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The All-Time MLB Team, left-handed starting pitchers: nominations and ballot

The race for second place is on...

Waddell
Rube Waddell, from the White Border series (T206) for the American Tobacco Company,
Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Yeah, let’s be honest. I did think about making one of the polls consist of a single name. Or even skipping it entirely, and just having one poll of the other names, to decide the second spot. But before we anoint the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, let’s go through the process. Though in the unlikely event of any other result, I will probably be taking it as prima facie evidence of ballot manipulation, and declaring the vote null and void. It was an interesting exercise piecing the below together, combining posters’ thoughts with my own, mostly statistical input if necessary. Anyway, the nominations are...

Steve Carlton

Smurf1000: “Not only for the longevity of his success, but he is the only pitcher to win a Cy Young for a last place team (the 1972 Phillies, who went 59-97). Carlton won 27 games for a last place team. That is an amazing achievement.” Diamondhacks: “His 12.1 WAR in 1972 was the highest for a left-hander in nearly a century (Toad Ramsey 1886). Best lefty mark after Carlton was Randy in 2002 (10.7 bWAR).” Jack Sommers: “Pitched for a VERY long time, and racked up a TON of innings, and did it against modern competition. He had arguably the single greatest season every in 1972.” That would be a 1.97 ERA - after, remember, the mound was lowered in 1969 - with 30 complete games in 41 starts.

Lefty Grove

Jack Sommers: “Lefty Grove pitched in an extreme hitters era in hitters ballparks. He was the most dominant lefty before RJ. He led the league in ERA and ERA+. NINE TIMES. He led in FIP 8 times,he led in SO/BB ratio 8 times. He led in wins 4 times. Grove’s .680 W% is the highest of any 300 game winner, again righty or lefty. One reason he won “only” 300 MLB games was because he pitched over 1200 innings before that, for Jack Dunn’s “minor league” Orioles, that paid and may’ve played comparably to some major league teams. He pitched almost as many innings in the “minors” (1243) up to age 25, as Brandon Webb, a modern workhorse, pitched in the majors (1319). And he was probably just as good.”

Carl Hubbell

Oldenschoole: “Long-time Valley resident, master of the screw-ball. He isn’t with us any more, but those that faced him said he was the hardest pitcher to hit they had ever seen.” Hubbell didn’t reach the majors until age 25, but over the next dozen years, was as consistent as they come, never posting an ERA+ worse than 118. He was voted MVP twice, in 1933 and 1936, and set a major league record for consecutive wins by a pitcher with 24. Per Wikipedia, “Hubbell is perhaps best remembered for his performance in the 1934 All-Star Game, when he struck out five future Hall of Famers – Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin – in succession.”

Randy Johnson

No further discussion seems necessary. Anyway, I feel I’ll be discussing him further on Monday!

Sandy Koufax

MrRBI17: “If I had to pick a starting pitcher for one baseball game, where the survival of Planet Earth is at stake, I wound pick Sandy Koufax in his prime. From 1962-1966, his last five years before retiring at age 30:

  • 111 wins, 34 losses
  • ERA champ all 5 years
  • 1.94 ERA
  • 3 Cy Young awards when only one was given for both leagues
  • 1963 MVP and Cy Young winner
  • Leader in WHIP 4 of those years
  • Threw no hitters in 62-63-64-65, with the last of those a perfect game
  • Won the pitching Triple Crown 3 times.
  • Struck out 382 hitters in 1965.

In addition, Sandy led the league 6 times in hits per 9 innings. He is the youngest ever elected to the Hall of Fame, at age 36. I’ll never forget his performance in game seven of the 1965 Series, shutting out the Twins 2-0 on 2 days rest. (I think I played hooky from school that day!)”

Sam McDowell

ChuckJohnson56: “Without alcohol impacting his career the way it did would be in the conversation with Grove and RJ as the best LH of all time. Threw harder than Koufax, had arguably the best curve ever for a LH and had a slider and change too that he rarely threw because no one could hit the others. Duke Sims said you could catch him sitting in a chair, Jack Heidemann told me playing behind him was easy because no one ever hit the ball hard off him. Reggie Jackson said he was the best lefthander he ever faced. McDowell was out of the game early too, at 32. He only threw about a 170 innings more than Sandy did. Imagine his numbers if he played in LA and Koufax in Cleveland?”

Warren Spahn

kilnborn: “382 complete games. I’d take him over RJ any day of the week and for a double-header on Sunday.” Diamondhacks: “363 wins, thirty four more than the next highest LHP (Carlton 329).” Jack Sommers: “Truly a guy who knew how to win, by hook or by crook.” Warren Spahn: “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” More Spahn: “What is life, after all, but a challenge? And what better challenge can there be than the one between the pitcher and the hitter.” His dominance was enshrined in a poem written by the Boston Post sports editor, which was eventually condensed into “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain”

Rube Waddell

Oldenschoole: “In addition to being one of the greatest pitchers of all time, his bona-fide, heart felt wackiness set the stage for left-handed stereotypes that last to this day.” Wackiness? As a left-hander myself, I feel attacked. Anyhoo, Waddell led the majors in strikeouts for six consecutive years, at a time when K’s were harder to come by: in 1904, he had a hundred and ten more strikeouts than any other American League pitcher, with a K-rate twice league average. But having read the entirety of his Wikipedia page, I have to say, Oldenschoole was not wrong. Ah, what the heck. I’ll just copy paste a chunk:

He was notably unpredictable; early in his career, he once left in the middle of a game to go fishing. He also had a longstanding fascination with fire trucks and ran off the field to chase after them during games on multiple occasions. He would disappear for months at a time during the offseason, and it was not known where he went until it was discovered that he was wrestling alligators in a circus He was easily distracted by opposing fans who held up puppies, which caused him to run over to play with them, and shiny objects, which seemed to put him in a trance.

As for the right-handers, there will be two slots, so there are two polls. I’d suggest picking your two best candidates and voting for one in each. But you do you... The winner of each poll will make it onto the final team. In the (quite possible, I suspect) event of the same player winning both, the highest-placed runner up will get the second spot. Voting will close at some point on Sunday, whenever I need to start writing up the results!

Poll

Best LHSP in baseball history, first poll

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Steve Carlton
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    Lefty Grove
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Carl Hubbell
    (1 vote)
  • 60%
    Randy Johnson
    (29 votes)
  • 14%
    Sandy Koufax
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Sam McDowell
    (0 votes)
  • 10%
    Warren Spahn
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Rube Waddell
    (1 vote)
48 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Best LHSP in baseball history, second poll

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Steve Carlton
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    Lefty Grove
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    Carl Hubbell
    (1 vote)
  • 31%
    Randy Johnson
    (14 votes)
  • 33%
    Sandy Koufax
    (15 votes)
  • 0%
    Sam McDowell
    (0 votes)
  • 15%
    Warren Spahn
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Rube Waddell
    (1 vote)
45 votes total Vote Now