The Top 100 Pitchers in MLB History

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WAR is updated through the 2017 season.

WAR totals are  from Baseball Reference after they changed their replacement levels.

Clicking on a pitcher's picture will send you to their Baseball-Reference page.   Notice that many of the pitchers' pictures/Baseball-Reference links are located on the other pages.

 

                                                                               

1. Walter Johnson - HOF

                                                                   WAR + WAA    276 

 Johnson was the most dominating pitcher in ML history and one of the greatest hitting pitchers in ML history as well.  His 110 WAA is the best ever, as are his eight pitcher WAR (pWAR) leaderships.  Johnson led the league in strikeouts 12x, complete games 6x, and shutouts 8x.  Johnson had over 10 total WAR (tWAR) eight times, which is as many as Clemens, Young, Maddux, and Seaver combined.  The only factor that can be argued against Johnson being the best pitcher ever is that Clemens' LQ was so much better that he edges ahead of Johnson.  That is a legit discussion point, but my LQ adjustments are not as large enough to dethrone the Big Train.

2. Roger Clemens

                                                                                                                             WAR + WAA    236

 

Based on my rankings of Clemens, you have probably guessed that I am not penalizing him for PED use.  It is not that I condone or ignore PED usage. It is just that with so many unknown factors, such as who used and how much impact PED's really have on pitchers, I have no way of knowing how to penalize Clemens and a few others on this list.  My stance on PED's and Clemens, etc. could change if I know more, but until then, I have to look at what Clemens did on the diamond.  And for the record, even if I heavily docked Clemens for assumed PED use after the mid-90's, I would still have Clemens in or near my top 10.  That is how incredible Clemens was.

3. Cy Young - HOF

                                                                                                                      WAR + WAA    273


Young is the all-time leader in pitching WAR.  He led in pWAR seven times and in tWAR six times.  Astonishingly, Young finished in the top six in pitcher WAR 17x.  Yes, 17!   Young made an amazing transition from 19th century baseball to modern baseball and dominated despite rule and style changes that swallowed up many of the other great pitchers of his era.  Despite concern over league quality, I have no beef putting Young third all-time for these reasons.  Unfortunately, when the award for league's best pitcher is named after you, but you weren't the best pitcher of all-time, backlash is guaranteed.  I find it mind-boggling when I see people placing Young outside of their top 6 or 7.  It would take a massive league quality adjustment to move him outside of the top five, in my opinion. 

4. Greg Maddux - HOF

                                                             WAR + WAA    174                         

Maddux vs. Seaver (two spots lower) is one I flip back and forth on all the time.  Both were dominating in their eras with similar career WAR and WAA totals.  Here is why I give the slight edge to Maddux:  Maddux had two all-time seasons cut short for labor issues, whereas Seaver had only one.  Therefore, I think Maddux closes the WAR "gap" a little bit there.  I also believe that issues with batted ball assumptions and team defense from TZ is leading Maddux to being shortchanged 2-3 WAR over his prime, which would probably push him over Seaver in raw WAR and WAA.  Third, I think Maddux' top 3-4 years slightly outpace Seaver's top 3-4 years to tip the scales. Finally, Maddux also widens-the-gap in FIP based WAR and other WAR systems (like from BaseballGauge). On the other hand, Seaver does have a giant WPA "clutch" score and a slight postseason lead.  Like I said, I flip back and forth.

5. Lefty Grove - HOF

                                                                                                                            WAR + WAA    170

 

So what happens when your top two lefties of all-time both have virtually identical WAR and WAA numbers?  Breaking the tie isn't easy.  I pick Grove for the following reasons.  First, Grove was a much better postseason pitcher.  Second, both men were terrible hitters, but Grove didn't get to dodge hitting as Johnson did for half of his career.  That extra negative WAR that Johnson would have accumulated would make a little difference.  Third, Grove was stuck dominating the International League for five seasons before getting a chance to play in the majors.  To me, those three factors put Grove slightly ahead (two spots here) despite the league quality gap.  I would have no issues at all with the two being switched however.

6. Tom Seaver - HOF

                                                                 WAR + WAA   180

See above comments on Greg Maddux!

7. Randy Johnson - HOF

                                                               WAR + WAA    168

See above comments on Grove!                                                  

8. Pete Alexander - HOF

                                                                                                                          WAR + WAA    200      

          

Alexander is the forgotten man in the top 10.  Alexander led the league in pitching WAR six times and finished in the top five in total WAR 10 times.  His career WAA and WAR totals are both 4th all-time.   Alexander did many of the traditional things right too: Pete led the league in wins six times, led the league in ERA five times, won 373 games overall, and had a legendary World Series moment.  It is hard to see how Grover Cleveland has been so overlooked over time.  My guess is because he really didn't play with a lot of successful teams until he was nearing the end of his prime in St. Louis.  Without being the hero of the 1926 World Series, Ole Pete may even be more unfairly obscured today.

9. Christy Mathewson - HOF

                                                                 WAR + WAA    166    

At one time, Mathewson was considered by many historians to be the best or second best pitcher in baseball history, often times connected to his larger-than-life persona and good boy image.  Naturally, there was initial sabermetric backlash and much internet flaming.  Bottom line, Mathewson led the league in pitching WAR six times and had five pitching triple crowns (if you are into that sort of thing.)  Mathewson's 97 WAR and 64 WAA are both 9th all-time and his postseason numbers are beyond incredible.  Even though not one of the top few pitchers in history, I am glad that the most current advanced metrics are justifying much of the praise heaped upon him while active.

