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The 5 Best Pitchers in Baseball Today

Updated on June 13, 2011

Premiere Pitchers are Priceless

There is no more important position in all of baseball than pitcher. Plain and simple.

Odds are you have heard the old football saying "Defense wins championships," well, in baseball, pitching wins championships (Oh, and massive payrolls and free agent contracts spiraling out of control, but that's a different article entirely).

That has never been more evident than in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series with no offense to speak of (17th in runs scored in MLB), but four of the best home-grown pitchers in all of baseball.

A good pitcher at the top of his game can shut down any offense in baseball and overcome the shortcomings of his offense to get a win. A great pitcher can make history.

Historic Hurlers

Some of the best to have ever pitched in the Major Leagues include Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Warren Spahn, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax and, of course, Cy Young.

Time will tell who of today's pitchers are mentioned amongst those all-time greats, but for now, I present to you The 5 Best Pitcher in Baseball Today:

Cliff Lee


5) Cliff Lee

Cliff Lee started his baseball career in 2002 for the Cleveland Indians before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009, then to the Seattle Mariners before the 2010 season and the Texas Rangers at the 2010 trade deadline. He then resigned with the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2011 season.

Essentially, he travels more often than LeBron James down the lane.

Postseason success:

Thus far, in his postseason career, Lee is 7-2, with a 0.82 WHIP, 2.13 ERA and 80 K over the course of 10 starts, showing he is incredibly reliable in clutch situations and a priceless commodity for competitive teams.

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Cliff Lee has played in both the 2009 and 2010 World Series with nothing to show for it, well, besides a five-year, $120 million contract from the Philadelphia Phillies.


In 2008, Lee won the AL Cy Young Award with the Cleveland Indians after his teammate, CC Sabathia, had walked away with the honor in '07. He has been selected to two All-Star Games and won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2008.


In a little over eight full seasons as a Major League baseball player, Cliff Lee has a 102-61 W/L record with a career 3.85 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He has thrown 1085 K over the course of 1409 innings and only 350 BB. Thus far, his best season was in '08 when he won 22 games with a 2.54 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 170 K.

In Conclusion:

If he is able to add another award or two, and maybe a ring or three to his resume, he could go down as one of the best ever, but at 32 years old, Cliff Lee needs to start winning World Series instead of just games.

Felix Hernandez


4) Felix Hernandez

The Seattle Mariners have not been relevant for almost a decade now, well, except in Japan and on days that Felix Hernandez pitches.

There are few pitchers in baseball more dominant on the mound right now than Felix Hernandez, so much so, that he has been declared "King" and has ruled the mound with an iron fist.

Where are the Wins?

Only, that doesn't seem to be enough for a W every now and then. In 172 starts, Hernandez has a less-than-impressive record, mostly thanks to the pedestrian offense provided by his teammates. In a game where the only stat that truly matters is the scoreboard, Felix Hernandez often comes up short.


However, despite a lackluster 13-12 W/L record in 2010, Hernandez was able to beat out some of the most winning pitchers in the American League for the 2010 AL Cy Young Award, after finishing second in the voting in 2009 behind Zack Greinke.

His 13 wins are a record for the fewest by a Cy Young Winner in the history of baseball. In 2009, when he finished in second place , he had won 19 games and made his first and only All-Star Game appearance.


Over the course of his six-year career, Felix Hernandez has a W/L record of 71-53, a 3.20 ERA and 3.20 WHIP along with 1042 K throughout 1154.2 innings. His best statistical season was in 2010 when won 13 games with a 2.27 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 232 K.

In Conclusion:

To be considered amongst the all-time greats, Felix Hernandez will need to leave the Seattle Mariners as soon as possible in order to start competing for the World Series. But, he is only 24 years old, so, what's his hurry?

His strikeout rate should put him amongst the all-time greats and 3,000 K is well within reach. However, he would need to continue at his current pace for another 20 seasons to catch Nolan Ryan's 5,714 K record.

CC Sabathia


3) CC Sabathia

According to most sources, CC Sabathia (or Carsten Charles) weighs 250 pounds. Ask anyone and they will tell you he is at least 300 pounds. Add his accolades on top of that, and we are looking at somewhere around 350.

Sabathia began his 10-year career in 2001 with the Cleveland Indians. Before the 2008 trade deadline, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers and then in the off-season, he signed a contract with the New York Yankees.

Record Contract:

At the time, the seven-year, $161 million contract was the highest ever in baseball history. Later that year (2009), he would go on to win the World Series with the Yankees.

While he is best known as an Indian or Yankee, Sabathia had the most impressive stretch of his career and one of the best ever in baseball with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.

In 17 games with the Brewers, CC Sabathia compiled a 11-2 W/L record along with a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

Perhaps most impressive were the seven complete games he threw during that time, leading the team to its first postseason appearance in over 25 years.


CC Sabathia won his first and only Cy Young Award in 2007. He has appeared in four All-Star Games and has won the Warren Spahn Award three different times.


