Here is every team's best lefty starter in history

June 3rd, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on each player's career with that franchise. We've tackled catchers, first basemen, second basemen, third basemen, shortstops, left fielders, center fielders, right fielders, designated hitters and right-handed starting pitchers. Next up is left-handed starting pitchers.

These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only, and fans were able to participate in Twitter polls to vote for their favorites. Here is the No. 1 left-handed starter for each club, as chosen by's beat reporters.

American League East

Blue Jays: (1984-92)
Key fact: Ranks third in WAR (FanGraphs) among Blue Jays pitchers with 28.4, behind Dave Stieb and Roy Halladay
Key did it quietly, but the control artist was a cornerstone of the Blue Jays rotations through the late 1980s and early '90s. Key finished with an ERA above 3.90 just once over his eight seasons in the rotation, and he averaged 204 innings annually over that stretch. His success in Toronto went hand-in-hand with the club’s rise, too, as the Blue Jays had a winning record in all nine of Key’s seasons, culminating in the 1992 World Series championship. Blue Jays top 5 >

Orioles: Dave McNally (1962-74)
Key fact: Orioles' all-time leader in wins, starts, shutouts and strikeouts among left-handers
McNally is the best in an illustrious group of Orioles lefties, and there is a case to be made for him as the club’s second-best pitcher ever behind Jim Palmer. A stalwart of the vaunted O’s rotations of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, McNally famously recorded the final out of Baltimore’s first World Series victory in '66. He blossomed into a star a few years later, compiling the first of what would be four straight 20-win seasons in 1968. Orioles top 5 >

Rays: David Price (2008-14)
Key fact: Won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012
No. 1 overall picks in the MLB Draft don’t always pan out, but Price certainly lived up to the hype, becoming the best left-handed starting pitcher in franchise history -- and there really isn’t much to debate. Just a year removed from Vanderbilt, Price helped the Rays reach the World Series in 2008, albeit as a reliever. He joined the starting rotation after that season and never looked back. In 2012, Price became the first pitcher in franchise history to win the Cy Young Award, while simultaneously becoming the first Rays pitcher to win 20 games in a single season. Rays top 5 >

Red Sox: Lefty Grove (1934-41)
Key fact: His 44.9 bWAR is best for a Red Sox lefty
Fittingly, the best Red Sox lefty starter of all time is a Hall of Famer who answered to the name of … Lefty. Grove peaked during his nine-year run with the Philadelphia Athletics, but he still had plenty left in the tank for the final eight years of his career with Boston. Grove led the AL in ERA in four of those seasons, bringing his total number of ERA titles to nine. Red Sox top 5 >

Yankees: Whitey Ford (1950, ’53-67)
Key fact: Posted a 2.71 ERA in 22 World Series starts
No modern pitcher has won a higher percentage of his decisions than Ford (236-106, .690), who was the Yankees’ ace during his 16 years in pinstripes. “The Chairman of the Board” celebrated six World Series championships and 11 AL pennants in that tenure, winning two ERA titles (1956, ’58) and the ’61 Cy Young Award. A 10-time All-Star, Ford paced the circuit in victories three times, including a 25-4 mark for the 1961 Bombers during a season in which he was named MVP of the World Series. The Hall of Fame southpaw pitched to a 10-8 record with a 2.71 ERA in 22 Fall Classic starts overall, including a stretch of 33 1/3 scoreless innings that remains a record. Yankees top 5 >

AL Central

Indians: Sam McDowell (1961-71)
Key fact: Led AL in strikeouts five times in 11 seasons in Cleveland
McDowell made his big league debut at 18 years old in 1961 and spent the first 11 seasons of his 15-year career in Cleveland. The man known as “Sudden Sam” led the AL in strikeouts in 1965 (325) and ’66 (225) and all of MLB in ’68 (283), ’69 (279) and ’70 (304). Of all Tribe lefty starters, McDowell has the most bWAR (42.5), complete games (97), shutouts (22), wins (122), innings pitched (2,109) and strikeouts (2,159). The lefty is one of just two pitchers in Indians history to have eclipsed 2,000 strikeouts with the Tribe, joining Bob Feller. Indians top 5 >

