One can make an argument over who the best pitcher of all time was Nolan Ryan and his 5,714 Ks – how about Cy Young, I mean the award for being the best pitcher is named after him, after all. And then we have pitchers like Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens who were both phenomenal. Come on, we’re looking at 9,547 strikeouts between the 2 of them.
But let’s look at some other numbers, let’s look at other attributes. Firstly, I feel that choosing the best pitcher is definitely going to be relative to their era. Sports have evolved, and changed over the years, pitchers used to pitch 150 times in a game, in this day and age they’re getting pulled after 80. The longer a pitcher stays in the game, the more chances and more opportunities he would have of throwing more balls and walking more players. It’s tough to compare Clayton Kershaw versus Steve Carlton when they played in very different eras of baseball.
I definitely feel that for a pitcher to be considered as the greatest of all time, they have to have received the Cy Young Award. I mean, it is the pinnacle of individual awards for a MLB pitcher. I also think that the record has to stand for something. Did they win games, did they bring victories? And of course, how many strikeouts did they have, did they sit batters? And honestly could a team count on them, if they needed them to shut down a team, in the most crucial times of a game?
I know that Nolan Ryan had 324 W’s along with 5,714 strikeouts, but the fact is he lost a lot of games and he also never won the Cy Young Award. So during 27 seasons, he was never considered the best in the majors, for any season. It makes you think that maybe, longevity was his greatest attribute.
As we are talking about pitching, I only think there’s one correct answer, and that’s Greg Maddux. When it came to ERA, throwing inning after inning, and winning when needed, he was money. The Bulldog was sheer terror over 23 seasons, as he racked up All Stars, Cy Youngs, including 355 wins and 3300+ Ks. He also played in an era when people were hitting home runs like Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds.
The records that Nolan Ryan put up are likely never going to be touched. His records will never be broken, amassing 5,714 Ks and 7 no hitters. Especially in an era today when pitchers are pulled after 6 innings of perfect baseball. And having records that will never be broken, certainly stands for something. Ryan was the best at overpowering hitters. But when it comes to just outstanding mound work, Greg Maddux is the GOAT with his finesse.
There’s obviously many to choose from for this conversation but Maddux cannot be forgotten, he truly was the best of the best with a complete game. It wasn’t just about striking out players, it was about winning the big games shutting bats down. What’s even more amazing, let’s take a look and see what we think over the next 20 years. Ohtani very well could be one of the best we’ve ever seen, for many other reasons, but that’s a whole other conversation.