Greatest lefties of all time

Clayton Kershaw
Jul 30, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw (22) delivers against the Colorado Rockies in the fifth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The full history of baseball can’t be told without making special mention of the best left-handed pitchers in MLB history.

Obviously, a list of the best starting pitchers of all time will have a few lefties on it. But the greatest southpaws in MLB history deserve their own list. That’s because left-handed pitchers just aren’t the same as righties; they’re a little rarer and just a little different on the mound.

Best left handed pitchers in MLB history

Of course, limiting a list of the best lefties of all time to just 10 pitchers wasn’t easy. These are some of the best pitchers of all time overall, which forced us to leave some notable pitchers out of our top-10 list.

With that said, here is our ranking of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time.

10. Eddie Plank

For the first two decades of the 20th century, you couldn’t find a better lefty than Eddie Plank. He spent most of that time with the Philadelphia Athletics, helping them win the World Series three times and racking up almost all of his 326 career wins.

Plank was often lauded for not having the best stuff but finding a way to be among the best pitchers in baseball. His Hall of Fame career ended with a 2.35 ERA and over 2,200 strikeouts, which is still enough to be considered among the best lefties of all time.

9. Carl Hubbell

Carl Hubbell was one of the best pitchers of the first half of the 20th century, doing most of his damage with a screwball. For a while, he owned the single-season record for wins by a pitcher with 24, ultimately amassing 253 career wins while pitching for the Giants between 1928 and 1943.

During those years, he led the majors in ERA three times and won National League MVP twice. Hubbell pitched a no-hitter during his first full season in the majors in 1929 and also helped the Giants to the 1933 World Series. His finest hour arguably came in the 1934 World Series when he struck out five future Hall of Famers in a row, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

8. Whitey Ford

The Yankees have had some great players in their history with Whitey Ford being the best left-handed pitcher to spend his entire career in pinstripes.

He was a part of six championship teams in the Bronx, winning World Series MVP honors in 1961.

Naturally, 1961 was also the same year that Ford won the only Cy Young of his career. Ford was also named an all-star 10 times and would eventually have his number retired by the Yankees in addition to being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

7. Tom Glavine

Tom Glavine may very well go down in history as the last pitcher to ever eclipse 300 wins. He gets somewhat forgotten because he was in the same Atlanta rotation as Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. But he was the best lefty in that rotation and a huge part of the Braves dominating the NL East throughout the 1990s.

He even won World Series MVP honors the one time the Braves won a world championship. Glavine also continued his success after signing with the Mets.

Throughout his career, which spanned from 1987 to 2008, Glavine was a 10-time all-star, a two-time Cy Young winner, and led the National League in wins five times. For what it’s worth, Glavine was also a four-time Silver Slugger winner, handling the bat far more than the average pitcher.

6. Warren Spahn

Warren Spahn may have been able to climb even higher on our list of the best lefties if the early part of his career hadn’t been interrupted by military service.

In any event, when Spahn was able to resume his career, he became a 17-time all-star and a Cy Young winner in 1957. He led the National League in wins eight times, helping him to amass 363 career wins to go along with his 3.09 ERA.

Spahn also led the National League in strikeouts in four straight seasons, collecting over 2,500 career strikeouts. Longevity is also a huge part of Spahn’s legacy, as he spent over 20 seasons pitching in the big leagues.

5. Lefty Grove

Born Robert Moses Grove, Lefty was one of the first southpaws to dominate on a major league mound.

He won exactly 300 games during his Hall of Fame career, leading the American League in ERA nine times and strikeouts seven times. Naturally, he took home the Triple Crown twice and earned MVP honors in 1931. Grove pitched until 1941, but the brilliance he showed over his career has stood the test of time.

4. Clayton Kershaw

Even before his career is over, we already know that Clayton Kershaw will go down as one of the best left-handed pitchers in MLB history.

At the time of his MLB debut, he was the youngest player in the majors, and it didn’t take him long to find success. When he won his first Cy Young and the Triple Crown in 2011, he became the youngest pitcher to do so in over 15 years.

He has since added two more Cy Young awards to his collection and was dominant enough in 2014 to be named MVP. There was a four-year period from 2011 to 2014 when Kershaw led the National League in ERA every season while also leading the league in strikeouts twice during that time. When all is said and done, Kershaw is likely to have more than 200 career wins and 3,000-plus strikeouts.

3. Steve Carlton

Among lefties, Steve Carlton is second on the all-time list in both wins and strikeouts. His list of accolades goes on and on forever, including 10 all-star selections, four Cy Young awards, and the Triple Crown in 1972.

Carlton pitched at a high level for a long time, spending more than two decades in the majors, enabling him to rack up 329 career wins and over 4,100 career strikeouts while pitching to an ERA of 3.22. In terms of excellence and longevity, there aren’t many left-handed pitchers who were better than Carlton.

2 Randy Johnson

During the prime of his career, the Big Unit was as close to unhittable as you can imagine, making it obvious that he’s among the best left-handed pitchers in MLB history.

At a certain point, he learned how to use his size to his advantage, combining a vicious fastball and an incredible slider. Randy Johnson finished his career with five Cy Young awards, including a stretch of four in a row from 1999 to 2002.

He has both a no-hitter and a perfect game on his resume and was the strikeout king in the majors for over a decade, leading the league in strikeouts nine times between 1992 and 2004, setting him up to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

1. Sandy Koufax

Forget about lefties and righties, Sandy Koufax might be the best pitcher of all time.

The only caveat is that his career was cut short by arthritis in his elbow, limiting him to just 12 seasons. In those 12 seasons, Koufax won the Cy Young three times, winning the pitching triple crown each time.

He was also the MLB strikeout leader on four occasions while pitching four no-hitters, including a perfect game. His abbreviated career still allowed Koufax enough time to rack up close to 2,400 strikeouts and 165 wins thanks to a curveball that most consider the best of all time.

Admittedly, there are pitchers who have posted more impressive numbers than Koufax. But it’s hard to find a pitcher who was more dominant from the mound.

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