10. Warren Spahn - HOF

                                                                                                                  WAR + WAA    149 


Spahn gets labeled as the ultimate "always really good, never great" guy.   With 13 top-10 WAR finishes, his amazingly consistent quality pitching is evident.  However, Spahn did have three seasons with 7.7 or more WAR, with two over 8.5 and one over 9, so Spahn was no compiler.  You just do not compile 50 WAA.  On top of it, without missing three seasons to WW2, Spahn's WAR would likely have been well past 100. Finally, Spahn's + 6 WPA "clutch" score is one of the best marks in history.  On a side note, Spahn also gets tagged as being a finesse pitcher, despite leading the league in strikeouts four times.

11. Pedro Martinez - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    143                

Make no mistake about it, Martinez was arguably the most dominating pitcher in the history of MLB, considering quality of competition.  So why is Martinez not in my top 10?   Even in an era of shortened innings, Pedro was not close to the innings eater of his HOF contemporaries.  In fact, Martinez only finished in the top five in IP once in his career and only in the top 10 six times.  That is why despite having an astonishing 59 WAA over his career, his WAR is "only" at 81.  With a little more quantity to go with the mind-blowing quality, Pedro would be right up there or higher than Clemens, Maddux, and Johnson.

12. Bob Gibson - HOF

                                                                   WAR + WAA    145

 Possibly tired of hearing Tim McCarver gush over Gibson every twenty minutes of every telecast, there has been a bit of a backlash against the "Gibson as top 10 pitcher" standpoint in recent years.  Newer analytical stats show that those beliefs were not far off the mark.  Gibson's 85 WAR and 55 WAA are both incredible marks, and his famed postseason dominance is the stuff of legends.  His 32.5 WAR stretch from 1968 to 1970 with both his arm and bat being some of the top in history.  I don't have him in my top 10 either, but it wouldn't be much of a stretch.

13. Kid Nichols - HOF

                                                                     WAR + WAA    191      

Nichols was without question the best pitcher who spent the majority of his career in the 19th Century.  His 191 WAR + WAA is 4th all-time, and even with a severe league quality adjustment, those credentials are tough to keep outside of a top 12-15 pitchers.  It could be argued that in the 1890's Nichols was every bit Cy Young's equal.  It was what Cy Young did after 1900 that separates the two.  It should be noted that since Nichols leaving to manage and pitch for a minor league team in 1902-1903 was his own choice, I do not give him credit for missing those seasons as I would for war service, etc.                                                    

14. Bob Feller - HOF

                                                                                                                        WAR + WAA    96    


With even a conservative estimation,  WW2 likely cost Feller 30 WAR and 20 WAA.  I know that it is impossible to project what a player would have done over hypothetical seasons, but I feel like a best-shot estimate could be made.  Feller was deprived of almost four full seasons during his prime, and I think that should be accounted for.  Of course there is no way of knowing how saving his arm those four seasons affected his ability to keep pitching longer at the end of his career, but since he was not a great pitcher at the end,  I don't think what he would lose comes within the same galaxy of what he gains by projecting.  In fact, Feller has negative WAR over his last five seasons, so chopping off those last few years (for arm-saving penalty) doesn't hurt him at all. Feller was undoubtedly the greatest pitcher of his generation with a monster peak.

15. Steve Carlton - HOF

                                                           WAR + WAA   137

16. Bert Blyleven - HOF

                                                                 WAR + WAA    146

17. Phil Niekro - HOF

                                                                                                                    WAR + WAA    146






18. Gaylord Perry - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    134   

 

          

Niekro, Carlton, Blyleven, and Perry are all very similar pitchers with similar career shapes and statistics.  All but the 4-time Cy winner Carlton were wrongly considered compilers by many fans, had less-than-historic winning percentages, had lots of so-so seasons mixed in with good to great ones, and were all huge innings eaters. Putting them into any conceivable order is a difficult feat, at best.  I gave it a try anyway.

Since Perry lagged behind in both WAR and WAA, had the worst postseason success of the four, and has his top years lagging behind some of the others as well,  I put him last.  I have seen some analytical discussion that WAR is overrating Niekro due to park factors and how they interact with his specific batted ball type.  I am also skeptical that his ATL defenses were quite as bad as Total Zone suggests as I would prefer to regress the most extreme defensive support numbers.  Considering those factors, I will put him after Carlton and Bert despite leading the whole pack in both WAR + WAA.   I put Carlton slightly over Blyleven as well due to Blyleven's worse WPA "clutch" score in his best seasons and the fact that Cartlon's top 2-3 years are better than Blyleven's. This is where subjectivity comes in - in a toss-up, 1972 pushes Carlton over the top. 

Am I confident about any of their placement relative to each other?  No.  Interchange all of them as you wish.

19. Curt Schilling

                                                                                                               WAR + WAA     133


Schilling was more than just a dominating postseason pitcher with some big performances on the big stage. When Schilling was healthy, he was one of the best in the history of MLB at not allowing runs.  Despite struggling to get over 3,200 innings in a 20 year career, Schilling compiled a whopping 487 runs saved better than an average starting pitcher.  When he pitched, he was dominating.  Unfortunately for Schilling's reputation, he was around during the four-headed monster of pitching all-timers, a seperate 300 game winner, and a pitcher with similar bubblegum card stats plus a bunch of saves.  Schilling, despite his in-season greatness and postseason heroics was vastly underrated.

20. Robin Roberts - HOF

                                                                                                                 WAR + WAA    128


Roberts had an amazing stretch of dominance, becoming the only pitcher in MLB history to lead the league in IP five consecutive years.  Roberts also led the NL in pitching WAR 6x.  The only thing keeping him from being higher, is that outside of his top six/seven season, Roberts was not a spectacular pitcher.   In a statistical dead-heat with Jenkins, that run from 1950-1955 puts him ahead.                              