Royals: Paul Splittorff (1970-84)
Key fact: Royals' all-time leader in wins (166)
Splittorff emerged in 1973 with a 20-11 record and a 3.98 ERA over 262 innings, but it wasn’t until after manager Whitey Herzog arrived in mid-1975 that the left-hander’s career really took off. Splittorff won 84 games from 1975-80 with a 3.78 ERA while logging 1,252 innings. “He was a bulwark for so many years,” Royals team historian Curt Nelson said of Splittorff. “It is still strange that neither Splitt nor [Dennis Leonard] were ever named to an All-Star team.” Splittorff, who died in 2011, was inducted in the Royals Hall of Fame in 1987. Royals top 5 >

Tigers: Hal Newhouser (1939-53)
Key fact: Only MLB pitcher to win back-to-back MVP Awards
Long before Denny McLain, Willie Hernandez and Justin Verlander pulled off the Cy Young-MVP Award double, Newhouser won AL MVP honors in 1944 and ’45. He nearly won again in 1946, finishing second in the voting after leading the league with 26 wins and a 1.94 ERA. From 1944-49, the Detroit native went 136-67 with a 2.52 ERA, a 152 ERA+, 2.75 FIP, 28 shutouts and nine saves, before an aching shoulder derailed his career by his early 30s. Tigers top 5 >

Twins: Johan Santana (2000-07)
Key facts: Won two Cy Young Awards; holds Twins record for most strikeouts in a season (265)
Jim Kaat was consistently stingy for more than a decade, but Santana’s remarkable peak in a more offensively charged era gives him the nod as the best left-hander in Twins history. Santana led the league in strikeouts and posted sub-1.00 WHIP marks in three consecutive seasons from 2004-06, winning the AL Cy Young Award in both '04 and '06. The gold standard of pitching performances in recent Minnesota history remains Santana's gem on Aug. 19, 2007, when he struck out 17 Texas Rangers without a walk over eight innings to set the club's single-game strikeout record and send the Metrodome crowd into a frenzy. Twins top 5 >

White Sox: Mark Buehrle (2000-11)
Key facts: Four-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner
An argument could be made for Buehrle being one of the most popular players to put on a White Sox uniform, both among teammates and fans. While he didn't throw hard, he simply could pitch. Buehrle joined the White Sox rotation in 2001, and for the next 11 seasons, he won at least 10 games, pitched at least 200 innings and logged at least 30 starts. After making nine Opening Day starts and throwing a no-hitter and a perfect game, Buehrle had his No. 56 jersey retired in ’17. White Sox top 5 >

AL West

Angels: Chuck Finley (1986-99)
Key fact: Leads all Angels pitchers with 52.0 bWAR
Finley pitched 14 seasons with the Angels and won at least 10 games 10 times, including every season from 1993-99. His best year came in 1990, when he went 18-9 with a 2.40 ERA in 236 innings and finished seventh in the balloting for the AL Cy Young Award. In his 14 years with the club, Finley went 165-140 with a 3.72 ERA and 2,151 strikeouts in 2,675 innings. He's the club's all-time leader in wins and innings and ranks second in strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan (2,416). Angels top 5 >

Astros: Dallas Keuchel (2012-18)
Key fact: Is the only lefty in franchise history to win a Cy Young Award
A fledgling starter for the rebuilding Astros in 2012-13, Keuchel narrowly made the starting rotation to begin the ’14 season and suddenly saw his career take off. A ground-ball specialist, he went 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA in 29 starts that season before going 20-8 with a 2.48 ERA over 33 starts in ’15, winning the AL Cy Young Award. After a down season in 2016 (9-12, 4.55 ERA), Keuchel recaptured his All-Star form in ’17 (14-5, 2.90 ERA) and helped the Astros win their first World Series title. In nine career postseason starts with Houston, Keuchel was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA. Astros top 5 >

Athletics: Eddie Plank (1901-14)
Key fact: A's all-time wins leader with 284
You can’t tell the history of the A’s without mentioning Plank, whose franchise records for wins (284), fWAR (57.8), strikeouts (1,985), games started (458), complete games (362), shutouts (59), and innings pitched (3,860 2/3) are untouchable for the foreseeable future. Plank was a vital piece of the original Philadelphia A’s dynasty that captured six AL pennants and three World Series titles from 1902-14, dominating the postseason with complete games in six of his seven World Series appearances while posting a 1.32 ERA. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946. Athletics top 5 >

