Lefties are quite rare and only comprise of around 10 percent of the human population. There are currently just under 140 left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball making up nearly 40 percent of active pitchers.
This means game-changing left-handed pitchers are quite highly sought after. The following legendary left-handers are the reason why!
John had a respectable career when he joined the major leagues at the age of 20. After pitching for the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, the sinkerball pitcher was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and then the New York Yankees where he posted 20-win seasons. When Mark McGwire, whose father was John’s dentist, got two hits off of him in 1986 he said, “When your dentist’s kid starts hitting you, it’s time to retire!” He proceeded to play three more seasons.
Newhouser had a respectable 17 seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians from 1939 through 1955. He was said to be the most dominant pitcher of the WWII era and made the All-Star team six times before winning the pitcher’s triple crown in 1945. He became a scout for the Houston Astros but resigned shortly after the team neglected his recommendation to draft Derek Jeter. It was probably the biggest mistake the Astros have ever made.
Lolich signed with the Tigers as a free agent in 1958 and made his major league debut in 1963. During his first season in 1964, he racked up 18 wins with 192 strikeouts. Lolich played a major part in the Tigers’ multiple pennant races in the late 1960s. He was known for his consistency having won 14 or more games over ten consecutive seasons, including 25 wins in 1971. He even had 200 or more strikeouts seven times during his career.
Fernando Valenzuela had an astonishing 17-year career and played for six teams, mainly with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unlike many of his pitching colleagues, Valenzuela was also a threat at the plate knocking in 10 career home runs over the course of his career. He had one no-hitter against the Cardinals in 1990 on the same day Dave Stewart pitched one against the Blue Jays – the only instance in baseball history that happened.
George Herman Ruth was one of the most dominant hitters to ever play the game of baseball and many people forget he was an incredibly effective pitcher. Early in his career, he was known as a pitcher who could sometimes hit the long ball. He wanted to be able to play every day so the team put him in the outfield when it wasn’t his turn in the pitching rotation. He played a key role in bringing baseball into the mainstream.
Although Vida Blue would sometimes confuse batters with an occasional curveball and a wicked change-up, he was most known for his speed. He consistently nailed the strike zone using his incredible 100 mph fastball. Batters could do nothing but watch it pass or completely miss with a swing. Blue was also the first of only four pitchers in MLB history to start an All-Star game for both the National League and American League.
Hubbell’s pitching style has rarely been emulated since his retirement in 1943. He was voted the NL’s Most Valuable Player two times in his career and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947. The most memorable moment in his career came when he struck out five of the greatest hitters during the 1934 All-Star Game. He retired with an astounding 253-154 record with 1,678 strikeouts and a 2.97 ERA.
Glavine won the second highest number of games in the National League during the 1990s, finishing behind teammate Greg Maddux. The Braves’ starting rotation was practically unstoppable during those years. He is one of 24 other players to collect 300 total career wins. In addition, Glavine pitched five 20-game seasons and earned the Cy Young Award twice. The Baseball Writers Association nominated him for the Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility with a 91.9% vote.
Clayton Kershaw is one of the most entertaining pitchers today. He boasts the 10th largest sports contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, an incredible milestone for a baseball player. He worked his way up through the Los Angeles farm system in just one season before making it to “The Show.” From 2011-2014, he won 3 Cy Young Awards (coming in 2nd in 2012) and pitched a 300-strikeout season in 2015. His career shows no signs of slowing down.
The “Chairman of the Board” spent his entire 16-year career with the New York Yankees. He was voted onto the All-Star team 10 times and was the member of the World Series Championship team six times. Ford was also honored with the Cy Young Award and World Series MVP during the same season in 1961. Throughout his career, he also led the AL in wins a total of three times and ERA twice.
Grove is on the elite list of pitchers to have retired with 300 wins over the span of his career. He led the American League in wins over four seasons and in strikeouts an incredible 7 times in a row. In one of his most important pitching stats, Grove had the lowest ERA a record-breaking nine times. He retired with an ERA of 3.06. He was ranked by The Sporting News as the number 23 greatest player of all time.
It’s not surprising that a pitcher with the nickname of “Lefty” would make it to the top 15 greatest left-handed pitchers list. Steve Carlton has earned the second-most strikeouts and the second-most wins out of any left-handed pitcher – impressive enough alone to merit his inclusion here! In 1972, Carlton made up almost half of the wins for the last-place Philadelphia Phillies with 27. He also has the most balks out of any pitcher.
Warren Spahn was one of the most dominant pitchers in Major League history with 363 total career wins, more than any left-handed pitcher in history. He was known as an intellectual on the mound and used his personal mantra, “Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” He spent all but one year with the Boston/Milwaukee Braves and appeared in 14 All-Star Games, which is the most by any pitcher in the 1900s.
There’s a reason why the nickname “The Big Unit” stuck with Randy Johnson. Towering at 6 feet 10 inches, Johnson’s ability to strikeout players and use intimidation tactics to keep them away from the plate was astonishing. His hard slider was able to send 10.67 batters per nine innings back to the bullpen. Johnson is also second in the number of batters hit. Looking back at old tapes you can see the fear in their eyes as they faced the Big Unit.
Any fan of baseball will tell you Sandy Koufax is one of the greatest, if not the greatest pitcher of all time. He won the Cy Young Award three times in 1963, 1965, and 1966 by unanimous vote and was the first player in baseball history to do so. He was the first pitcher to go the distance with four no-hitters. Even though his career ended early due to arthritis, Koufax is seventh on the all-time strikeouts list as of his retirement.