21. Mike Mussina

                                                              WAR + WAA     132  

So how does a pitcher this great manage to be so underrated?  Mussina pitched in the same league at times with Clemens, Johnson, Schilling and Pedro.  In fact, in typical eras, Mussina had several years he could have won the Cy Young.  While in his prime, Moose pitched with mostly blah teams in Baltimore and never got the attention he would have in other places.  Mussina missed two more 20-win seasons in 94 and 95 due to the shortened schedules.  Finally, after having a fantastic season, Mussina decided to retire with plenty left in the tank.   Unfortunately, those factors, which for the most part are outside of Mussina's control, may keep him out of Cooperstown. But we know the truth!

22. Eddie Plank - HOF

                                                                    WAR + WAA     140

Plank was never confused for Walter Johnson but was very, very good for a very, very long time.  Despite never leading the league in WAR a single time, Plank finished in the top 10 thirteen times.  Plank was also fantastic in the four World Series that he played in.  Plank's consistent greatness led to the 15th highest WAR+WAA ranking of all time and looks even MORE dominant in Baseball Gauge WAR.

23. Fergie Jenkins - HOF

                                                                    WAR + WAA    130

Jenkins got dwarfed in the media by Koufax, Gibson, Seaver,  Marichal, Carlton and others despite having seven 20-win seasons on a plethora of bad teams.  On top of it, Jenkins only made three AS games which is shocking.   Jenkins never had the opportunity to pitch in the postseason as he spent most of his time playing with those previously mentioned bad teams.  It was the perfect storm that led to a guy with almost 85 WAR and 45 WAA to be seriously overlooked over history. Of course, they didn't have WAR back then, but you get my point.

24. Roy Halladay

                                                        WAR + WAA    104

The late, great Roy Halladay eight seasons over 5 WAR  (and eight top-4 finishes).  Doc was easily the best pitcher of the 00's overall, even if Santana was better over a small stretch of that time. Unfortunately, Halladay will likely not approach the magic milestones needed for his reputation to match his true production even after his untimely death. Hopefully the BBWAA will remember his peak appropriately and elect him promptly.

25. John Clarkson - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    130

The biggest thing to me that separates Clarkson from guys like Keefe, Radbourn and Rusie is the fact that he led all NL players in total WAR 4x. That is more than Kid Nichols, for perspective.   Even in the 19th century, that was quite an accomplishment that very few players have been able to do over history.

26. Jim Palmer  - HOF

                                                                                                                      WAR + WAA   102


Many people would have Palmer in their top 20 pitchers ever with his underwear drawer full of 20 win seasons, Cy Youngs,  great ERAs, and win%, etc.  Of course, sabermetricaly speaking, Palmer gets devalued a tad due to the fact he played longer with more outstanding defenses than any other pitcher in major league history.  According to Total Zone, Robinson, Belanger, Blair, Grich, et al. saved Palmer almost 150 runs defensively.  If not stripped out, his WAR would be near 85.  Now there are persistent accounts of Palmer intentionally pitching to contact in a way that his best fielders got the most chances.  This line of thought is supported by Baseball Gauge's WAR which has Palmer about 15 WAR + WAA higher than TZ based WAR.  Palmer also had outstanding situational splits and postseason numbers.  Balancing it all out, I think standard tats my still be overvaluing Palmer a bit - but not by much.

 

27. Ed Walsh - HOF

                                                                WAR + WAA    105

Walsh was more dominating and for a slightly longer period of time than Koufax or Marichal with a little more value outside of his peak. With that in mind, I had to weigh that information with the league quality issue.  When it is all said and done, his scores in Baseball Guage's version of WAR and his higher peak scores in BBRef WAR are enough to me to overlook the LQ component.

28. Nolan Ryan - HOF

                                                                   WAR + WAA   115

 

The exploits and sabermetric shortcomings of Ryan are both well-documented.  Ryan was good for an incredibly long period of time with a few shining moments of domination thrown in.  The reasons why he allowed (relatively) so many runs despite his historic K, HR/9, and BABIP rates are also much discussed.  Regardless, the proof is in the pudding as far as run prevention, and in that regards, he wasn't nearly as good as many other less-heralded pitchers.  That beong said, I have to give him a boost based on his FIP WAR from Famgraphs, knowing he probably got unlucky over his career in a few batted-ball related areas.

29. Clayton Kershaw

                                                                 WAR + WAA     113 

Kershaw led the league in ERA four straight seasons from 2011 through 2014 and pitcher WAR three straight seasons from 2012-2014.  At age 29, he could end up really, really high on this list when it is all said-and-done. Easily the best pitcher of his generation (so far).  Recent injuries and drops-in-peripherals are becoming a tad concerning.

30. Juan Marichal - HOF

                                                                                                                           WAR + WAA    94

 

Marichal's WAR and WAA totals are not in the league of most of the pitchers this high, but he did average a little under 8 WAR per season over his best six seasons.  In fact, his top four seasons stand toe-to-toe with Koufax, and he had better secondary seasons on top of it. There are a few more small factors that make me put Marichal this high -  Marichal's WPA "clutch" score was very good during almost all of his best seasons, and he was very good in the few postseason starts he made. Finally, I have seen some different sabermetric analyses that are much more favorable of Marichal than brWAR.

