30 Most Feared Pitchers of All Time
What makes a pitcher great? Having a great fastball, curveball, and other pitches helps, as does the ability to win 20 games for a team and make an impact in the postseason.
One of the big things that makes a pitcher great, however, is the ability to make the batters fearful of them. Whether it's a blazing fastball, pitches that are a bit erratic, or the look of a pitcher that could throw it at you at a moment's notice, some pitchers strike fear in the hearts of hitters.
Here are 30 of the most feared pitchers of all time.
30. Tony Mullane
One of the winningest pitchers not in the Hall of Fame, Tony Mullane was a longtime pitcher in the 19th century, playing primarily for the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
While he had 1,800 strikeouts in his career, he easily holds the record for most wild pitches. He had 343 in his career and 63 in one season. That, combined with a high walk total meant batters were likely to get hit from an errant pitch by him.
29. Gus Weyhing
Like Mullane, Gus Weyhing is one of the winningest pitchers not in the Hall of Fame and was a big-time pitcher in the 19th century. He also had a problem with control as well, especially early in his career.
Aside from having 240 wild pitches in his career, he also hit 277 batters, easily the most of all time. That, combined with 1,570 walks, made for a very erratic pitcher.
28. Juan Marichal
Unlike others on this part of the list, Marichal rarely hit batters or threw wild pitches; he didn't need to, as he had pristine control of his pitches. As a result of his abilities with the Giants, he was quickly inducted into the Hall of Fame after retirement.
His intimidation of batters came with his delivery style, involving a high kick, and his windups were so full that it could make a batter nervous. In fact, he may be underrated as a feared pitcher, having been a contemporary of two that are much higher on the list.
27. Tom Seaver
Someone who wins a Cy Young Award three times is naturally going to be feared, but it takes more than that. When it comes to Tom Seaver, he was a strikeout king.
He struck out 3,640 batters, leading the league five times. Also, when Hank Aaron called you the toughest pitcher he's ever faced, than you know you're a pitcher that can strike fear into batters.
26. Christy Mathewson
Big Six is best known as one of the first five Hall of Fame members, but early in his career he was quite erratic. In his first three full seasons, he led the league in hit batsmen all three times easily.
His delivery improved after 1902, however, and he led the league in strikeouts five times. In the 1900s, there was no pitcher more feared or respected than Mathewson.
25. Kevin Brown
Anyone with a quality sinking fastball is going to be feared, and Kevin Brown certainly was for nearly 20 years. Aside from a high strikeout count thanks to said fastball, he also led the league in hit batsmen three times.
Brown was a hard-nosed pitcher who knew how to get batters out when he needed to, and he was more feared as he got older in the majors.
24. Smoky Joe Wood
In the 1910s, a young upstart pitcher shocked batters with his blazing fastball. That player was Smoky Joe Wood, who joined the Boston Red Sox in 1908 and became one of baseball's greats for the next eight seasons.
After the 1915 season, he could no longer pitch without pain and was converted into an outfielder. During those eight years though, most acknowledged him as the hardest thrower in baseball, even above Walter Johnson.
23. Gaylord Perry
Gaylord Perry had a long career that allowed him to win 314 games and two Cy Young Awards. While Perry did throw a high number of wild pitches, that's not what puts him on the list.
Hitters feared Perry because of the rumors that he threw spitballs, which were banned decades prior. His reputation for throwing doctored baseballs meant that he could touch his cap, arm, and the like and make it look like he was applying a substance to throw batters off.
22. Rube Waddell
Rube Waddell was one of those players that people probably referred to as nuts. He was, in fact, an unpredictable person who was a bit off, but that just made him more feared, as you didn't know what he was going to do.
The fact that he led the league in strikeouts six times adds to his intimidation. Whatever his issues were, he knew how to strike people out.
21. Dwight Gooden
If he had a better peak, then there's no question that he would be further up this list. Still, during the first couple years of his career, there was no one more feared.
He was still feared into the late 1980s and early 1990s after his production started to slip. A bit of this was perhaps out of respect, since Gooden really was that good to start off.
20. CC Sabathia
It's tough to gauge how fearful players are of Sabathia in a historical sense, but I have two reasons for putting him on. First, he has a huge frame, and when hitters see that, they are going to think of a stronger arm.
Second is his ability to be a workhorse. Yes, he can strike out batters at will, but when he's facing 1,000 a season in this era, he is able to leave his mark on pretty much anyone that steps up to face him.
19. Ed Walsh
Big Ed Walsh holds the record for lowest career ERA, and he did not get it without being feared. During his time with the Chicago White Sox, he led the league in strikeouts twice and had seasons where he pitched well over 400 innings.
For whatever reason, it was impossible to score a run off of him, even in the deadball era. A 1.82 ERA is amazing no matter what era it's in.
18. Carl Mays
Part of Carl Mays' intimidation came from his submarine style delivery, which felt like the ball would hit a batter, and his 89 career hit-by-pitches showed that it did happen. One of those 89 is what gets him on the list.
When you end up with a stigma as the only guy to kill a man on the field with a baseball, which is what happened to Ray Chapman, he was greatly feared, even though everyone knew it wasn't intentional.
17. J.R. Richard
J.R. Richard took a little while to get going, but once he became a full-time starter, he was definitely feared by batsmen. He regularly led the league in strikeouts, walks and wild pitches.
His control was not all that great, but anyone who can throw 300 K's will be watched. He was also getting better with age, lowering his walk and wild pitch counts, so he could have been even more respected had his career not been cut short when he suffered a stroke at age 30.
