This is the time of year where each pitcher’s performance for a contending team is incredibly important. In these tight races, teams need very clutch pitching. Those who perform well under these circumstances are usually dubbed “Big-Game Pitchers,” and the MLB postseason is where these guys shine.
The following list will highlight the 10 greatest big-game pitchers of all time. Also, I will be highlighting the pitchers best overall game (in my opinion), but the rankings are based off of their entire body of work.
Let’s dive in...
10. Tom Glavine
Best Performance: 1995 World Series, Game 6
Stat Line: 8 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 8 K, 3 BB
He played a huge roll in getting the Atlanta Braves their only World Series title during Bobby Cox’s legendary stretch as the Braves’ manager. His World Series clinching performance in Game 6 is one of the greatest pitching performances in Braves history.
9. Jack Morris
Best Performance: 1991 World Series, Game 7
Stat Line: 10 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 8 K, 2 BB
This is one of the greatest games for a pitcher in the game’s history, and it happened in the all-important game 7 of the World Series. This was one of his four World Series wins, and he was a part of three World Series championship teams.
8. Randy Johnson
Best Performance: 2001 World Series, Game 2
Stat Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 11 K, 1 BB
The 2001 World Series is one of the greatest postseason series that I can remember. Johnson was unbelievably dominant as he worked his way to a 3-0 record and a ridiculous 0.692 WHIP during that series. Considering the era in which he played, he has to be one of the best big-game pitchers of the modern era.
7. Christy Mathewson
Best Performance: 1905 World Series, Game 1
Stat Line: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 6 K, 0 BB
He was one of the game’s first big-game pitchers. He almost single-handedly gave the New York Giants the 1905 World Series title. He went 3-0 with three shutouts in that series, and only gave up one walk in 27 innings.
6. Whitey Ford
Best Performance: 1961 World Series, Game 1
Stat Line: 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 6 K, 1 BB
The New York Yankees have won an MLB-best 27 World Series titles, and Ford might be their greatest postseason starting pitcher ever. He pitched in 22 World Series games, and helped the Yankees win six titles.
5. Sandy Koufax
Best Performance: 1965 World Series, Game 7
Stat Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 10 K, 3 BB
Koufax won Game 7 of the 1965 World Series on only two days rest. He led the Dodgers to four World Series titles. If he had been able to pitch effectively into his late 30s, he could have easily been considered the greatest pitcher of all time.
4. John Smoltz
Best Performance: 1991 World Series, Game 7
Stat Line: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 4 K, 1 BB
Smoltz is the greatest starter/closer of all time. He shut out the Pirates in Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS, and he was incredible in Game 7 of the World Series that year. He did everything he could to get his team the win, but it just did not work out. Still, he is one of the best ever in a clutch position.
3. Mariano Rivera
Best Performance: 1996 World Series, Game 6
Stat Line: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 K, 1 BB
You might think it is strange that I even included a closer on this list at all, but his resume warrants inclusion. He has pitched 141 postseason innings, and he has an 8-1 record with an unbelievable 0.70 ERA. He is the best and most dominant closer of all time, and he helped to shorten a great deal of huge games that characterize the modern Yankees dynasty.
2. Curt Schilling
Best Performance: 2001 World Series, Game 7
Stat Line: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 9 K, 1 BB
He was 11-2 with a 2.23 ERA in his postseason career. He is most noted for his “bloody sock” performance in Game 6 the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, but he is probably the biggest reason why the Diamondbacks were able to take Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. Whether in Philadelphia, Arizona, or Boston, Schilling proved himself to be one of the greatest big-game pitchers ever.
1. Bob Gibson
Best Performance: 1968 World Series, Game 1
Stat Line: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 17 K, 1 BB
Gibson’s record 17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series is still a record today. After Gibson’s 1968 season, dubbed the “Year of the Pitcher,” MLB actually decided to lower the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches to help out the hitters. In total, he had a 7-2 postseason record with a 1.89 ERA. He is the greatest pitcher in St. Louis Cardinals history, and he is the best big-game pitcher of all time.
Also Considered: George Earnshaw, Pedro Martinez, & Jim Palmer
Tweet to @MLBFanCave and @KyleOKC using the hash tag #MLBFC with your pick for the best big-game pitcher in MLB history.