31. Sandy Koufax - HOF

                                                                                               WAR + WAA    76

Some would say that Koufax is one of the top five pitchers in the game's history while others would say that because of his short career and relatively deflated sabermetric standing that Koufax is ranked too high here.  I have four main reasons why I have Koufax as high as I do. 1.  His four-year peak from 1963-1966 in which he averaged over 9 WAR per season was spectacular.  2.  I do give Koufax "career-ending-injury-during-prime" credit.  3.  He was impossibly dominating in the postseason.  4. Based on his crazy home/away splits, which are far more extreme than for all of the other left-handed (or right-handed) pitchers in his stadiums, I truly feel like Koufax did something of his own accord which took advantage of his park in which current WAR park factors are not giving him credit for.  For that reason, I think WAR is underrating his peak and career.  That being said - his peak was not so much better than other great peaks that he belongs in the top 20 despite such a short career.

32. Carl Hubbell    - HOF

                                                                                                                             WAR + WAA   106  


Okay, so advanced stats say that I am overrating Hubbell.  65 WAR and 38 WAA are great numbers, but they're not top 30 numbers for a guy in a pre-integration league.  Now Hubbell was an incredible postseason pitcher and led the league in WAR twice, but this is a situation in which I am allowing (maybe incorrectly) subjectivity to push a guy higher up than he should be.  I know I may move him down someday, but I will keep him here for now, waiting for some tweak in WAR to justify my preconceived notion.  :)                                

33. Dazzy Vance - HOF

                                                                    WAR + WAA   96

 

There really is not a lot separating Vance and Waddell other than a slight LQ advantage for Vance and the fact that he was held back in the minors for so long early in his career.  They were both big-time characters and were head-and-shoulders better K pitchers than everybody else at the time.

34. Tom Glavine - HOF

                                                                                                WAR + WAA  127  

Confused by many as a compiler, Glavine amassed 46 WAA for his career and over 54 WAR in his top ten seasons.  Glavine is not to be confused with Pedro Martinez or anything, but he is certainly not Don Sutton either.  Glavine became the poster-child for how to have a HOF career without above average strikeout ability.  Pretty much, he did it by being above average at everything else.  From limiting homeruns and stolen bases, to preventing HBP and WPs, to inducing double plays, to having a better than average BABIP, to stranding runners at prolific rates, to being an all-time great fielder and a great hitter, Glavine did everything else very well and became a rare pitcher that could consistently outperform his peripherals each year.                                                                                     

35. Kevin Brown

                                                                  WAR + WAA    109

Brown was a solid pitcher in the AL before running off five dominating seasons in the NL which included taking two success-starved franchises to the WS in back-to-back seasons.  Brown should have won the Cy Young in 1996 and 1998 and even got to play in the media hotbeds of NY and LA.  So why was he a one-and-done candidate for the Hall of Fame? Word on the street is that everyone who ever met him hated him. Also, he was wrapped up in the PED scandal, was overlooked by about ten bigger pitching names, had a pretty poor postseason resume overall, and never came close to living up to his mega free agent deal at the end of his career.  He is yet another example of perception not matching with reality.

36. Wes Ferrell

                                                                                                WAR + WAA   97

I know what you are thinking.  #36?  Really?  Yes, really.  As you may have realized by now, I do care about how many runs a pitcher created with his bat over the average MLB pitcher.  After-all, a run prevented is close in value to run created.  Factoring in Ferrell's bat, Wes ran off an incredible 56 total WAR in his top eight seasons- one of the top peaks of any pitcher ever.  So why isn't he even higher?  Well, outside of those eight seasons, Ferrell was pretty much useless in his other seven seasons, gaining only 1.2 total WAR.

37. Hal Newhouser    - HOF

                                                                WAR + WAA    103      

Ah, here's another league quality issue.   Newhouser had a Koufax-like stretch from 1944 to 1949.  The issue is that his best three years by far were 1944-1946, seasons affected to a small degree (46) to a massive degree (44-45) by WW2.  Taken at face value, Hewhouser's 40 WAA and dominating peak would land him a little higher, but I have to drop him some because of his being able to feast off of what was a very weak AL during a big chunk of his peak.

38. David Cone

                                                                 WAR + WAA    99

 

Despite playing on two New York teams, winning five WS, winning a Cy Young award, finishing in the top six in Cy Voting five other times and making six AS games, Cone got obscured by his bigger name contemporaries and got booted off of the BBWAA ballot in one year.  Cone also had the "misprivilege" of having his two best seasons during work stoppages.  His perception may have been a lot different with over 200 wins and two more 20-win seasons.  I do consider those types of shortened seasons while ranking players.

39. Jim Bunning    - HOF

                                                                 WAR + WAA    87

Bunning was unreal in 5-6 seasons, pitching with or outpitching the likes of Ford, Koufax, Gibson, and Marichal on several occasions.  The problem with Bunning is, other than those 5-6 huge years and a few other good ones, Bunning was not a good pitcher at all.  Either way, Bunning is a peak-season guy whose total WAR+WAA cannot paint his full picture.  As you know by now, I do consider postseason play when ranking.  The dilemma brought up by Bunning, is that he never had a single opportunity to pitch in the postseason.  I really do not want to dock him or any pitcher for that lack of opportunity.

40. Rube Waddell - HOF

                                                                   WAR + WAA    91

As one of the game's most eccentric and colorful personalities, Waddell was also a dominating force for about five years.  In that five year span, Waddell led baseball in K's all five seasons and finished in the top three in WAR all five seasons as well. 