16. Sam McDowell
"Sudden Sam" McDowell was a pitcher who is perhaps not well-known due to spending most of his career with the Indians. Despite that, he was as feared as any other during the 1960s, regularly leading the league in strikeouts.
He also led the league in walks and wild pitches often, and his lack of control made batters fear him, since they had no idea where that ball was going to end up.
15. Steve Carlton
Steve Carlton, longtime Phillies pitcher, was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. While he was active, he was also one of the most feared.
He struck out over 4,000 hitters in his career, and his 144 pickoffs are easily the all-time record. The fact that you were not even safe on base from this pitcher provided an extra dose of fear to the hitter.
14. Ewell Blackwell
Ewell Blackwell may not be known now, but in the 1940s he was considered a pitcher that you flat-out did not want to mess with. His 6'6" frame and his sidearm delivery added to the image he presented to batters.
He also had no problem throwing at a batter if he needed to, and Vin Scully, among others, have noted plenty of hitters who were afraid to face him.
13. Pedro Martinez
Unlike many others on this list, Pedro Martinez had a rather small frame at 5'11". He was a great strikeout pitcher and could throw 300 in a season. What made him feared, however, was his collection of pitches.
His cutter, curveball and changeup were all considered amazing, and at his peak batters were unable to make anything happen. When steroid-era hitters can't hit, that's a pitcher to be feared.
12. Roger Clemens
Roger Clemens falls into the Kevin Brown-Pedro Martinez type, a pitcher who has a great selection of pitches and got better with age. His 4,672 strikeouts are among the most of all time, and his seven Cy Young wins commanded respect.
He was not a pitcher that went out of his way to hit anyone, though his wild pitch and hit batsmen numbers were rather high, adding to the fear batters had.
11. Warren Spahn
Many of the pitchers on this list are to be feared due to their pitches and control of them. Warren Spahn's intimidation comes from an entirely different source, however.
Spahn was a cerebral pitcher, using his mind to strike fear in the hearts of batters rather than his arm. Still, having 2,500 strikeouts in an era where 200-strikeout seasons were few shows how dominant he could be.
10. Steve Dalkowski
Despite the fact that he never made it to the majors, Steve Dalkowski was well-known for incredible speed on his fastball. In fact, it was so fast that he pretty much sacrificed control to throw it.
He led the minors in walks and strikeouts by a large amount most years, and his control was so erratic that it kept him from the majors. Still, anyone who can make Ted Williams not see a pitch just does not come along everyday.
9. Bob Feller
Bob Feller was one of the greatest pitchers of the World War II era, someone who could strike batters out at will. He often led the league in walks to go with his strikeouts, making hitters fearful of where his pitches may go.
In his prime, many hitters knew they had no chance against him; for example, in 1946 he had 348 strikeouts. Only one other pitcher hit 200. He could strike fear into hitters because they knew they couldn't get on base.
8. Sandy Koufax
When one talks about great pitchers of the 1960s, Sandy Koufax naturally comes to mind. He was incredibly dominant in a short time, and before his career was cut short he was unstoppable.
His walk totals were actually quite low, and that combined with an incredible strikeout rate meant that hitters had no chance against him.
7. Walter Johnson
Walter Johnson was perhaps the best pitcher in history and was able to make batters fearful of him with his delivery. It looked like he put little effort into it, yet it was so fast many could not see it.
He hit a lot of batters in his time, and while he didn't do it intentionally, being hit by one of his fastballs was enough to keep anyone from crowding the plate, as he caused nightmares for many hitters.
6. Ryne Duren
Ryne Duren had a great fastball to begin with, but it was actually his glasses that caused batters to shake in fear. He was not a guy that batters could dig in against since they had to wonder if he could actually see the plate.
Besides, I would think the inspiration for Major League's Ricky Vaughn would make batters afraid to try anything.
5. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan was known for being the all-time strikeouts leader, as well as his great longevity. He could also strike out or walk batters at will, so hitters were never sure where a ball was going to go.
For any who may have been unsure about his toughness, his famed fight with Robin Ventura showed that he could hold his own against players half his age, and it was the same attitude he used in his pitching.
4. Don Drysdale
Don Drysdale was a workhorse who formed a great one-two punch with Sandy Koufax. While Koufax was the ace, Drysdale was the enforcer of the team.
Aside from being a great strikeout pitcher, Drysdale had no issue hitting batters. He would throw brushback pitches at hitters to strike fear in them and, in fact, led the league in hit batsmen five times. He was not a pitcher you could dig in against at all.
3. Sal Maglie
Don Drysdale and many others all had to learn the art of brushback pitching from somewhere, and they learned it from this guy, Sal Maglie. Nicknamed Sal the Barber, the Giants pitcher was perhaps the most intimidating pitcher of his time.
Not only did he have no issue with throwing the ball close to hitters to make them let up, it was his specialty. With Maglie, you knew you were taking a risk going up against him, His perpetual five o'clock shadow look just added to that intimidation.
2. Randy Johnson
Randy Johnson was one of the best strikeout artists of all time, and his longevity was great as well. What gets him so high on the list is his 6'10" frame, which made his pitches, especially his slider, look that much more dangerous.
Especially early in his career, he regularly led the league in walks and hit batsmen before changing that to strikeouts, so he worked against hitters from all sides in an effort to make them fearful of him.
1. Bob Gibson
Who else? Bob Gibson was one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but he was first and foremost a competitor. He stared down batters, did not smile and threw brushback pitches when he needed to show who was in charge.
Gibson showed no mercy on the mound and was scary for batters to face. His ability to keep batters in line is unmatched, and it will be tough to match it.