Ok, so every time I do a “Top List” of any sort it takes a lot of thought, research, analysis, knowledge, understanding and obviously intangibles. When it comes to sports, it is always hard to rank certain players by position because of many different factors. Also, every expert has their own take on these lists and use different criteria when putting together such a list.

There are a few important notes to make when putting this particular list together. First of all, in my list the pitcher can be either a starter or relief pitcher. Of course, most of the pitchers that will make the list are starters, but there are a few relief pitchers that cannot be ignored. Secondly, it should also be noted that the 1990-Present Pitching Class occurred during the “Steroid/PED” era. However, although a lot of these pitchers have been linked to certain substances, it does not disqualify them from being in this List.

My Top 25 List will not be done in any set order, because of many reasons, one of which is that some of these pitchers are still active and have not completed their careers. As with any list, I am sure there will be disagreements and arguments against who made the list. This will always be true as each and every analyst has their own set of standards when it comes to athletes. The list will include certain players that have retired and some of them may have began their careers before 1990.
Best of the Best:
Greg Maddux- Greg Maddux probably makes the Top 10 List of all time…he was that good. He went 355-227, 3.16 ERA, 109 Complete Games, 35 Shutouts, 5008 Innings Pitched, 3371 Strikeouts and 999 Walks. Maddux pitched the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. His peak was in the mid nineties when he won Four consecutive CY Young Awards in a row from 1992-1995. Maddux was a master on the mound and rarely made mistakes. His control was exceptional and he definitely was one of the most dominant starters of this era.

Roger Clemens- Roger’s name has unfortunately been linked to steroids. However, Regardless of this black mark, Clemens was still one of the most dominant starters in MLB history. His numbers definitely support his place as one of the “Greats” but the PED allegations definitely sting. For his career which he pitched for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Houston Astros. Roger Clemens won an unheard of six CY Young Awards during his illustrious career. He was 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 118 Complete Games, 46 Shutouts, 4916 Innings Pitched, 4672 Strikeouts and 1580 Walks. As I stated, if not for the steroid allegations, Clemens would be in the Top 10.

Randy Johnson- Randy Johnson began his career with the Montreal Expos. Johnson was a freak of nature standing at 6’10”. His nick name was the “Big Unit” which uniquely described his imposing figure on the mound. He pitched the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and finished with the San Francisco Giants. He finished his career with a 303-166 Record, 3.29 ERA, 4135 Innings Pitched, 4875 Strikeouts, 100 Complete Games, 37 Shutouts, and 1497 walks. Johnson won 5 CY Young Awards, was a 10 Time All Star, threw a no-hitter as well as a perfect game, and was the World Series MVP of 2001. Johnson was definitely the best southpaw ever during this era.

Mariano Rivera- Rivera is the first Reliever to make this list. Rivera is still active and has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees. For his career he is 76-58, 2.21 ERA, 1130 Strikeouts in 1230 Innings Pitched, a MLB record 618 Saves in 691 opportunities, an amazing 14 (30 Save Seasons), 7 (40 Save Seasons) and 2 (50 Save Seasons), 12 Time All Star, 5 Time Rolaids Relief Man of Year, 5 Time World Series Champion including a World Series MVP in 1999, an unprecedented 42 Post Season Saves in 141 Innings Pitched, an 8-1 Record and 110 Strikeouts and only 21 Walks. Rivera in my mind has to receive some votes for the Top 10 Pitchers of all time and is definitely the most dominant reliever to ever don a baseball uniform. Rivera as mentioned has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees.

Pedro Martinez- Pedro Martinez is the wild card of the list as he is well under 300 Wins for his career, but had it not been for injuries, he may have eclipsed this mark and then some. Martinez played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies. He ended his career 219-100, 2.93 ERA, 2827 Innings Pitched, 3154 Strikeouts, 760 Walks, 46 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, and a .687 winning percentage which is the highest among pitchers with 200 wins in history. He won 3 CY Young Awards and was an 8 Time All Star. In 1999, Pedro went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 Strikeouts. He only had 37 Walks in 213 Innings Pitched. This may be one of the greatest seasons on the modern pitching era. In 1997, he went 17-8, with a minuscule 1.90 ERA, 305 Strikeouts and only 67 Walks in 241 Innings Pitched with an amazing 13 Complete Games and 4 Shutouts. In 2000, Martinez had a career best 1.74 ERA. Martinez could have been so much more.

Tom Glavine- Glavine was one of the three stars that dominated the nineties and 2000’s for the Atlanta Braves along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. Tom Glavine finished his career with a 305-203 Record, 5 (20 Win Seasons), 3.54 ERA, 56 Complete Games, 25 Shutouts, 4413 Innings Pitched, 2607 Strikeouts and 1500 Walks. Glavine was also a 10 Time All Star, World Series MVP in 1995, and a 2 Time CY Young Award Winner. Tom Glavine was never an overpowering pitcher, but instead painted the corners like a master. Glavine in his prime was top notch.