41. John Smoltz - HOF

                                                                   WAR + WAA   111    

 

Smoltz' lack of 6+ WAR seasons is a little surprising, but he managed a whole lot of 4+ seasons and ended up looking like a modern version of Ted Lyons as a starter with a few dominating years coming out of the bullpen on top of it.  Smoltz was the dominating postseason pitcher that a lot of people pretend Jack Morris was.

   

42. Don Drysdale - HOF

                                                              WAR + WAA    102

63 WAR and 35 WAA is a lot to fill a 14 year career.  Drysdale, with his low W total and relatively modest W/L percentage was viewed as a HOF mistake by many at one time and even by some in the sabermetric community.  Newer metrics show Drysdale to be a very strong HOFer with a lot of replacement value added per season by being a major IP eater, having a very good rate of not allowing runs, and having a very strong bat.

43. Bret Saberhagen

                                                                                                                                 WAR + WAA    96


The often-injured and sometimes inconsistent Saberhagen is another underrated 80's great.  Sabes was one amazing season by Clemens and one amazing season by Maddux from deserving four Cy Youngs.  Saberhagen's top four seasons stand up well with any post-1960's pitchers not named Maddux, Clemens, Johnson, Kershaw, or Pedro.

44. Tim Keefe - HOF

                                                                     WAR  + WAA    136

Since a big portion of Keefe's value came in his whopping 20 WAR season of 1883 in the American Association, I am inclined to believe that his ranking may be way too high here.  Keefe only had two other top-3 WAR seasons despite a shallow pool of pitchers and spending short stints in the Players League and the AA.

45. Dave Stieb

                                                                      WAR + WAA     89  

Stieb quietly was the AL's best pitcher of the decade, leading the league in WAR 3x.  With seven AS appearances, Cy Young votes 4x, and an ERA title, it is astonishing that he was a one-and-done ballot guy.  This was probably due to his artificially low in-season and career win totals.                 

46. Stan Coveleski - HOF

                                                                     WAR + WAA      91

As one of the players who took advantage of the grandfathered spitball rule, Coveleski had a monster peak and outstanding postseason run.  I have never docked the "grandfathered spittballers" to this point and do not intend to do so in the future, but I can see the case against them.                        

47. Red Ruffing - HOF

                                                                       WAR + WAA     101

Ruffing needs a large batting and postseason boost and a small WW2 boost to get this high.   Of course Ruffing forces us to contemplate what to do when evaluating players who get off to terrible starts early in their careers before everything "clicks".  Do we consider those pre-"finding themselves" days or do we start caring when they "discover their HOF selves?  I vote for the former.

48. Mariano Rivera

                                                                                                                    WAR + WAA    90


Rivera was a dominating reliever and fabulous postseason performer.  I just can't rank a reliever higher than this.  It is worth noting that all of the other relievers on this list require a big leveraging adjustment to even approach these other HOF-calliber pitchers.  Rivera reaches those heights without nearly the LI adjustment needed.  Based only on runs saved above average alone with no reliever adjustments, Rivera would have a HOF case.

49. Ted Lyons - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    104    

Lyons is sort of the second version of Eddie Plank or the early version of Tom Glavine.  The unfortunately forgotten Lyons was very much above average every year but lacked the monster seasons of some of his contemporaries.  Even though Lyons was in his 40's when WW2 hit, I still give him some war credit as he led the league in ERA the year before he left for service.

50. Whitey Ford - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    90

Ford is an interesting case.  He has a good WAA to WAR ratio because he was used less than other stars of the era, but that was by managerial design, not because of his own ability.  Ford was held out of starts in order to face good teams more often, so that balances things out a little bit.  It stands to mention that Ford was a good hitter, had a very good WPA "clutch" score, and was a postseason success.   All factors considered, I don't think he makes my top 50 without a Korean War credit for missing two seasons. 

51. Dennis Eckersley - HOF

                                                             WAR + WAA    94  

Criminally underrated as a starter and usually a little overrated as a closer,  Eck combined everything nicely into one heck of a career.   I really don't think people remember how good of a starter Eck was during his first five years or so.  Sabermetricaly speaking, Eck earns a much larger share of his WAR total from starting than relieving.  Of course a fully comprehensive leveraging component is not included in his relief appearances.

52. Luis Tiant

                                                            WAR + WAA     102    

 The two-time AL ERA leader and 1968 WAR leader was always overlooked, despite a lot of things writers and media typically like(d).  Tiant was on a high profile playoff team, had numerous 20-win seasons, had lots of strikeouts and low ERAs, and had a fun delivery, etc.  Had the Sox won the title in 1975, I wonder how his perception would have been different?

53. Amos Rusie - HOF

                                                                                                                      WAR + WAA    107


Rusie had a short and dominating career as a big K/big BB style pitcher.  Rusie led all NL players in WAR twice and finished in the top-5 four other times. With such a short career in a weaker league, I am probably overrating him being this high.

54. Rick Reuschel

                                                                     WAR + WAA     110

Rick was the ultimate worst-case scenario/bad luck pitcher.  Horrible defenses behind him + terrible offensive support + bad bullpen + tiny park + no postseason exposure while in his prime = vastly underrated by the W/L crowd.  In a neutral environment, Big Daddy would have been a huge star.   Reuschel now serves as the line filler for the "well, if WAR says that ___________ is  a HOFer, then the stat has to be wrong" group.                           

55. Hoyt Wilhelm - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    72     

Knowing what to do with relievers is always difficult.  The total dominance of Wilhelm in 1959, his only full year as a starter, makes my evaluation of Wilhelm's brilliance a little easier.  Wilhelm's nine years either in active military service or stuck in the minors (before becoming a big-league pitcher at age 29) puts another interesting spin on his career and evaluation.                     

