The Tuesday Discussion – The Greatest Right-Handed Starting Pitcher Ever
February 22, 2022
This week we asked our writers to identify the greatest right-handed starting pitcher ever.
Here are their replies:
Cary Greene – I will have to go with Christy Mathewson
Ed Botti – I am going to go against the grain just a little and go with Christy Mathewson over Cy Young and Walter Johnson.
A few bits of info. He set his career-best ERA at 1.28 in 1905 (31-9), then he beat his record 4 years later and dropped it to 1.14 (25-6).
In two consecutive season (1913 and 1914) he actually had more wins than walks– 49 wins vs. 44 walks.
He won 373 games over 17 seasons with a 2.13 ERA.
Everything I have read about him tells me that he was so dominant that at some points in a game he actually toyed with the batters.
As far as the best right hander I ever saw. That goes to Tom Seaver.
Paul Semendinger – According to WAR, the five greatest right-handed pitchers of all-time are:
Kid Nichols’ last year was 1906. The game was different then, even more different that the turn of the century game. I’ll take him out.
Roger Clemens was great, but I saw him pitch, and he just wasn’t the greatest right-handed pitcher ever. No way.
Cy Young was Cy Young, but he too pitched in the 1800s, so I’ll take him out.
This then becomes between Grove Cleveland “Pete” Alexander or Walter Johnson.
Pitching for the sometimes lowly Senators, Walter Johnson won 417 games. 417 games. Four hundred seventeen games.
The Big Train won 20 games or more twelve times.
From 1910 to 1919, Walter Johnson’s typical season was 26-14 with a 1.59 ERA.
In eleven different seasons, his ERA for the season was under 2.00. No one in history threw more shutouts.
Johnson led the league in strikeouts 12 times. He was the first pitcher to strikeout 3,000 batters. His 3,509 strikeouts for his career was light years ahead of the runner-up, Cy Young (2,803). The next closest pitcher was Tim Keefe at 2,564.
To me, it’s no question, Walter Johnson was the greatest right-handed pitcher ever. He was probably the greatest pitcher ever, period.
Patrick Gunn – I’ll go with Roger Clemens for being one of the most dominant pitchers of all time in one of the best hitting eras of all time. Steroids or not, Clemens just pitched at an extremely high level for a long time (which is why I have him ahead of Pedro Martinez).
Mike Whiteman – Walter Johnson won 417 games in his career, back when wins meant something, with an ERA+ of 147, which is eleventh all-time. Johnson ranks below a few other fine righthanders (Satchel Paige, Pedro Martinez) but gets some points in my book for longevity (he averaged 32 starts and 20 wins per season for 21 years) and the fact that his teams finished in the second division (fifth place for below) ten seasons.
Take a look at some of those gaudy Deadball seasons – 33-12, 1.39 ERA in 1912, 36-7, 1.14 in 1913. Wow!
Tim Kabel – I’m going to go in a different direction on this. The statistics point toward Walter Johnson Christy Mathewson, or Roger Clemens. I’m going to forget the pure statistics and listen to what both Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio said. They both called Satchel Paige the greatest pitcher they ever faced. He didn’t pitch in the Major Leagues until he was in his 40’s. That is not his fault. I read his biography, and I’ve seen enough documentaries in which people claimed he was the best pitcher they ever saw. Based on that, he’s my choice.