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Greatest Left Handed Pitchers of All Time

The Ten Greatest Major League Left-Handed Pitchers of All-Time

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

1. Sandy Koufax: Yeah, I know--he retired at 30 and doesn’t have the longevity. But with the exception of perhaps Lefty Grove, whose career on this list would you rather have? He may have had only 6 really good years, but that hardly qualifies as a flash-in-the-pan. Even a guy who lasts 20 years, how many great seasons could he have had? Ten? Koufax led the league in ERA in each of the last 5 seasons he pitched. He also won the triple crown of pitching (wins, ERA, and strikeouts) in 3 of his last 4 years. Did a few guys on this list maybe have a better overall career than Koufax? Sure. Did anyone have better stuff than Koufax or show more dominance at their peak? Nope.

2. Lefty Grove: Admittedly, Grove is a guy who has an awfully-strong case for the top spot and saying he’s the best southpaw hurler of all-time should not evoke much argument. He had a sterling record of 300-141 with a 3.06 ERA over his 17-year career. He led the league in ERA an incredible 9 times. From 1928-1931, he was a staggering 104-23. He led the league in strikeouts in each of his first 7 seasons. One of the greatest and most underrated players in the sport’s history.

3. Randy Johnson: Probably the most dominant pitcher of his era, with career stats that are robust despite not hitting his stride until he was in his late 20’s. At 6’10,” the fireballing lefty was as intimidating a presence ever seen on the mound. The 5-time Cy Young award winner won 4 straight awards from 1999-2002. He had seasons with great records, like 18-2, 20-4, 10-1, 21-6, and 24-5, highlighting how dominant he could be when going well. The Big Unit led the league in strikeouts 9 times and is a member of the 300-win club, despite not winning 15 games in a season until he was 29.


4. Warren Spahn: One of the more masterful pitchers of his time, Spahn was as consistent as they come. He won 14 games or more for 17 straight seasons, an amazing 13 of those being 20-win seasons. He won 383 games, including going 23-7 at the age of 42. Spahn led the league in wins 8 times, ERA 8 times, complete games 9 times, and strikeouts 4 times. The Braves star was one of the greatest left-handed throwers of all-time and has an outside argument for the tops spot.

5. Eddie Plank: From 1901 to 1917, Plank distinguished himself as one of the finest pitchers in baseball, the top lefty of his era bar none. Sure, he played in a different era, where power numbers were extremely low. Nevertheless, when compared to other hurlers from this period, Plank stands out as a true gem. He was 326-194 with an extremely low lifetime ERA of 2.35. He started 529 games and threw 410 complete games.

6. Steve Carlton: Not the most consistent pitcher on this list and he didn’t leave fans with the best impression, following a slide that lasted several undignified seasons. Still, it’s hard to argue with four Cy Young awards and five 20-win seasons, in addition to being a member of both the 300-win and 4000-strikeout club. Carlton threw 254 complete games. Definitely the signature left-hander of his era.

7. Tom Glavine: He overcame a 9-21 start to his career, becoming a 2-time Cy Young award winner and a member of the 300-win club. The 5-time 20 game winner was a consistently top starter in the National League for a nearly 20-year stretch and maintained his excellence during a time of extreme offensive production. Glavine was as solid and dependable as they come.

8. Carl Hubbell: The New York Giants star became a key player in the annals of baseball lore when he struck out 5 consecutive batters in the 1934 all-star game--Ruth Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons, and Cronin. That was only the tip of the iceberg for Hubbell who forged a Hall of Fame career. The 2-time National League MVP won 24 consecutive games from 1936-37. The screwballer won 20 games in 5 straight seasons, led the league in ERA 3 times and in WHIP 6 times.

9. Whitey Ford: During one of the Yankees best periods, Ford was the top guy in the rotation for an extended period of time. With a 2.75 lifetime ERA, Ford led the league in wins 3 times and ERA twice. He won 10 World Series games, including 3 shutouts. Ford had a .690 lifetime winning percentage and was a top thrower in the American League for a good 15 seasons.

10. Hal Newhouser: The Tigers lefty was one of the more dominant throwers of his era. Despite a prime that ended before its time, Newhouser was untouchable in his heyday, as evidenced by consecutive MVP awards in 1944-45. From 1944-1946, he went 80-27 with an ERA under 2.00. He had a strange career, alternating in some seasons from incredible to mediocre, but at his best--it was hard to find a better left-handed thrower than Newhouser.

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