56. Zack Greinke

  

                                                                                             WAR + WAA      108            

Two historically dominating seasons and multiple other all-star caliber seasons.  Greinke has been a little inconsistent, but the overall body of work has been impressive.  However, the strength of his two historical seasons is what gets him in here.

57. Johan Santana

                                                                                                                              WAR + WAA   85 


Before Halladay took over, Santana was easily baseball's best pitcher for half-a-decade and deserved 3-4 Cy Youngs. It is a shame injuries derailed his career to the degree that they did.                      

58. Joe McGinnity - HOF

                                                                                                                             WAR + WAA    87   


Joe had a short career with a monster peak.  Joe was first or second in WAR 4x and had one huge postseason.  I am not sure why he started his career at age 28 or how that could affect his standing.  I will have to check into that to see if I am underselling him a bit.                            

59. Three Finger Brown - HOF

                                                                    WAR + WAA    90   

Brown was the anti-Rick Rueschel.    He played with great defenses, got tons of run support, and garnered tons of national exposure on dominating Cub teams.  No, that Cubs line was not a misprint; read it again if you must.  Mordecai Brown was certainly a HOFer but not a top 30 guy as a lot of people think.             

60. Vic Willis - HOF

                                                                                                

                                                                                                                                  WAR + WAA   95

 

Willis is vastly underrated by both traditionalists and sabermetic fans.  Vic put up career and peak numbers similar to Dazzy Vance, but the perception gap is unreasonably large between the two.  Willis led the league in pitching WAR 2x and had three other top-5 finishes.   I am not sure what the knock on Willis is for some people. I have seen many sabes and traditionalists leave him out of their personal HOFs all-together.  I just don't see it.

61. Al Spalding - HOF

                                                                  WAR + WAA    96   

Al was by far the late 1860's and early 1870's most dominating pitcher.  Spalding was 1st-3rd in total WAR for five straight seasons in the old National Association.  I do not give him credit for non-playing contributions off the field, but I am also giving him credit for what he did as a pitcher prior to 1871, before stats are available. 

62. Kevin Appier

                                                                   WAR + WAA     85  

Appier was arguably the best pitcher in the AL for a 4-5 year period.  Buried in obscurity in Kansas City, his  credentials are much stronger than his bubblegum card suggests. Reflecting back to my comments on Chuck Finley,  I worried about putting Appier in my HOF at first due to a saturation of 90's pitchers, but the peak was just too good for me to keep him out.

63. Goose Gossage - HOF

                                                              WAR + WAA    59                

Goose is the third and last full-time reliever to make my personal HOF.  When gauging a reliever and the HOF, he is the cut-off comparison point I use.  The issue going forward is finding the best way to compare multiple-inning relievers like Gossage with the one-inning specialists of today.                        

64. Urban Shocker

                                                                      WAR + WAA    92 

Maybe the most underrated pitcher in MLB history despite pitching for some revered Yankees champions.  His numbers themselves probably stand alone, but giving him "death credit" seals the deal with his rankings.  Shocker is easily an inductee in any "Greatest Names" HOF.                 

65. Old Hoss Radbourn - HOF

                                                                   WAR + WAA   116

It gets really hard differentiating these 19th Century guys from each other.  Radbourn gets to this position largely due to his two monster years in 1883 and 1884.  Then when you just get comfortable with his placement, you see a guy like Silver King's best few seasons and...well, back to the drawing board.  I am almost considering having a separate bracket all-together for 19th century pitchers as I do for Negro League guys. 

66. Tim Hudson

                                                             WAR + WAA     91

 

Hudson eventually had a career that I am actually comfortable with putting in the HOF.  Of course Hudson will need a lot more for the BBWAA to agree with that notion.   Given the hype early on in his career with Oakland, it is sad how such a great career will eventually get lost in the shuffle among so many of the other greats on this list.                

67. Don Sutton   - HOF

                                                                    WAR + WAA    89  

Beyond his strikingly less-than-dominating 22 WAA and 67 WAR over 23 seasons, Sutton had a horrific -10 WPA Clutch score and a less than spectacular postseason record. Based just on these facotrs, Sutton looks like a guy who could be on the outside-looking-in.  However his DIPS/FIP scores are very high.  In fact, Fangraphs' WAR, Baseball Prospectus WARP, and Tom Thress Win Loss Records all have Sutton as being a surefire HOFer.  Based on this other evidence, I will definitely give him the benefit of the doubt here.

68. Tommy John

                                                                 WAR + WAA   84  

John was the prototypical compiler of quality pitching.   He was also a terrific postseason pitcher with a great WPA "Clutch" score, and a great FIP that may show WAR is underrating him here.  After much debate, I just  see just enough to squeeze John into my HOF.   For what its worth,  I do not give him credit for having his named attached to the medical procedure.                       

69. Bob Caruthers

                                                                                                  

*Includes data as a position player.                                        WAR + WAA    105

The game's best 2-way player of his generation.  Caruthers would not be nearly this high without his positional stats included in his WAR/WAA data, but as I have a Top 100 Position Player list too, I needed him to be located on one of them and chose this list as he was more of a pitcher than position player. I give Caruthers a little credit for the uniqueness and difficulty of what he did.

70. Orel Hershiser

                                                           WAR + WAA    87 

 

Hershiser is a forgotten 80's legend with a huge pitching peak, a great bat, and a legendary postseason resume.  That is enough for me.  Like many others, the second half of his career paled in comparison to his first half, so it is understandable that his legacy faded over time.  However, Orel was a megastar for many years, and I am surprised to what degree he has become forgotten.