John Smoltz- The Third member of the vaunted Atlanta Braves rotation during the nineties and 2000’s. John Smoltz is the only Starter/Reliever to make this list. Smoltz finished his career 213-154, 3.33 ERA, 53 Complete Games, 16 Shutouts, another 154 Saves, 3473 Innings Pitched, 3074 Strikeouts, 1010 Walks, in 21 Seasons. John Smoltz may not have the wins and Noteriety of Maddux or Glavine, but he was money in the post season. In the Playoffs, Smoltz was a tremendous 15-4, 2.67 ERA, 209 Innings Pitched, 199 Strikeouts, 67 Walks. He was a 1Time CY Young Award Winner as well as a One Time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, an 8 Time All Star, and a 3 Time 40 Save Closer. Smoltz easily makes this list.

Curt Schilling- Curt Schilling is one if those pitchers that peaked later in his career and may have had better stats if he started earlier. With that being said, Curt Schilling was still one of the most dominant starters if his time. During his career he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Boston Red Sox while beginning his career with Baltimore and Houston. Schilling was 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 83 Complete Games, 20 Shutouts, 3116 Strikeouts in 3261 Innings Pitched, 711 Walks, 6 Time All Star and 3 Time World Series Champion. Schilling was a 3 Time 20 Game Winner, 3 Time 300 Strikeout Pitcher, and a 15 Complete Game Starter in 1998. In 5 Post Seasons, Schilling went 11-2, while posting a 2.23 ERA, 123 Strikeouts, 25 Walks in 133 Innings Pitched. He also finished with 4 Complete Games and 2 Shutouts. He won the World Series MVP in 2001 for the DiamondBacks and the NLCS MVP for the Phillies in 1993.

Mike Mussina- Mike did most if his damage as the most quiet pitcher on this list. First of all, he spent a majority of his career with the Baltimore Orioles and was their ACE during a time period where the team was really bad. During his 18 Year Career, Mussina was 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3562 Innings Pitched, 2813 Strikeouts, 785 Walks, 57 Complete Games, 23 Shutouts, 5 Time All Star and one of the oldest pitchers to win 20 Games at age 39. Mussina only won 20 games once and that was as a Yankee. However, he was extremely consistent and put up some pretty darn good numbers.

David Cone- In 17 Seasons, Cone went 194-126, 3.46 ERA, 2893 Innings Pitched, 2668 Strikeouts, 1137 Walks, 56 Complete Games, 22 Shutouts, 2 (20 Win Seasons), 1 CY Young Award, 5 Time All Star and 5 Time World Series Champion. Cone also pitched a perfect game in 1999 as a New York Yankee. In his 17 Year Career he has an 8-3 PostSeason Record.

Orel Hershiser- Orel Hershiser finished his 17 Year Career with a 204-150 Record. He had a lifetime 3.48 ERA in 3130 Innings Pitched, 2014 Strikeouts, 68 Complete Games and 25 Shutouts, 1007 Walks. Hershiser was also a 3 Time All Star, 1 Time CY Young Award Winner, 1 Time World Series Champion as well as a World Series MVP. Hershiser holds the MLB record of pitching 59 Consecutive Scoreless Innings!

Ok, we’ll that was the Top 10. Now I will give you my 15 Remaining. Some of these pitchers are still active and some are retired.
1) David Wells (239-157, 2201K’s)
2) Kevin Brown (211-144, 3.28ERA)
3) Brett Saberhagen (167-117, 2xCY Young)
4) Dwight Gooden (194-112, 2293K’s)
5) Chuck Finley (200-173, 2610 K’s)
6) Jaime Moyer (269-209, 2441 K’s)
7) Roy Halladay (201-103, 67 Complete Games, 2x CY Young, 2097 K’s, 3.35 ERA)
8) CC Sabathia (195-104, 3.50 ERA, 1xCY Young, 2250 K’s)
9) Johan Santana (139-78, 3.20 ERA, 1988 K’s, 2xCY Young, 1st Mets No Hitter)
10) Justin Verlander (127-67, 1x CY Young, 1495 K’s, 2 No Hitters.
11) Billy Wagner- ( 422 Saves, 2.31 ERA, 1196 K’s, 9 (30 Save Seasons)
12) Roy Oswalt (163-96, 1818 K’s, 3x All Star)
13) Trevor Hoffman ( 601 Saves, 2.87 ERA)
14) Cliff Lee (127-79, 3.58 ERA, 1xCY Young, 1658 K’s)
15) Josh Beckett (132-98, 1xCY Young, 2x World Series Champion, 2x World Series MVP)



223. That is the single season strikeout record set by Mark Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. Adam Dunn came oh so close in 2012 fanning an astounding 222 times. A year after Reynolds set the record, he struck out 211 times making him the first MLB History to strike out 200 times in 3 seasons. He also struck out 204 times in 2008 and in 2011 he fanned 196 times with the Orioles. If he keeps this pace he definitely will set the MLB Career strikeout record easily.