Mariners: Randy Johnson (1989-98)
Key fact: Became Mariners’ first Cy Young Award winner in 1995
After being acquired as a gangly prospect from the Expos as part of a three-player package for Mark Langston in 1988, the 6-foot-10 Johnson developed into one of the premier power pitchers in MLB history and a feared presence on the mound during his tenure with Seattle. Though he went into Cooperstown wearing a D-backs cap on his plaque, the Big Unit laid the foundation for that Hall of Fame career by going 130-74 with a 3.42 ERA and 2,162 strikeouts in 1,838 1/3 innings as a Mariner. He also won the first of his five Cy Young Awards and threw the first of his two no-hitters while with the club. Mariners top 5 >

Rangers: C.J. Wilson (2005-11)
Key fact: Was the Rangers Pitcher of the Year in both 2010 and ’11, the two years they went to the World Series
Wilson had a tough start to his big league career, but after an excellent 2009 season as a setup reliever, he was given a chance to start in ’10. He made the most of it, winning a combined 31 games with a 3.15 ERA over 2010-11 and helping the Rangers reach back-to-back World Series. Wilson’s terrific body of work over the team’s two AL pennant-winning seasons makes him the clear choice as the top left-hander in Rangers history. Rangers top 5 >

National League East

Braves: Tom Glavine (1987-2002, '08)
Key fact: Accounted for 12 of the 22 postseason wins earned by a Braves left-hander while pitching as a starter
It’s hard to go against Warren Spahn, who has more wins (363) than any left-hander in baseball history and a higher WAR than any Modern Era Braves pitcher. But Glavine also won 300 games and had eight different seasons in which he had a 130 ERA+ or better. Spahn had just three such seasons. Glavine also had a 140 ERA+ or better five different times, while Spahn did so just twice. Braves top 5 >

Marlins: Dontrelle Willis (2003-07)
Key facts: 2003 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner; 22-game winner in '05
One of the most popular players in franchise history, Willis is the overwhelming choice to be the Marlins’ top left-handed starter. With his high leg kick, big smile and passion for playing, Willis was an instant sensation from the time he was promoted from Double-A at the age of 21 in May of 2003. Willis sparked the 2003 Marlins, going 14-6 with a 3.30 ERA in 27 starts, as he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award. In 2005, Willis had one of the best pitching seasons in Marlins history, going 22-10 with a 2.63 ERA. An All-Star that year, he paced the NL in wins, complete games (seven) and shutouts (five). He threw 236 1/3 innings, one shy of Kevin Brown’s 1997 total for the most in a season by a Marlins pitcher. Marlins top 5 >

Mets: Jerry Koosman (1967-1978)
Key fact: Second in Mets history behind Tom Seaver in shutouts, complete games and innings pitched
Nearly every meaningful Mets pitching record belongs to Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden, Jacob deGrom or Koosman. The latter is the only lefty of the bunch, a two-time All-Star who finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 1976. Statistically, Koosman’s two best seasons came earlier, as he went 36-21 with 33 complete games, 13 shutouts and a 2.18 ERA over 504 2/3 innings from 1968-69. Koosman was the winning pitcher in three of the Mets’ seven World Series victories in 1969 and ’73, and he finished his career undefeated with a 2.39 ERA in Fall Classic play. Mets top 5 >

Nationals: Gio González (2012-18)
Key fact: González has the highest bWAR among the franchise's left-handed pitchers (21)
González made an immediate impact when he was acquired from the Athletics for the Nationals' franchise-high, 98-win 2012 season. That year, he led all of baseball with a career-best 21 W’s -- the top single-season mark in Nationals/Expos history. González also paced MLB with a 2.82 FIP and 0.4 HR/9 mark. His overall 21-8, 2.89 ERA performance in 32 starts (including two complete games) with 207 strikeouts earned him a third-place finish in the NL Cy Young Award voting. González continued to pitch well after that, and he went 86-65 with a 3.62 ERA in 213 games over seven seasons with the Nats. Nationals top 5 >