Over the course of his career, Sabathia has an astounding 157-88 W/L record along with a 3.57 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. In 2127 innings, he has 1787 K. Despite winning the Cy Young Award in 2007, most would argue his best season came in 2008 when he won 17 games and compiled a 2.70 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 251 K.

In Conclusion:

According to the 2011 Bill James Handbook. Sabathia is the second most likely current pitcher to reach 300 wins in his career. At 32 years old, James gives the big lefty a 38% chance of reaching the milestone. He should be in good shape as long as he is a Yankee.

Tim Lincecum


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2) Tim Lincecum

Known as "The Freak," Tim Lincecum does things on the mound that people have never seen before. Oh, and his hair is really long.

He is only 5'-11'', and yet he is still able to get incredible velocity on his fastball while mixing in a two-seamer, curveball, slider and an incredibly deceptive changeup that is one of the best in baseball.

With a wide repertoire of pitches, Lincecum led the Major League in strikeouts in 2008 and the National League in '09 and '10.

Postseason Success:

In 2010, Tim Lincecum made his first appearance in the postseason where he went 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 43 K on his way to a World Series Championship.

On October 7, 2010, in his playoff debut, he struck out 14 Atlanta Braves hitters for a new postseason franchise record.


Lincecum has been voted into the All-Star Game in each of his full three seasons with the San Francisco Giants.

He won the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009, making him the first pitcher in MLB history to win the award in his first two full seasons in the big leagues.

Tim Lincecum also earned the Golden Spikes Award in 2006, which recognizes the best amateur baseball player in the country.


Throughout a little more than three seasons with the Giants, Tim Lincecum has a 56-27 W/L, 3.04 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 907 K in only 811 innings pitched.

While both his Cy Young seasons were impressive, 2009 was the better of the two. In '09, Lincecum won 15 games with a 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 261 K.

In Conclusion:

At only 26 years old, Lincecum is well on his way to 3,000 career strikeouts, and could reach the milestone sometime around 35 or 36 years old. However he would need to average his current pace for another 20 seasons to surpass Nolan Ryan.

Roy Halladay


1) Roy Halladay

Teammates and the media call him "Doc," but Roy Halladay is much more like a virus for his opponents.

Halladay began his career in 1998 with the Toronto Blue Jays and played his first 11 full seasons with the team before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2010 season.

National Treasure:

Thus far, the National League has treated him well. On May 29, 2010, Roy Halladay pitched the 20th perfect game in MLB history against the Florida Marlins.

He also went on to lead the league in wins, complete games and innings pitched, and finished second in K and WHIP.

Postseason Success:

He made his playoff debut in 2010 and in the first postseason start of his career, Roy Halladay threw a complete game no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. It marked only the second time ever that a pitcher threw a no-hitter in the playoffs and the first time since 1956, when Don Larson of the New York Yankees did it in the World Series.


Roy Halladay has been voted into seven All-Star Games. He won the AL Cy Young Award in 2003 and the NL Cy Young Award in 2010 and made the Sports Illustrated MLB All-Decade Team in 2009.


Throughout his 12-year career, Halladay has a 169-86 W/L, 3.32 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He has thrown 1714 K in 2,297 innings. His best season was undoubtedly in 2010 when he won 21 games, along with a 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 219 K.

In Conclusion:

With two Cy Young Awards, a perfect game and a no hitter under his belt, there is only one thing left for Roy Halladay to accomplish, a World Series Championship.

He should have a good chance playing with the Phillies and should also make a run at 300 wins, as Bill James projects a 42% chance of Halladay reaching the milestone in his career.

Tell me your 5 Best Pitchers in Baseball Today below:


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    • proudtobeadad profile image


      6 years ago

      I enjoyed the comparison and read. I like your list except for Lincecum. Maybe it's the hair - but I doubt it. I don't like his motion; I think he exposes his shoulder to injury. He seems hittable to me. That's kind of funny to say watching him from my couch. But he does. His fastball always appears flat. However, his breaking pitch is very good. Top 10 probably - but not top 5. I may have to put Kershaw in there with two or three top relievers like Kimbrell or Papelbon above Lincecum. I'll even take Chris Carpenter above him even though he is on the DL right now. But he's probably top 10.

    • Greekgeek profile image


      6 years ago from California

      Knock wood, I think Kershaw's getting the hang of those walks. ;)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Lets go Yanks!

    • bogerk profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Hi Kosmo -

      Clayton Kershaw could definitely make this list in the near future. He reminds a lot of Yovanni Gallardo on my favorite team, the Milwaukee Brewers. It seems both of them have troubles with walks or the one big inning. Hopefully both can correct those issues and be in the likes of Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez soon.

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley Marks 

      7 years ago from California

      It's always good to read a hub written by somebody who really loves baseball. I just wish one of the five best pitchers were on the Dodgers' roster. Maybe Clayton Kershaw will make that list one of these days. Later!


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