Another modern star, Ryan Howard has struck out an amazing 157 times in 2010, 172 times in 2011, 186 times in 2009, and 199 times in both 2007 and 2008. 199 to me is just the same as 200. One short. Anyway, rounding out the list of 200 strikeout victims is Drew Stubbs of the Cincinnati Reds, who struck out 205 times in 2011.

Reggie Jackson is still the all time leader in punch outs at this point with an embarrassing 2,597 career strikeouts. Jim Thome, who has bounced all over the American and National League could break this record this season as he has 2,548. Sammy Sosa comes in third with 2,036 followed by Alex Rodriguez with 2,032 and Adam Dunn with 2,031. At this point when it is all said and done…Dunn will probably have the dubious credit of striking out a major league number of times.

Why does this topic have so much relevance in the decline of the game. Lets take a look at Rob Deer in the eighties. Rob Deer has some dubious statistics that will blow the average fan’s mind. First of all, in 1991 he officially had the worst average at .179, while still qualifying for a batting title. He is also the only player since 1910 to hit less than .220 in 4 seasons with 450 or more at bats. Deer had the American League single season record of 186 Punch Outs until he was past by Jack Kust. Most notably, Deer had seven seasons of 140 or more strikeouts.

The bottom line is that a record number of players are striking out a record number of times each year and if it continues these records will all follow. Strikeouts have become just as important and hassling at the same time. When all of these players strike out its just giving a bad first impression. The old time players did not strike out 100 times often, if they did they still had 200 Hits 30 Home Runs 100 RBI Etc. The On Base Percentages were also much more higher.

Ok…the other side of the argument is that we are now unfortunately living in the “pitch count era.” Complete Games are few and far between these days. Managers and Pitching Coaches are so routine that it may actually be ruining the sanctity of the game. Instead of letting the “ace” or “horse” go the distance…these pitchers are removed regardless of how well they are pitching and often they will leave the game on the winning side and when the game is over the team has lost.

What this phenomenon does not try to prove is that bullpens are not important and should be eradicated. Instead, one would argue that bullpens are still a very important part of the team concept and having a good bullpen can take a team far into the playoffs and ultimately a championship. However, at what cost are we taking starting pitchers out of the game way too early.

I can think of a few examples already in this fresh new 2013 season. Last Week, New York Met’s prospect Matt Harvey had a stellar first start. Harvey had went 7 Innings, while striking out ten batters and only walking two and giving up one measly hit. At this point he had only thrown less than ninety pitches and was on a pace for 110-112. Ok, one would argue, it’s early in the season and why risk “pushing a pitcher past their limit.” I say, bullshit. However, the Mets coaches stuck to the game plan and removed Harvey after 7 Innings. By the time was over, the bullpen had surrendered 2 Runs and Five Hits. This is a very frustrating concept.

Pre 1900, it was not uncommon for pitchers to throw as many complete games as starts. During this era, the average for complete games was 30. Pitchers were expected to complete games that they had started. Unfortunately, in the Twentieth Century the “Complete Game” is almost non existent. Today a good modern pitcher, staff ace, CY Young candidate may have an average of two complete games with five being unheard of.

For example, in 2012 only 2.6 percent of all Games included a complete game. To put this in perspective, as recently as the 1980’s, it was not uncommon to see good starters toss 10-15 complete games a season. In fact, in 1980, Oakland A’s Star Rick Langford threw 22 Consecutive Complete Games! Robin Roberts, a former Phillies ace threw 28 consecutive complete games in the 1950’s.

Not too long ago, Nolan Ryan threw 200 pitches in one game. That will probably never be done again. The new philosophy adheres to strict pitch counts and the evidence points to the fact that arm injuries increase after 100 pitches have been thrown. CY Young holds the current record of 749 Complete Games, a feat that will never be broken.

James Shields, the Tampa Devil Ray’s ace threw 11 complete games in 2011, the most since CC Sabathia’s 10 in 2008. The last pitcher to reach 15 Complete Games was the Phillies Curt Schilling who threw 15 Complete Games in 1998. Fernando Valenzuela was the last pitcher to throw 20 Complete games in 1980. Catfish Hunter had 30 in 1975. So the trend is very significant as you can see.

To put this theory in better perspective, the active leader in Complete Games is Roy Halladay with 66 in his entire career, with a career high of nine in 2010 for the Phillies. During that season, Halladay threw 251 Innings, went 19-10 and had a career high 230 K’s while only walking 30. He became the first Pitcher to amass 250 innings and only have 30 Walks since Grover Cleveland in 1923.

It’s obvious that Complete Games are becoming a thing of the past. Hitters are striking out in record numbers while starting pitchers are throwing less innings and getting less wins. These trends are really hurting the sanctity of Major League Baseball. My good friend Aaron has been researching these trends a lot and has very good insight on the problem. Stay tuned to Aaron for his vision, his ideas, and a solution to the problem.