Ranking the greatest pitchers in baseball history: Nos. 40-21
theScore

Throughout the months of January and February, a cast of editors from theScore will share their rankings of the greatest teams, performances, pitchers, and position players in baseball history. This list focuses on the greatest pitchers:

100-81 | 80-61 | 60-41 | 40-21 | 20-1

Voter list:

  • James Bisson, National Sports Editor
  • Brandon Wile, Senior MLB Editor
  • Jonah Birenbaum, MLB News Editor
  • Michael Bradburn, MLB News Editor
  • Jason Wilson, MLB News Editor
  • Bryan Mcwilliam, MLB News Editor
  • Simon Sharkey-Gotlieb, MLB News Editor
  • Dylan Perego, News Editor
  • Josh Wegman, News Editor

40. Johan Santana

W L K ERA WHIP
139 78 1988 3.20 1.13

In a time when emphasis on the radar gun was increasing year by year, one particular pitcher became the best in the game not with power, but with deception. Armed with a changeup yet to be rivaled, Santana baffled hitters for nearly a decade, winning two Cy Young Awards in three years and exceeding the 200-strikeout total five consecutive years. Had various injuries not led to his premature downfall, Santana could have found himself in the universal discussion for the best left-handed pitcher of all time. - Perego

39. Max Scherzer

W L K ERA WHIP
141 75 2149 3.30 1.12

Three Cy Youngs, two consecutive with the Washington Nationals, and one of just six pitchers in history to win the award in both leagues, Scherzer has been one of the most dominant hurlers of this millennium, and doesn't appear to be slowing down. In just 10 seasons, the 33-year-old has already recorded more than 2,100 strikeouts and hasn't posted a WHIP above 1.00 since 2014. He's also a workhorse, hurling 200-plus innings in five consecutive seasons, and has only made fewer than 30 starts once in his career. Oh yeah, he also threw two no-hitters in a single season in 2015. -- Mcwilliam

38. Dennis Eckersley

W L K ERA WHIP
197 171 2401 3.50 1.16

Eckersley may be best remembered for his work as a dominant closer for the Athletics in the second half of his career, where he pioneered the one-inning fireman role. But he was by no means a one-trick pony: before shifting to the bullpen, Eck spent over a decade as an All-Star starter with three teams. From 1976-85, he compiled 35.0 fWAR - the eighth-highest total by a starting pitcher over that span - and threw a no-hitter in 1977. He's the only pitcher in history to have both 100-plus wins and 200-plus saves on his resume. Few excelled as both a starter and reliever like Eck did. -- Sharkey-Gotlieb

37. Dwight Gooden

W L K ERA WHIP
194 112 2293 3.51 1.26

If it wasn't for off-field issues related to substance abuse, Gooden could have been even better. He dominated opponents in his rookie season, striking out an alarming 276 batters in only 218 innings. His sophomore season was even better, when he posted a 1.53 ERA over 35 starts in 1985. No starting pitcher since has finished a full season with a lower ERA. He touched greatness off and on thereafter, but his career could have been so much better. -- Wilson

36. Tommy John

W L K ERA WHIP
288 231 2245 3.34 1.28

Tommy John is now best-known for the surgery no pitcher wants to have, but the left-hander had a remarkable career on the mound. John pitched an astonishing 26 seasons, retiring as a 46-year-old having logged 760 appearances and 4,710 1/3 innings. His 288 career wins ranks seventh all-time among southpaws, with 164 of those coming after John underwent the surgery himself. -- Wile

35. CC Sabathia

W L K ERA WHIP
237 146 2846 3.70 1.25

It seems like a distant memory, but CC Sabathia broke into the majors as a 20-year-old with the Cleveland Indians. As the youngest player in baseball that season, he only lost rookie of the year because his breakout coincided with the first season of a 27-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who also won MVP. At 26, Sabathia won his first and only Cy Young Award and joined the Yankees two years later, where he has steadily continued an impressive career. -- Bradburn

34. Don Sutton

W L K ERA WHIP
324 256 3574 3.26 1.14

Don Sutton made hitters earn their way on base - and he did it longer than just about any pitcher of his generation, putting together a 324-win resume over parts of 23 major-league seasons. His prime saw him finish in the top five in Cy Young voting five seasons in a row, and he strung together 18 consecutive 10-win campaigns to open his career. His 324 wins rank 14th all-time, while his 3,574 strikeouts are seventh-most in history. -- Bisson

33. Kid Nichols

W L K ERA WHIP
361 208 1881 2.96 1.22

The nickname was apt. Precociously talented and unfailingly durable, Nichols - who debuted with the National League's Boston Beaneaters in 1890 - remains the youngest pitcher to reach the illustrious 300-win milestone, getting there months before his 31st birthday. That happens when you average 400 innings per season with a 145 ERA+ in your 20s. -- Birenbaum

32. Robin Roberts

W L K ERA WHIP
286 245 2357 3.41 1.17

As a result of his 14-year tenure, Roberts remains to this day one of the most legendary pitchers to ever wear a Philadelphia Phillies uniform. The right-hander was as reliable a workhorse as there was in his era, leading the MLB in wins in four consecutive years (1952-55) while exceeding 300 innings pitched each year and totaling 154 complete games over that span. Despite never winning a Cy Young, Roberts was named an All-Star on seven occasions and enshrined in the MLB Hall of Fame in 1976 in his fourth year on the ballot. - Perego

