERA during his first season in which he made 12 starts.

    Keefe was able to maintain a high level of success throughout his career. He threw many innings which helps explain why he led the league in strikeouts twice during his career. For his career, Keefe had a 4.6 K/9 rate.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

12) Tom Glavine

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    Tom Glavine was a part of one of the best rotations of the 1990s and he is also one of the best left-handed pitchers of all time. Glavine was known as a control artist who could occasionally rear back and strike a hitter out.

    The future Hall of Famer reached the 300 win plateau while never striking out more than 192 batters in a season. He did not have a high K/9 rate during his career as the number sits at 5.6 K/9. However, Glavine was able to be so effective because of his pinpoint control.

11) Carl Hubbell

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    A dominant screwball helped make Carl Hubbell one of the best pitchers of the 1940s. He was able to make hitters take bad swings and ground the ball right to his defenders.

    The two-time NL MVP had outstanding control and had a career walk rate of 1.8 BB/9. Hubbell did not strike out that many hitters as evident by his career 4.2 K/9 rate.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

10) Juan Marichal

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    Since he was not an overpowering strikeout pitcher, Juan Marichal needed to rely on other tactics to get in hitters' heads and to get him out. Marichal had pinpoint control and had no problem throwing up and in to intimidate hitters.

    These tactics work, as Marichal had a Hall of Fame career in the majors. Marichal may have been able to crack the 200 strikeout mark a number of times in his career, but he had just a 5.9 K/9 rate over his 16 year career.

9) Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown

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    After being involved in an accident as a child, Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown used the fact that he was missing a finger to his advantage when he was on the mound. His pitches would have a unique spin as they left his hand.

    Brown had a Hall of Fame career in which once posted a 253 ERA+. He had a career 2.06 ERA. Brown did not need to strike hitters out to get the job done. In fact, he had just a 3.9 K/9 rate for his career.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

8) Kid Nichols

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    Kid Nichols holds the distinction of being the youngest player in baseball history to reach 300 wins. He accomplished this feat by the time he was 30 years old.

    Nichols had seven seasons in his career where he won at least 30 games. He also led the American League in saves four times during his career. Nichols did all this while striking out just 3.3 hitters per nine innings.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

7) Eddie Plank

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    Eddie Plank has the distinction of being the first left-handed pitcher to reach both the 200 and 300 win marks. He is also third on the all-time lefty win list and has the most career shutouts by a southpaw.

    One list that Plank is not near the top of is the strikeout list. It would take a while to find his 4.5 K/9 rate amongst the list of career leaders. Plank was a finesse pitcher who made good use of his sweeping curveball.

6) Jim Palmer

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    During his career with the Baltimore Orioles, Jim Palmer won two MVP awards. He was one of the best pitchers of his generation and he was feared by opposing hitters.

    Palmer was not a strikeout machine, he averaged just 5.0 K/9, but he was able to get hitters out a variety of other ways. The Hall of Fame pitcher was also an outstanding defender on the mound and won four Gold Gloves.

    Photo Credit: Towson University

5) Don Drysdale

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    There were few pitchers in the 1960s that were more dominant than Don Drysdale. Hitters just could not find a way to get on base and score runs against him.

    Drysdale was a staple of the Dodgers' rotation for 14 seasons and he moved with the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Batters had the utmost respect for Drysdale and his pitching abilities. He retired at age 32 with a 6.5 K/9 ratio.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

4) Gaylord Perry

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    During his 22 year career, Gaylord Perry was an innings eater who could pitch at a very high level. He won two Cy Young awards and led his league in wins three times.

    Perry is most famous for doctoring his pitches. It was impossible to prove for years, but Perry was known for throwing a spitball and a puffball. Even with all of these tricks up his sleeve, Perry had just a 5.9 career K/9 rate.

3) Warren Spahn

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    One of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history, Warren Spahn was absolutely dominant during his career. He was selected for the All-Star Game in 14 different seasons and was almost always a recipient of MVP votes.

    It is very impressive to note that Spahn had all of this success without ever really being a strikeout pitcher. He did have four seasons where he led the AL in strikeouts, but he was also near the top of the innings pitched list as well. Even with all of those strikeouts during those four seasons, Spahn had only a 4.4 K/9 rate for his career.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference

2) Greg Maddux

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    Even though he has the 10th most strikeouts of all-time, Greg Maddux is not a strikeout pitcher. The Professor was known for being able to paint the outside corner with his outstanding control as well as for his ability to outwit hitters. He has a career 6.1 K/9 rate to go along with a 1.8 BB/9 rate.

    He ranks very high amongst the greatest pitchers of all-time and some consider him to be one of the top five pitchers of all-time. Maddux was the best pitcher in the world between 1992 and 1995 when he won four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards.

1) Grover Alexander

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    Grover Alexander gets the slight edge over Greg Maddux as the best non-strikeout pitcher in baseball history. Alexander started off his career as a strikeout pitcher, but his game quickly changed.

    By the time that Alexander was 34, he stuck out just 77 hitters in 252 innings. Alexander's dominance did not stop when he became more of a control pitcher. With just a career 3.8 K/9 rate, Alexander managed to be one of the best pitchers in baseball history.

    Photo Credit: Baseball Reference


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