Ranking the Top 10 Starting Pitching Rotations in Baseball History

The Top 10 Starting Rotations in baseball history!
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 02: Former Atlanta Braves players Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux and manager Bobby Cox are introduced as members of the All Turner Field Team prior to the game at Turner Field on October 2, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

10) 2019 Houston Astros

  • Justin Verlander (15-4, 2.82 ERA)*
  • Gerrit Cole (14-5, 2.87 ERA)*
  • Zack Greinke (11-4, 3.08 ERA)*
  • Wade Miley (11-4, 2.99 ERA)
  • Aaron Sanchez (5-14, 5.60 ERA)

This rotation includes possibly 3 Hall of Fame pitchers in Verlander, Greinke, and possibly Cole.

9) 1964 Chicago White Sox

  • Gary Peters (20-8, 2.50)
  • Juan Pizarro (19-9, 2.56)
  • Horlen (13-9, 1.88)
  • John Buzhardt (10-8, 2.98)

The Sox finished only a game behind the Yankees (and a game ahead of the Orioles) in a tight pennant race, the Sox were a light-hitting team, but the pitching was outstanding. Peters, Pizarro, and Horlen finished 2-3-5 in ERA and all got votes for AL MVP.

8) 2011 Philadelphia Phillies

  • Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA)*
  • Cliff Lee (17-8, 2.40 ERA)*
  • Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79 ERA)*
  • Roy Oswalt (9-10, 3.69 ERA)
  • Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01 ERA)

The Phillies staff led the league in ERA, and Halladay, Lee, and Hamels finished top-five in voting for the NL Cy Young. Halladay threw just the second no-hitter in postseason history in the NLDS.

7) 1972 Oakland A’s

  • Catfish Hunter (21-7, 2.04 ERA)*
  • Ken Holtzman (19-11, 2.51 ERA)*
  • Blue Moon Odem (15-6, 2.50 ERA)*
  • Vida Blue (6-10, 2.80 ERA)
  • Dave Hamilton (6-6, 2.93 ERA)

The Oakland staff led the league in total innings pitched (1,417 2/3), and remarkably, all five starters sported a sub-3.00 ERA. This was the first of three straight World Series titles, and they did it by throttling the Big Red Machine in the World Series.

6) 1988 New York Mets

  • Dwight Gooden (18-9, 3.19 ERA)*
  • Ron Darling (17-9, 3.25 ERA)
  • David Cone (20-3, 2.22 ERA)*
  • Bob Ojeda (10-13, 2.88 ERA)
  • Sid Fernandez (12-10, 3.03 ERA)

I know the 1986 Mets won the World Series, but I think the 1988 Mets were even better than that team. Unfortunately, they ran into Orel Hershiser, who in 1988 was as good as any pitcher that ever lived. These Mets had a rotation that led all of baseball in ERA (2.91), strikeouts (1,100), WHIP (1.15), and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.72).

5) 1993 Atlanta Braves

  • Greg Maddux (20-10, 2.36)
  • Tom Glavine (22-6, 3.20)
  • Steve Avery (18-6, 2.94)
  • John Smoltz (15-11, 3.62)

Three members of this rotation — Glavine, Avery, and Smoltz — were named to the 1993 All-Star team; Maddux wasn’t an All-Star, but surely the Cy Young Award he received after the season was a nice consolation prize.

4) 1971 Baltimore Orioles

  • Mike Cueller (20-9, 3.08 ERA)*
  • Pat Dobson (20-8, 2.90 ERA)
  • Jim Palmer (20-9, 2.68 ERA)*
  • Dave McNally (21-5, 2.68 ERA)

The Orioles became the first starting staff since the 1920 White Sox to have four starters with 20 or more wins in a single season. The combined era was under 3. Maybe the most impressive stat is the 71 complete games that they combined for.

 

3) 1954 Cleveland Indians

  • Early Wynn (23-11, 2.73 ERA)
  • Mike Garcia (19-8, 2.64 ERA)*
  • Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72 ERA)*
  • Art Houtteman (15-7, 3.55 ERA)
  • Bob Feller (13-3, 3.09 ERA)

Three Hall of Famers led this staff Wynn, Lemon, and Feller; the Indians held three of the top four AL leaders in ERA. Through Garcia, who led the league in ERA, and Wynn and Lemon finished third and fourth, and you have one of the greatest staffs ever to do it.

 

2) 1966 Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Sandy Koufax (27-9, 1.73 ERA)*
  • Don Drysdale (13-16, 3.42 ERA)
  • Claude Osteen (17-14, 2.85 ERA)
  • Don Sutton (12-12, 2.99 ERA)

3 hall of Famers on this 4-man rotation, but Sutton was not in his prime as of yet, but it’s hard to imagine a better one-two combination than Koufax and Drysdale. The four-person rotation featured three of the very best pitchers ever to play the game. Los Angeles’ staff led all of baseball with a combined 2.62 ERA.

1) 1998 Atlanta Braves

  • Greg Maddux (18-9, 2.22 ERA)*
  • Tom Glavine (20-6, 2.47 ERA)*
  • Denny Neagle (16-11, 3.55 ERA)
  • Kevin Millwood (17-8, 4.08 ERA)
  • John Smoltz (17-3, 2.90 ERA)

The Braves starters led the league in just about every category: ERA (3.25), strikeouts (1,232), WHIP (1.22), shutouts (14), and ERA+ (128). Though Glavine walked away with the Cy, both Maddux and Smoltz finished in the top five for the award. The top 3 are in Cooperstown, and all three were in their prime in 1998. Plus, the Braves starting rotation through almost all the 90s was the best in Baseball.

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