Best Right Handed Pitchers in Baseball History

A baseball pitcher illuminated against a night sky

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

From pitchers throwing every other day in the 19th century to modern day masters; from flamethrowers to pinpoint control guys, these are the best right-handed starting pitchers in history.

of 20

Walter Johnson

Washington Senators (1907-27)

Could Johnson have been as dominant in a different era? No doubt. "The Big Train" had the best fastball in his time and anytime, close to 100 mph from accounts, and won an incredible 417 games in 21 seasons with a 2.17 ERA. In a stretch from 1910 to 1918, he won at least 23 games every season. In 1913 at age 25, he went 36-7 with a 1.14 ERA. He had 3,509 strikeouts, the most for any pitcher in the first half of the 20th century.

of 20

Christy Mathewson

New York Giants (1900-16), Cincinnati Reds (one game, 1916)

He led the league in ERA five times, and in 17 seasons, he was 373-188 with a 2.13 ERA. Not exactly a strikeout pitcher (a solid 2,507 in 4,788 innings), he only walked 848 (just over one a game). He went 37-11 with a 1.43 ERA in 1908, throwing 11 shutouts (and even recording five saves). "The Christian Gentleman," who retired at age 35, was one of the first five inductees into the Hall of Fame.

of 20

Grover Cleveland "Pete" Alexander

Philadelphia Phillies (1911-17, 1930), Chicago Cubs (1918-25), St. Louis Cardinals (1926-29)

Alexander set a rookie record with 28 wins (throwing 367 innings) and had 345 more after that. He's No. 3 all-time in wins 373 (tied with Mathewson), with a live fastball and a sharp curve and great control. For the Phillies from 1911-17, he won 190 games, a third of the team's total. He holds the record for shutouts in a season with 16 in 1916.

of 20

Roger Clemens

Boston Red Sox (1984-96), Toronto Blue Jays (1997-98), New York Yankees (1999-2003, 2007), Houston Astros (2004-06)

"The Rocket" struck out more American League hitters than anybody in history. He won 20 games six times and won a record seven Cy Young Awards. He went 354-184 in 24 seasons with a 3.12 ERA in an ERA with big offensive stats. An intimidator on the mound, he is third all-time in strikeouts. His late-career success coincided with accusations he's used steroids, including an admission by a former trainer. He's denied the allegations.

of 20

Satchel Paige

Several Negro League teams (1927-47), Cleveland Indians (1948-49), St. Louis Browns (1951-53), Kansas City A's (1965)

Paige might have set all the records if he'd been born in a different era. A great showman in the mound, he might have won more games than Cy Young. Both Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio said Paige was the greatest pitcher they ever faced. He won a World Series with the 1948 Indians at age 42 and was the first Negro League player in the Hall of Fame.

of 20

Greg Maddux

Chicago Cubs (1986-92, 2004-06), Atlanta Braves (1993-2003), Los Angeles Dodgers (2006, 2008), San Diego Padres (2007-08)

With dazzling control, Maddux was the best pitcher of the 1990s, getting 166 of his 355 career victories. He won the Cy Young Award every season from 1992 to 1995 and is the only pitcher to win 15 games or more in 17 consecutive seasons. He also won an unprecedented 18 Gold Gloves. His No. 31 is retired by both the Cubs and Braves.

of 20

Cy Young

Cleveland Spiders (1890-98), St. Louis Cardinals (1899-1900), Boston Americans (1901-08), Cleveland Naps (1909-11), Boston Rustlers (1911)

Cy was short for "cyclone" and set a standard for pitching wins that will never be equaled, with 511 career wins. He started more than 800 innings, starting 40 or more games 11 times. He also threw the first pitch in a World Series in 1903. He also holds the record for most losses (316) and had a career ERA of 2.63.

of 20

Nolan Ryan

New York Mets (1966, 1968-71), Los Angeles Angels (1972-79), Houston Astros (1980-88), Texas Rangers (1989-93)

The all-time leader in strikeouts (5,714) and no-hitters (seven, three more than any other pitcher), he was an eight-time All-Star and had his jersey retired by three teams. He threw fastballs faster than 100 mph​ and also is the all-time leader in walks (2,795). Went 324-292 in his career with a 3.19 ERA. Now an owner of the Texas Rangers.