71. Billy Pierce

                                                               WAR + WAA    80  

With textbook borderline career WAR and WAA numbers, three things allow me to put Pierce into my HOF: 1. his glowing postseason success, 2. his superb WPA "Clutch" score, and 3. a very nice peak that rivaled the best of his era.                    

72. Tommy Bond

 

 No Picture Available   WAR + WAA  96

Typically, 96 WAR + WAA is a little short for a 19th Century guy.  The difference with Bond is that he accrued that value in seven seasons and some change.  Dominance of that level is too great too pass up.

73. Justin Verlander

   

 Image result for pics justin verlander pitching                            WAR + WAA    101

 

Verlander looked like an easy HOFer in the making after 2013, but had a couple of sup-par seasons in 2014 and 2015.  His 2016-2017 emergence combined with spectacular 2017 postseason has created a peak and overall resume too impressive to ignore.

74. CC Sabathia

                                                                 WAR + WAA    93

 

After 2012, Sabathia was literally one typical CC season away from making my HOF.  Unfortunately, he hadn't really had a very good season since.  I think he did juuuust enough to the pass the HOF threshold in 2016, but he certainly has limped there.

75. Pud Galvin   - HOF

                                                                      WAR + WAA    101      

Pud was another 19th century guy who got into the HOF based on his high win total.  He was a very good pitcher, but there there are too many 19th century guys in the HOF for Galvin to join them.  With -9 offensive WAR, Pud may be one of the only guys who is out of my HOF with batting added, but in if it wasn't.

76. Early Wynn - HOF

                                                                WAR + WAA    88   

Wynn had lots of longevity, a modest pitching peak, and one of the best pitcher bats ever. That is enough for me to squeak him into the top 70.  The famous head-hunter probably didn't need 300 wins to deserve induction into the real HOF, but he likely wouldn't have made it without them.                

77. Andy Pettitte

                                                                   WAR + WAA     91

 

Pettitte had two great seasons (1997 and 2005) and a bunch of good ones.  Pettitte also has a nice postseason resume on top of it.  Typically, there are not enough All Star caliber seasons for my liking if I were going just by BBref. However, Pettitte looks very strong in both Fangraphs and Baseball Gauge's versions of WAR.  So I guess he squeezes in.   It will be interesting to see how the BBWAA handles his HGH admission, however.                

78. Dizzy Dean    - HOF

                                                                 WAR + WAA    74  

 

It takes Dean a little "sudden-career-destroying-injury-during-prime" credit to make it this high.  That coupled with a huge peak, strong post-seasons and a nice bat tugs him just over the line.   I would be even more comfortable with Dean being in the Cooperstown HOF as opposed to my hypothetical stat-based HOF, as it is a history museum for the fans.  I think there is room for guys who fall juuust short statistically, but were larger-than-life personalities and were a major part of the game's narrative.        

79. Jim McCormick

                                                                     WAR + WAA    119

 

Jim had some huge years in the NL.  In fact, McCormick led the league in total WAR 3x.  His 119 WAR + WAA score here makes him an easy HOFer, but it should be noted that Baseball Gauge's version of WAR has him lower than several 19th century guys that I have much lower.  I do consider Baseball Gauge and the other versions of WAR.  When it is all said and done, I have compromised and have McCormick at the very end of my Hall.

80. Red Faber    - HOF

                                                                                                                     WAR + WAA      91

 

Faber had a dominating 2-3 year stretch and then was a solid pitcher for a long time.  Red is barely a HOFer for me. Without data available, it is hard to see if Faber had sustained it earlier, but his WPA "Clutch" scores we do have seem to suggest he had real skill in high leverage situations.

81. Eddie Cicotte

                                                                     WAR + WAA    86 

 

Cicotte almost certainly would have been a HOFer had he not been banned from baseball for the Black Sox scandal.  Cicotte had three dominating seasons and ironically was a fantastic postseason pitcher.  I have him just outside of my HOF, but that is not connected to the scandal.                     

82. Roy Oswalt

                                                               WAR + WAA    83    

Oswalt was a very underrated pitcher for a decade with a big-time WAA score for such a short career.  Oswalt looked on an easy pace for the HOF after the 2011 season, but hit a brick wall right after.  I think that his impressive WAA score is enough to sneak in, but just barely.

----------------PERSONAL HOF CUTOFF POINT-----------------

 

83. Wilbur Wood

                                                                WAR + WAA    74

Wood had a massive peak, driven largely by incredible innings pitched totals.   Wood was a fine reliever for several years as well.  However, I am not as high on the "2-3 amazing years and nothing else guys" as some are.  See Gooden and Tanana below for more examples.   Still, over 28 WAR in a three year span is pretty eye-opening.           

84. Bob Lemon   - HOF

                                                                                                                 WAR + WAA     75


Lemon was a very good pitcher with an amazing bat.  The new version of bbref WAR docked Lemon a lot compared to the old one.  I would love to look into it what was behind those downgrades before dropping him lower.  I also am not sure how to deal with his particular WW2 situation since he wasn't a pitcher until after he was back from service.  I guess it is possible that he could have been "discovered" as a pitcher during that time.  Lemon has a very interesting case; one that needs more research.

85. Babe Adams

                                                               WAR + WAA     81

 

No pitcher has moved up my rankings more in recent years than Adams.  Adams was another forgotten Pirate pitching great who twice led the NL in total WAR and was also dominating in all four of his postseason appearances.   

