The Top 10 Greatest Pitchers in Philadelphia Phillies History

From Hall of Famers to present-day stars, Just Baseball presents the 10 greatest pitchers in Philadelphia Phillies history.

Closeup of Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Steve Carlton.
UNITED STATES - JULY 31: Baseball: Closeup of Philadelphia Phillies Steve Carlton, 1/1/1980--7/31/1980 (Photo by Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (SetNumber: X24677)

The Philadelphia Phillies began play in 1883, and you can count on one hand the number of pitchers who have had better two-year stretches in red pinstripes than Roy Halladay did from 2010-2011. And it wouldn’t take all five fingers.

Acquired in a trade from the Toronto Blue Jays in December of 2009, Halladay won the National League Cy Young Award in 2010, becoming just the fifth pitcher in MLB history to win the honor in both leagues.

For good measure, Halladay tossed a perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Florida Marlins, which was just the second in franchise history.

All he did in his first career postseason start on Oct. 6, 2010 was no-hit a Cincinnati Reds team that included future Hall of Famer Scott Rolen and that year’s NL MVP, Joey Votto. It was only the second postseason no-hitter in MLB history and the first since Don Larsen’s in the 1956 World Series.

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Halladay’s second season in Philadelphia may not have featured as many signature moments, but it might have been the best in his Cooperstown-bound career; he set new career-best marks in terms of ERA (2.35), FIP (2.20) and fWAR (8.7). Halladay finished second that year to Clayton Kershaw in NL Cy Young Award voting, although you can definitely make the case the voters got it wrong.

Despite the insane dominance of Halladay’s first two years in Philadelphia, his body hit a wall after 2011. He would pitch just two more seasons at an underwhelming level, retiring after the 2013 campaign. While the moments of 2010 and 2011 are forever etched in Phillies history, he just missed cracking this list.

Here are the 10 greatest pitchers in Phillies history.

No. 10: Curt Simmons (1947-1950; 1952-1960)

Best Season as a Phillie: 1952 – 14-8 with a 2.82 ERA, 130 ERA+, 2.76 FIP, 1.192 WHIP, 141 strikeouts, 15 complete games and a 4.5 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 115-110 with a 3.66 ERA, 108 ERA+, 3.46 FIP, 1.332 WHIP, 1,052 strikeouts, 109 complete games and 33.5 fWAR

Simmons was born in Egypt, Pennsylvania, graduated from Whitehall High School and attended Muhlenberg College in Allentown before spending the first 13 years of his MLB career with what amounted to his hometown team.

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Despite losing the 1951 season to his military service in Korea, Simmons made three All-Star teams as a member of the Phillies, two of which came in a dominant three-year stretch that followed his year-long absence. Between 1952 and 1954, Simmons ranked sixth among all pitchers in terms of FIP (3.21) and fourth in fWAR (14.2).

Simmons sits among the top five in the franchise’s all-time ranks in terms of wins (115) and innings pitched (1,939 2/3).

No. 9: Cliff Lee (2009; 2011-2014)

Best Season as a Phillie: 2011 – 17-8 with a 2.40 ERA, 160 ERA+, 2.60 FIP, 1.027 WHIP, 238 strikeouts, six complete games and a 7.1 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 48-34 with a 2.94 ERA, 132 ERA+, 2.85 FIP, 1.089 WHIP, 813 strikeouts, 12 complete games and 21.9 fWAR

Lee was something of a mercenary during his peak, winning the AL Cy Young with the Cleveland franchise in 2008 and helping the Texas Rangers reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history in 2010. But his most sustained success came over two stints with the Phillies.

Acquired at the 2009 trade deadline, Lee nearly pitched the Phillies to a second consecutive World Series title. Though the New York Yankees would prevent a repeat, Lee helped the Phillies get to the Fall Classic for the second time in as many years, even pitching a complete game at Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the World Series, one of the most dominant outings in franchise history.

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Although the Phillies traded Lee to the Seattle Mariners after that postseason run, he came back to Philadelphia as a free agent prior to 2011 on a five-year, $120 million deal. He would join the aforementioned Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt to form one of the greatest starting rotations of all time.

Lee never did get a World Series ring, but he was an All-Star in 2011 and 2013 as a Phillie. In 2011, he played arguably the greatest month a pitcher has had since the inception of the franchise, tossing a staggering six complete-game shutouts.

