5 most legendary Phillies starting pitchers of all time

PHILADELPHIA, PA - CIRCA 1980: Pitcher Steve Carlton #32 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1980 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Carlton played for the Phillies from 1972-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - CIRCA 1980: Pitcher Steve Carlton #32 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during an Major League Baseball game circa 1980 at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Carlton played for the Phillies from 1972-86. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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Phillies Grover Cleveland Alexander
PHILADELPHIA, 1916. Grover Cleveland Alexander of the Philadelphia Phillies warms up before a game in the 1916 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images) /

TIE: Grover Cleveland Alexander and Steve Carlton

The top spot is really a toss-up between Steve Carlton and Grover Cleveland Alexander because it’s so difficult to compare two starting pitchers from such vastly different eras of the game. Alexander has Carlton beat in categories that have long since become impossible to repeat, while Carlton excelled in areas that weren’t as relevant in Old Pete’s day.

Alexander is the OG Phillies starting pitcher. Between 1911-1917, he posted a 2.12 ERA over a whopping 329 games, averaging 47 pitching appearances a year.

Here’s the breakdown of those 329 games: 277 starts, 47 games finished, 219 complete games, 61 shutouts, 15 saves, 2,492 innings pitched.

With the Phillies, Alexander led MLB in wins five times, led the NL and/or MLB in ERA three seasons in a row, and led either the league or the entire game in strikeouts five times. The workhorse also led in innings pitched in six of his seven seasons and pitched 300+ innings in all of them. Do you see why it’s impossible to compare the two?

Carlton is a four-time Cy Young award-winner, an accolade that did not exist when Alexander pitched. Joining the Phillies in 1972, he compiled a 3.09 ERA over 15 years, including 499 games, all starts. He amassed an impressive 185 complete games and 39 shutouts, but still not as many as Alexander. Different times, after all.

On the Phillies’ all-time leaderboards, Carlton has Alexander beat in WAR, wins, games played, innings pitched, strikeouts, starts, batters faced, and WPA. Alexander has Carlton beat in ERA, ERA+, win-loss %, WHIP, H/9, complete games, shutouts, and is the all-time FIP leader.

But one stat, adjusted pitching wins, shows just how valuable these two were, as Alexander and Carlton are tied for the all-time top spot, with 27.7 apiece. No one else even comes close.

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