While it is arguably inequitable to compare players of yesteryear to those of today, some measures are viable and objective in assessing pitchers. Here are these measures:
A pitcher’s ERA (Earned Run Average) measures the number of strikeouts he averages every nine innings. This essential tool for evaluating pitchers is determined by dividing a pitcher’s total number of strikeouts by his total number of walks.
WAR (Wins Above Replacement)
This measurement quantifies the value of a player, measuring him in all facets of the game. WAR deciphers the number of wins this player is worth compared to a replacement-level player in the same position. WAR factors in a positional adjustment helpful in comparing players who may play at different defensive positions and factor into the rankings.
An essential tool for evaluating pitchers, the K/BB ratio is the number of strikeouts a pitcher has for every walk he allows. This number is determined by dividing a pitcher’s total strikeout numbers by his total number of walks. (A score over 2.00 is considered good.)
Having pitched well in winning games of playoffs and in World Series also contributes positively to the ranking of pitchers.
Dominance in a Five-Year Period
Highly ranked pitchers have the best ERAs (earned run averages).
The top pitchers and their tenure in MLB
Using the measurements mentioned above, and measuring strikeouts and walks equally, along with a strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.00 is good), here are the rankings of top professional pitchers of all time:
- Christy Mortheson (1900-1916) – In 1905, with an ERA of 1.28, he won 31 games.
- Walter Johnson (1907-1927) – For 11 seasons, he had an ERA below 1.90.
- Randy Johnson (1988-2009) – The “Big Unit” won 100 games in three years.
- Cy Young (1890-1911) – This legend pitched 184 full games and had a 1.93 ERA.
- Pedro Martinez (1992-2009) – In 1997, he pitched 13 full games with an ERA of 1.90.
- Sandy Koufax (1955-1966) – He was the winner of NL MVP and Cy Young awards for three years.
- Clayton Kershaw (2008-present) – An exceptional left-hander, he had an ERA of 2.10 from 2011-2017.
- Roger Clemens (1984-2007) – He won the Cy Young award in 1986, 1987, 1991,1997 and 1998.
- Greg Maddox (1986-2008) – “The professor” had an ERA of 2.15 and a WHIP of 0.97.
- Bob Gibson (1959-1975) – Gibson was so accomplished in 1968 that MLB had to change pitching rules, lower the mound, and reduce the strike zone.