Phillies: Steve Carlton (1972-86)
Key stat: Won four NL Cy Young Awards
Carlton had an incredible 13-year stretch with the Phillies from 1972-84. He led the big leagues with 236 wins, 185 complete games and 3,522 1/3 innings in that span. He ranked second with 2,921 strikeouts and fourth with 39 shutouts. He posted 65.4 bWAR, third among pitchers behind Phil Niekro (72.8) and Bert Blyleven (66.7). And he won four Cy Young Awards. The first of those came in 1972, when Carlton had one of the most dominant seasons in baseball history, going 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA. Those numbers are impressive on their own, but consider that the Phillies finished just 59-97 that season, which means Carlton won a record 45.8 percent of his team’s games. He was just the fifth pitcher to win 20 games for a last-place team. Phillies top 5 >

NL Central

Brewers: Teddy Higuera (1985-94)
Key fact: 3.61 ERA is best in Brewers history for a starter who logged at least 500 innings
At his peak, Higuera -- all 5-foot-10 of him -- was as dominant as any pitcher in Brewers history. Signed out of the Mexican League, he burst onto the MLB scene as a rookie in 1985, going 15-8 with a 3.90 ERA and finishing second to the White Sox Ozzie Guillen in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. The next year, Higuera became the Brewers’ third 20-game winner, going 20-11 with a 2.79 ERA and 207 strikeouts and earning a second-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award race behind Roger Clemens (who was also the league’s MVP). In 1987, Higuera won 18 games and struck out 240 batters, a club record that stood until Ben Sheets broke it in 2004. He had another strong year in 1988, posting a 2.45 ERA with 192 K’s and an AL-leading 0.99 WHIP. That ended up being Higuera’s last 200-inning season, however, as he was derailed by back and arm injuries. Brewers top 5 >

Cardinals: Harry Brecheen (1940, 1943-52)
Key fact: Accumulated 38.5 WAR in 11 seasons with the Cardinals
Brecheen was a two-time All-Star and a two-time World Series champion, and he won the ERA title (2.24) in 1948, when he collected 20 wins and finished fifth in the NL MVP voting. “The Cat” ranks eighth on the Cardinals’ all-time list in complete games (122) and winning percentage (.618 with a 128-79 mark) and is tied for ninth with Bob Gibson in ERA with a 2.91 mark (min. 750 innings). Brecheen’s success stemmed from exceptional control and a knee-buckling curveball and screwball. He didn’t throw hard, and his presence on the mound -- 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds -- wasn’t intimidating. But he hid the ball and had a deceptive delivery that drew praise from pitchers and hitters alike. Cardinals top 5 >

Cubs: Hippo Vaughn (1913-21)
Key fact: Most WAR (39.7) by a lefty pitcher in Cubs history
There has been nearly 100 years of Cubs baseball since Vaughn threw his final pitch, but he remains the team's all-time leader in WAR, wins (151), starts (270), complete games (177), strikeouts (1,138) and innings (2,216 1/3) for a left-handed starter. He was especially dominant over the 1914-19 seasons, going 124-77 with a 2.10 ERA and an average of 292 innings per year. Vaughn captured the NL pitching triple crown in 1918, when he won 22 games, struck out 148 batters and turned in a tidy 1.74 ERA. Vaughn did all he could to help the Cubs in the World Series that year, logging three complete games with a 1.00 ERA, but he was saddled with two tough-luck losses against the Red Sox. Cubs top 5 >

Pirates: Wilbur Cooper (1912-24)
Key facts: Franchise leader in wins and complete games; leads Pirates lefties with 48.2 WAR
The Pirates’ all-time leader in wins (202) and complete games (263), Cooper was a consistently dominant presence on the mound during his 13 seasons in Pittsburgh. He is all over the Bucs’ all-time pitching leaderboards, as he ranks second in starts and innings pitched, third in strikeouts and fourth in shutouts. Cooper led the Pirates in WAR during six of his 13 seasons with the team, with his best years coming in 1917 (17-11, 2.36 ERA in 297 2/3 innings) and ‘22 (23-14, 3.18 ERA in 294 2/3 innings). The one thing missing from Cooper’s resume? A World Series ring. Cooper’s tenure in Pittsburgh fell between the Pirates’ championships in 1909 and ‘25. Pirates top 5 >