31. Don Drysdale

W L K ERA WHIP
209 166 2486 2.95 1.15

During the 1950s and '60s, the Dodgers not only possessed a revered left-hander named Sandy Koufax, but a 6-foot-5, hard-throwing right-hander named Don Drysdale. The pair gave the white and blue a dangerous 1-2 punch atop their rotation that helped them win three World Series titles. Drysdale hurled more than 300 innings each season from 1962-65 and earned himself the NL Cy Young in '62. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984 and died of a heart attack in 1993 at the age of 56. -- Mcwilliam

30. Justin Verlander

W L K ERA WHIP
188 114 2416 3.46 1.18

In an era dominated by bullpens, Verlander continues to write his story as a modern-day workhorse in the rotation. The six-time All-Star and 2011 AL MVP has led the league in innings pitched three times, strikeouts four times (plus another four top-10 finishes), and has walked just 2.7 batters per nine innings for his entire career. After re-writing the Tigers franchise record books and leading them to a pair of pennants, Verlander finally got his ring - and an ALCS MVP - with the Astros this past October. His final chapter, which is likely ending in Cooperstown, is only starting to be written. -- Sharkey-Gotlieb

29. Bob Feller

W L K ERA WHIP
266 162 2581 3.25 1.32

'Bullet Bob' was the strikeout king before it was cool. He led the American League in strikeouts in four straight seasons before going to war from 1942 through 1944, and did it again for three straight after he returned. And, despite how prolific strikeout pitchers have become in the decades since, he's still 27th all-time in Ks. -- Wilson

28. Kevin Brown

W L K ERA WHIP
211 144 2397 3.28 1.22

Brown was the highest-paid pitcher in baseball when he inked a seven-year, $105-million deal with the Dodgers in 1998. The right-hander found tremendous success as a sinkerballer, keeping the ball in the park while posting four seasons of at least 200 strikeouts. He was a six-time All-Star, led the NL in ERA on two separate occasions, and tossed a no-hitter in 1997. There was suspicion of steroid use during the later part of his career after Brown was listed in the Mitchell Report. -- Wile

27. Jim Palmer

W L K ERA WHIP
268 152 2212 2.86 1.18

Over a four-year span from 1973-76, Palmer took home three Cy Young Awards and posted a 141 ERA+, and finished the 1970s with the most wins in that decade. The three-time World Series champion spent his entire 19-year career with the Baltimore Orioles and was a crucial part of a dynasty that included Dave McNally, Frank Robinson, and Brooks Robinson. -- Bradburn

26. Juan Marichal

W L K ERA WHIP
243 142 2303 2.89 1.10

The pride of Laguna Verde, Dominican Republic put together an incredible peak during which he racked up six 20-game seasons over a seven-year span, earning three top-10 finishes in MVP voting while keeping his ERA below 2.50 in all but one of those campaigns. Marichal was named to nine All-Star teams and earned a deserved Hall of Fame call in 1983. -- Bisson

25. Mike Mussina

W L K ERA WHIP
270 153 2813 3.68 1.19

Against the backdrop of the steroid era, Mussina's consistent excellence went underappreciated - from 1991 through 2003, only Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro, Kevin Brown, and Curt Schilling were more valuable - and it feels like Mussina still isn't getting his due, having just been denied a spot in Cooperstown for a fifth straight year. The Moose, a five-time All-Star who averaged 205 innings per season and an ERA nearly 30 percentage points above average for more than a decade, deserves better. He always has. -- Birenbaum

24. Pete Alexander

W L K ERA WHIP
373 208 2198 2.56 1.12

Grover Cleveland Alexander, known as "Old Pete" was one of the early game's most dominant forces on the mound during his career. Alexander won back-to-back pitching triple crowns in 1915-16 with the Phillies, and despite missing most of the 1918 season while serving in the First World War, captured a third triple crown with the Chicago Cubs in 1920. Alexander still sits tied for third on the all-time wins list with 373, a number that is unlikely to be equaled given the current standard practices for starting pitchers. - Perego

23. Phil Niekro

W L K ERA WHIP
318 274 3342 3.35 1.27

You don't get a nickname like "Knucksie" by throwing gas. Niekro, arguably the greatest knuckleball pitcher in history, made a name for himself by dancing the ball up to the plate. Niekro's knuckler was consistent enough to keep him in the show until he was 48 years old - 24 seasons in total. In 1979, Niekro managed to win and lose 20 games in the same season, the last pitcher to accomplish such a rare feat. -- Mcwilliam

22. Tom Glavine

W L K ERA WHIP
305 203 2607 3.54 1.31

Glavine wasn't the flashiest member of the Braves' "Big 3" rotation alongside Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, but he was perhaps their most consistent starter. The southpaw won a pair of Cy Young Awards and the 1995 World Series MVP during the Braves' dynasty, and was a five-time 20-game winner while making 10 All-Star appearances. Later, he helped the Mets to a division title. He was also a pretty good hitter for his position, winning four Silver Sluggers. -- Sharkey-Gotlieb

21. Fergie Jenkins

W L K ERA WHIP
284 226 3192 3.34 1.14

The best Canadian pitcher to ever step on a major-league mound - and the first to be enshrined in Cooperstown - Jenkins was a precise and dominant force in the late 1960s and early 1970s, culminating in his narrow Cy Young win in 1971 over the great Tom Seaver. Jenkins went 24-13 with a 2.77 ERA over 39 starts. He's one of only four pitchers to record 3,000 strikeouts while issuing fewer than 1,000 walks. -- Wilson

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Ranking the greatest pitchers in baseball history: Nos. 40-21
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