86. Mark Buehrle

                                                                   WAR + WAA    86

 

No blow-your-mind seasons for Buehrle, but a long stretch of very good ones.  He was certainly not just a compiler as some suggest.  You can't gain 29 WAA in just 15 seasons by compiling in the traditional sense.  Buehrle is certainly in the "Toughest Last Names to Spell HOF."

87. Chuck Finley

                                                                  WAR + WAA    87

Finley was another 90's great lost in the shuffle.  Finley had three huge seasons and three other borderline All-Star seasons.   Almost 28 WAA puts him solidly into borderline HOF territory, but it feels like there are an awful lot of 90's pitchers up into HOF/near range.  I do not necessarily believe that talent is distributed equally at all positions throughout all eras, but there is a point where you have to wonder if there were some environmental factor that allowed the best 90's pitchers to dominate more than pitchers from other eras.   On the other hand, there are an awful lot of guys from those big-inning 60's and 70's years pretty high on the WAR list too, but we do know what is driving their high WAR totals (big "replacement" value).                              

88. Cole Hamels

     

 Image result for cole hamels pics              WAR + WAA  92

 

Overshadowed by Kershaw, King Felix, Grienke, Verlander, and other contemporaries, Hamels had had a long stretch of good to great WAR scores that can be matched by none of his generation outside of Kershaw.   Hamels may be lacking the signature Cy Young seasons as some of these other guys, but has had consistency of quality that is almost unmatched in his era.

 

89.  Charlie Buffinton

 

 Image result for pics charlie buffington    WAR + WAA   98

Buffinton is probably the closest 19th century guy to my HOF that is on the outside looking in.  In a virtual tie with Galvin in WAR + WAA, I give Galvin the boost since it his his hitting record that is causing the seperation.  Even though I do include pitcher offense, if two guys are tied, I will give more credence to the pitching aspect.

90. George Uhle

Image result for george uhle                       WAR + WAA   81 

Uhle was a long-career, okay peak, big bat combo pitcher similar to Early Wynn.  The only things that really seperates Uhle from Wynn for me  is the 88 to 81 career WAR + WAA lead and the difference in league quality.                        

91. Don Newcombe

  Image result for Don Newcombe images                 WAR + WAA    56

 

Newcombe is a very difficult case.  Newcombe spent his first professional season in the negL and then was forced to tread water in the New England League for a couple of seasons while fighting his way through the MLB minor league system despite likely being ready to dominate right away.  Then, Newcombe missed two seasons due to the Korean War. I estimate that had Newcombe been give na chance to show off his abilities in the MLB right away, he'd easily clear 80 WAR + WAA.  As is, Newcombe had 56 WAR + WAA in only 10 MLB seasons and looks even MORE impressive according to Fangraphs WAR and Baseball Gauge WAR. I have him placed the best that I can based on the research I have done.  It is certainly possible that he should be a HOFer and will continue researching his case.

92. Bucky Walters

                                                                       WAR + WAA    82 

Bucky Walters was the total package.  He had an impressive pitching peak, a great hitting resume, and an excellent postseason record.  Walters also put up his best seasons before WW2 watered down the product, which is good for his ranking. Bucky is just one of several forgotten Reds pitchers in the final 1/3 of the list.                 

93. Jerry Koosman

                                                                    WAR + WAA    75

Koosman had the perception double-whammy working against him: 1. Koosman had a ho-hum winning % due to playing with mostly lousy teams, and 2. When his teams were good,  Koosman was overshadowed by a legend.  It was a very underrated career for Koosman.                

94. Felix Herandez

                                   WAR + WAA    77

      

When King Felix, the AL's best pitcher from 2009-2014, won the 2010 Cy Young with a 14-13 record, it was a symbolic step in the mainstreaming of sabermetrics in award voting.  Felix has dropped off quickly the past several years.  He will need a few bounce-back years to make my HOF, but time looks like it has run out.

95. Max Scherzer

                                 

   Image result for max scherzer pics                                               WAR + WAA    91


With 91 WAR+ WAA and multiple Cy Youngs by age 33, Max has all-but sinched his HOF resume.


96. Wilbur Cooper

                                                                      WAR + WAA    80

The long-time Pirate finished top-10 in pitcher WAR 8x.   Cooper was a very good hitter too.   Unfortunately, Cooper was one of our pitchers who never once got a chance in the postseason.   For the record, Wilbur is not related to brothers Walker or Mort, two fine players themselves.        

97.Tommy Bridges

                                                              WAR + WAA     77   

Bridges was another of the many great 1940's Tiger pitchers.  I am giving him WW2 credit, but I am afraid I may be underrating him a little bit still.  On the other hand, he only had two really great seasons. If somebody pleads a case in favor or not in favor of Bridges, I would certainly listen.                   

98. Noodles Hahn

Image Not Available at This Time             WAR + WAA   74

Hahn is hardly distingishable from guys like Addie Joss, Nap Rucker, and other short-career, big peak, early 20th century guys.  The six-straight seasons of 6.5+ pWAR is what nudges him over the other guys.  He also perfoemd better than the other guys in Baseball Gauege WAR. 

99. Jim Kaat

 Image result for pics jim kaat                     WAR + WAA  66

Kaat, who in terms of WAR + WAA is behing guys like Burleigh Grimes and Frank Tanana in this version of WAR + WAA gets a boost into my top 100 due to how well he does in the WARs from Baseball Gauge and Fangraphs. 

100. Frank Viola

 

   WAR + WAA  70

Viola, who is another underrated 1980's great who had several great seasons in both Minnesota and the Mets.  Viola's Baseball Gauge WAR is even more impresive and is what helps break him from the pack of some other guys.

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            Palmer                             Glavine                                Spahn                                    Koufax                                            Young

 

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