#1 since 1955 is Roger Clemens at 128.3 WAR. That's what happens when you pitch for 24 years at such a high level.
A distant, distant second is Tom Seaver at 105.4 WAR. Roger Clemens was Tom Seaver plus 11 additional league average seasons. That's pretty absurd.
The top pitcher not in the Hall of Fame is Greg Maddux at 96.7 (4th overall). There are eight other pitchers from the recent past (some of whom are still active) in the top 20:
Clemens - 128.3, 1st
Maddux - 96.7, 4th
Randy Johnson - 91.8, 8th
Pedro Martinez - 75.2 12th
Mike Mussina - 74.8, 13th
Curt Schilling - 69.8, 15th
Tom Glavine - 67.2, 16th
Kevin Brown - 64.9, 19th
John Smoltz - 64.8, 20th
Just for a bit of perspective, #21-23 are Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, and Jim Bunning. As hard as it is for some people to understand, not being one of the 3-4 best pitchers in one's era doesn't mean that a pitcher isn't one of the best of all time. I think Clemens-Maddux-Johnson-Martinez is the expected order for most people, but some (mostly those that don't tout him as a HOFamer) may be surprised to see Mussina following those four (and neck-and-neck with Pedro). Even I was somewhat surprised to see Kevin Brown that high, and above Smoltz. Brown had four seasons ('96-'98 and 2000) better than Smoltz's best year.
- Catfish Hunter - who I don't think should be near the HOF - is 92nd with 32.5 WAR. That's below Bruce Hurst and Camilo Pascual; neither of whom I've ever heard of.
- As closers go, Mariano Rivera is certainly the cream of the crop. He's 45th amongst all pitchers with 46.9 WAR, and a couple more season like the last one he had would move him it the mid 30's (Dave Steib, Robin Roberts, Orel Hershiser territory). Goose Gossage is currently the top closer in the Hall with 40.1 WAR. Interestingly, career saves leader Trevor Hoffman is all the way down at #122 (a spot below Mike Boddicker) with 28.6 WAR. Closers just aren't that valuable unless they're very, very good. Like Mo.
- Bert Blyleven (#7, 90.3 WAR) is a clear Hall of Famer. No doubter. Almost 5 WAR ahead of Bob Gibson. Seriously guys, just vote him in already.
- Jack Morris is 66th with 39.4 WAR. Below Tom Candiotti. And Brad Radke. And Bob Friend. And Claude Osteen. Why is there even a debate about this?
- Rick Reuschel, who I know next to nothing about, is 17th with 66.3 WAR. 214-191, 3.37 ERA (114 ERA+), no Cy Youngs (two #3 finishes), 3 All-Star games. No surprise that he didn't get much attention (two votes - 0.4% - and then he feel off the ballot). Nick-named "Big Daddy". Huh, I guess I learned something today.
"Larry Bowa of Philadelphia Phillies fame and himself a Cub for a few years, tells a story that reveals the mettle of the big guy. In the mid 70's, the Phillies had just been tatooed by the Montreal Expos in a weekend series in Canada and Bowa told a Montreal reporter in streams of colorable sentences that he wasn't upset at all because they were going to Chicago the next day and would beat up on the sad sack Cubs. The Phillies showed up the next day and had to face Reuschel who had apparently gotten a copy of the Montreal newspaper from some source. Reuschel said nothing but drilled Bowa in the ribs with his first pitch when the Phillies' shortstop stepped up to the plate. Bowa went down hard and got up slowly and walked down to first, chirping to Reuschel the whole time and calling him all sorts of obscenities. Reuschel let his actions speak for himself as he never said a word in reply. Leading off first base, Bowa then shouted repeatedly in similar obscene terms to Reuschel that he was going to steal second base. He never got the chance because Reuschel promptly picked him off before throwing a pitch to the plate. The proud but humbled shortstop from Philly picked himself up again from the dust and walked off the Wrigley turf to the hoots and jeers of the Chicago partisans. This was bad enough but it was to get worse for Bowa. As fortune would have it, Reuschel got a single the first time up with one out and Bowa saw a chance for revenge. He shouted to Dave Cash, Bowa's doubleplay partner and Spring Training greyhound racing amigo, that if "you get a grounder Doggie, give me a good toss and I'll hit that big ugly f***er right in his forehead." Luck seemed to be turning around for the Phillies shortstop as the leadoff batter did indeed hit a perfect double play grounder to Cash who, things actually going the same for Bowa that day, promptly juggled the ball before flipping it to Bowa. This bobble by Cash allowed Reuschel to come in high at second base and Bowa was spiked severely enough to have to leave the game bloodied. Sitting in the Phillies' dugout with his flesh torn open by the big guy who now stood on second base, Bowa did the math- he hit me, he picked me off, and he tore up my leg with his spikes. That was enough for the Phillies' shortstop. He knew Reuschel had gotten the best of him that day and promptly waved a white towel of surrender from the dugout in the direction of Reuschel before retreating to the clubhouse for treatment. Reuschel still said nothing but doffed his cap to Bowa in thanks for the tribute."Anyway; back to the program.]
- Of the active pitchers that are younger and still have a few years left to build their resumes, Roy Halladay leads the way with 40.6 WAR. He's 32, so seven more years averaging about 3 WAR would put him into the Jim Bunning range.
- Johan Santana is at 38.5 WAR at the age of 30. I like his chances to move up to around Mike Mussina, who had 35 WAR at the same point in his career.
- Roy Oswalt has 36.4 WAR and is 31, while CC Sabathia is 28 and has 33 WAR. Those four guys - Halladay, Santana, Oswalt, and Sabathia - are the four active pitchers who look to have the best chances of putting up really impressive career totals.