of 20

Tom Seaver

New York Mets (1967-77, 1983), Cincinnati Reds (1977-82), Chicago White Sox (1984-86), Boston Red Sox (1986)

The driving force behind the Miracle Mets of 1969, Seaver led the league in strikeouts five times, won three Cy Young Awards and won 20 games five times. He won 16 or more games 10 times, including at age 22 and at age 40. He's sixth all-time in strikeouts and 18th in wins with 311.

of 20

Bob Feller

Cleveland Indians (1936-41, 1945-56)

"Rapid Robert" entered the league when he was 17, left at 37 and missed four years in his prime to serve in World War II. The hard-throwing Indians ace still ended up with a 266-162 record and 2,581 strikeouts. An eight-time All-Star, he was considered the best pitcher in baseball in the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s.

of 20

Bob Gibson

St. Louis Cardinals (1959-75)

An intimidating force on the mound who won two World Series rings for the Cardinals, he won 251 games in 17 seasons and striking out 3,117. He was at his best in 1968, going 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and 13 shutouts. Right-handed batters hit just .204 against him in his career.

of 20

Pedro Martinez

Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-93), Montreal Expos (1994-97), Boston Red Sox (1998-2004), New York Mets (2005-08), Philadelphia Phillies (2009)

In an era of inflated offensive numbers, the slightly-built Martinez was still dominant, throwing an incredible variety of pitches. At his best for the Red Sox, he went 117-37 in seven seasons with a 2.52 ERA and finished his career with a 219-100 record and 2.93 ERA. He won three Cy Young Awards.

of 20

Juan Marichal

San Francisco Giants (1960-73), Boston Red Sox (1974), Los Angeles Dodgers (1975)

Marichal, with his high leg kick and fantastic control, won more games than anybody in the 1960s. He was a 10-time All-Star who won 20 or more games six times - including four years in a row - and was a master of the screwball.

of 20

Jim Palmer

Baltimore Orioles (1965-84)

The ace of some great Baltimore teams, Palmer was a great big-game pitcher who made six All-Star teams. He went 268-152 with a 2.86 ERA in 20 seasons and won 20 games or more eight times.

of 20

Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown

St. Louis Cardinals (1903), Chicago Cubs (1904-12, 1916), Cincinnati Reds (1913), St. Louis Terriers (1914), Brooklyn Tip-Tops (1914), Chicago Whales (1915)

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons: Brown lost his index finger on his right hand in a farming accident as a child, giving his pitches more spin, and he threw a devastating curveball. He went 239-130 in 14 seasons with a 2.06 ERA and was part of the Cubs' last World Series championship team.

of 20

Dizzy Dean

St. Louis Cardinals (1930, 1932-37), Chicago Cubs (1938-41), St. Louis Browns (1947)

He won just 150 games in a career shortened by injury, but it was a darn good run as the leader of the St. Louis "Gashouse Gang.' He won 120 games in five seasons from 1932 to 1936. Went 30-7 in 1934, and had 28 complete games and a league-best 11 saves in 1936.

of 20

Roy Halladay

Toronto Blue Jays (1998-2009), Philadelphia Phillies (2010-)

As of 2011, Halladay was closing in on 200 career wins and had won Cy Young Awards in both leagues. He threw a perfect game and the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history (in his first playoff start) in 2010.

of 20

Kid Nichols

Boston Beaneaters (1890-1901), St. Louis Cardinals (1904-05), Philadelphia Phillies (1905-06)

Let's try to see a modern player do this: Nichols won his 300th game at age 30. Granted, that was in 1900. He won 26 games or more every season for 10 years, including 30 or more in seven out of eight seasons. He finished in 1906 with a record of 361-208 with a 2.96 ERA.

of 20

Robin Roberts

Phillies (1948-61), Orioles (1962-65), Astros (1965-66), Cubs (1966)

The durable Roberts won 20 games for six consecutive seasons and was the ace of the "Whiz Kids" staff in 1950. He finished his 19-year career with a 286-245 record and 305 complete games. He won 28 games in 1952.

of 20

"Smokey" Joe Williams

Negro Leagues (1907-32)

Never pitched in the majors, but was considered the best in the Negro Leagues of his generation, at least before Satchel Paige came along. Went 41-3 in 1914, according to unofficial records. He struck out 27 in a game at age 44 in a 12-inning game.