Reds: Noodles Hahn (1899-1905)
Key fact: Recorded a career-high 239 strikeouts in 1901
Since the mound was moved to its modern location of 60 feet, 6 inches from home plate in 1893, only two pitchers have won 100 games before the age of 24 and two months -- Bob Feller and Hahn, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. Hahn also led the NL in strikeouts in each of his first three seasons and won 22 or more games in four of his first five. In 1901, Hahn pitched complete games in 41 of his 42 starts and was the victor in 22 of Cincinnati’s 52 wins. Hahn worked 300 or more innings during each of his first four seasons, including a career-high 375 1/3 frames in ’01. Not surprisingly, arm injuries took hold and extinguished his career at the age of 27. In seven years with the Reds, Hahn was 127-92 with a 2.52 ERA and 900 strikeouts. Reds top 5 >

NL West

D-backs: Randy Johnson (1999-2004, ’07-08)
Key fact: Johnson is the lone D-backs player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame
When the D-backs signed Johnson to a four-year, $52 million free-agent contract following the 1998 season, it was greeted with some skepticism in the game. Johnson was 35 years old at the time, and the D-backs were coming off an inaugural season that saw them lose 97 games. History, however, remembers the deal as not only the best signing in D-backs history, but quite possibly one of the best free-agent pitching contracts ever. In his first four seasons in Arizona, Johnson earned four NL Cy Young Awards and helped Arizona to a World Series championship in 2001. He was named Series co-MVP, pitching in relief and winning Game 7 -- one day after starting and winning Game 6. Johnson dealt with injuries in 2003, but he was outstanding in '04, throwing a perfect game and posting a 2.60 ERA with 290 K's over 245 2/3 innings. D-backs top 5 >

Dodgers: Sandy Koufax (1955-66)
Key fact: The only Dodgers lefty with more wins than Koufax’s 165 is Clayton Kershaw with 169
The resume says: One MVP. Three Cy Youngs. Five ERA titles. Left-handed. Last name begins with a K. What’s crazy is that the Dodgers have had two pitchers who match that description: Koufax and Kershaw. The tie-breaker goes to Koufax, who not only did all of that, but also was on four World Series winners and won two World Series MVP Awards. And just to underscore the greatness, he had 53 victories and threw 54 complete games over his final two seasons. And then he retired. Really. Dodgers top 5 >

Giants: Carl Hubbell (1928-43)
Key fact: Hubbell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1947
Nicknamed “The Meal Ticket,” Hubbell went 253-154 with a 2.98 ERA over his Hall of Fame career with the New York Giants. He earned the NL MVP Award in both 1933 (23-12, 1.66 ERA) and ’36 (26-6, 2.31 ERA), appeared in nine All-Star Games and led the league in ERA three times. From 1933 to ’37, Hubbell logged five consecutive 20-win seasons, propelling the Giants to three NL pennants and the 1933 World Series title. Known for his famed screwball, Hubbell showcased his dominance during his three-inning stint in the 1934 All-Star Game, when he struck out five future Hall of Famers in a row: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin. Giants top 5 >

Padres: Randy Jones (1973-80)
Key facts: Jones recorded 71 complete games and 18 shutouts while with San Diego
Nearly half a century later, it’s hard to comprehend Jones’ greatness, given that it comes from such a different era. He had more complete games and shutouts over eight seasons in San Diego than every Padre combined over the past 15 years. Jones made 40 starts during his NL Cy Young Award-winning 1976 campaign and completed 25 of them. Despite averaging just 98 strikeouts during his peak seasons of 1975 and ‘76, Jones posted a 2.50 ERA with 11 shutouts and 42 wins in that span, as he worked quickly and induced weak contact with a nasty sinker. Padres top 5 >

Rockies: Jorge De La Rosa (2008-16)
Key fact: De La Rosa leads all Rockies pitchers in wins (86) and strikeouts (985)
De La Rosa has the highest bWAR (15.5) among Rox lefties and is third on the list for any pitcher in club history. Much of his career with the club (2008-16) came in lean years for the franchise, but his 86 wins and 985 strikeouts are tops in club history. De La Rosa missed much of 2011 and ’12 because of Tommy John surgery, but he returned in ‘13 for his best year -- 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts. Even with the missed time, De La Rosa’s 200 starts rank second in club history behind Aaron Cook’s 206. Rockies top 5 >