Cy Young is the best pitcher in baseball. He has the most wins ever, and his career ERA is 2.63. But wins aren’t all that matter. To truly understand the best pitcher ever, one must go past the wins. Cy Young may have had the most wins, but he also had the most losses with 316. Cy Young never faced a steroid injected batter like McGwire or even a heavy hitter such as Albert Pujols. Heck, Cy Young never even faced Babe Ruth. His entire career, 1890 to 1911, was the dead ball era. Maybe the “worst pitcher of all time”, Jose Lima, would have won 800+ games in the dead ball era. So who really is the best pitcher of all time?
Nolan Ryan? He is also widely considered as best pitcher for most people, but not me. You have to be consistent as a pitcher, and just 32 more wins than losses aren’t consistent in my book. People trouble the Mets about losing him, but in his two seasons with them, he was 0-1 with a 15.00 ERA and then 6-9 with a 3.09 ERA. He won more than 20 games in a season just twice and lost more than 10 games 16 times in 27 seasons.
Randy Johnson? Not an option for many, but he comes close. He has most of the checkmarks, such as 300+ wins. The win to loss difference is 137. He owns a 3.29 career ERA, but he did not play for a team that struggled. His selection of teams was in fact rather good with bats.
Steve Carlton? Bullseye. In spite of the fact that he tried to keep his career going when it was already over, signing with the White Sox, Twins, Indians and Giants, he won 329 with a win to loss difference of 85 and an ERA of 3.22, including one season of 1.97 ERA in 41 starts. He also played for a team that struggled, winning 27 on a team that would have won just 32 games without him.
The AL’s two top Cy Young award contenders last year, Happ and Porcello, went a combined 42-8 last year, but are just 6-13 this year. Oh, and Happ’s injured. So maybe wins aren’t everything.
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