Originally Posted by Falls City Beer
The greatest pitcher must be a contemporary pitcher (I really don't care what anyone says--I'm incurious that way).
I think I agree with this. If nothing else the statistics are so hard to compare. They are always in comparison of the other players of their time, not the players of all-time.
My friends and I were discussing this a few weeks ago, and one of them made a good argument for Clemens. Clemens has an ERA differential of +1.34, higher than quite a lot of the pitchers listed here. One could argue that the ERA differential is biased in favor of pitchers in high-ERA eras, but clemens has also pitched in an era of steroids, good equipment, little ballpakrs, tightly-wrapped baseballs, and hightly trained and specialized hitters too, so that kind of evens out that argument a bit in my mind.
Martinez, probably the most dominant pitcher I've seen at his peak, has an amazing 1.78 ERA differential. But he hasn't been as good for as long as Clemens, and his win record (admittedly a rather poor gauge, but not discountable) is nowhere near clemens's.
I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Warren Spahn. In some ways he's quite comparable to Clemens. His differential is .56, but he's won more games and for a contending team to boot. He also habitually had a day's less rest than Clemens (again, the problem of comparing stats). But he wasn't quite as dominant, totally.
Nolan Ryan did a wonderful job for some middling teams at times, but he also issued an awful lot of walks. Again, though, since he was pitching for poorer teams than Clemens, he might not have had the luxury of throwing as many ground balls and so on. You see, one can even argue with oneself on these things. I don't know that we can really say for sure.