He finished third in NL Cy Young voting, but only because two of the greatest pitchers in MLB history — Kershaw and Halladay — topped him in one of the deepest races for the honor ever.

No. 8: Zack Wheeler (2020-present)

Best Season as a Phillie: 2021 – 14-10 with a 2.78 ERA, 150 ERA+, 2.59 FIP, 1.008 WHIP, 247 strikeouts, three complete games and a 7.2 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 47-28 with a 2.96 ERA, 142 ERA+, 2.86 FIP, 1.043 WHIP, 738 strikeouts, three complete games and 21.1 fWAR (stats current as of May 2024)

When the Phillies signed Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million deal prior to the 2020 season, they were betting that the best was yet to come for a pitcher who had incredible stuff but hadn’t put everything together for a sustained stretch during five seasons with the division-rival New York Mets.

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That proved to be one of the best bets the organization has ever made. Wheeler has been one of the five best pitchers in baseball since becoming a Phillie, combining an electric arsenal with a workhorse mentality.

Since the beginning of the 2020 season, Wheeler ranks second in innings and first in fWAR among all pitchers. He finished a close runner-up to Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2021 NL Cy Young race and has also been an All-Star and Gold Glove recipient since putting on red pinstripes.

Additionally, Wheeler has been excellent in the postseason for the Phillies, pitching to a 2.42 ERA and 0.73 WHIP over 63 1/3 playoff innings.

Prior to the fifth and final season of his original deal with the Phillies, the club rewarded him with a three-year, $126 million extension. That should allow him to finish his career in Philadelphia, and potentially climb up even further on this list.

No. 7: Jim Bunning (1964-1967; 1970-71)

Best Season as a Phillie: 1967- 17-15 with a 2.29 ERA, 149 ERA+, 2.49 FIP, 1.039 WHIP, 253 strikeouts, 16 complete games and a 6.8 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 89-73 with a 2.93 ERA, 122 ERA+, 2.80 FIP, 1.111 WHIP, 1,197 strikeouts, 65 complete games and 31.2 fWAR

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Bunning spent nine seasons of his career with the Detroit Tigers, the largest chunk he played with any team. However, when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996, his plaque featured him wearing a Phillies cap, because his most dominant seasons probably came during his first of two stints in red pinstripes.

From 1964-1967, Bunning led all MLB pitchers in innings pitched (1,191 2/3) and fWAR (26.5). He was an All-Star in 1964 and 1966 and finished runner-up to Mike McCormick of the San Francisco Giants in the NL Cy Young race in 1967, despite leading baseball in innings pitched (302 1/3), strikeouts (253) and complete-game shutouts (six) that season.

Bunning tossed the first perfect game in franchise history on Father’s Day 1964, and his No. 14 is one of just seven numbers retired by the Phillies.

No. 6: Aaron Nola (2015-present)

Best Season as a Phillie: 2018 – 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA, 173 ERA+, 3.01 FIP, 0.975 WHIP, 224 strikeouts, zero complete games and a 5.5 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 94-73 with a 3.72 ERA, 113 ERA+, 3.40 FIP, 1.131 WHIP, 1,629 strikeouts, five complete games and 34.6 fWAR (stats current as of May 2024)

A 2014 first-round pick, Nola has combined some dominant seasons with a rubber elbow that’s allowed him to be the most durable starter the sport has to offer.

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In 2018, Nola placed third in NL Cy Young Award voting, finishing behind Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, hardly something to be ashamed of. In 2022, Nola led all pitchers in baseball in fWAR. He finished fourth in the 2022 NL Cy Young race.

Nola has had some seasons where he’s pitched more like a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, but even then, he’s still been as durable as any pitcher in baseball. Since the start of the 2018 season, Nola ranks first in innings pitched.

Nola became a free agent after the 2023 season, but despite interest from a slew of other contenders, he ultimately returned to the Phillies on a seven-year, $172 million deal.

If he plays out his full contract with the Phillies, Nola will have spent 16 years with the team. Just by virtue of his time in the organization, Nola figures to move up a spot or two on this list. And if he helps the Phillies to win a World Series, he could move into the inner circle of pitchers the franchise has employed.

No. 5: Curt Schilling (1992-2000)

Best Season as a Phillie: 1997 – 17-11 with a 2.97 ERA, 143 ERA+, 2.62 FIP, 1.046 WHIP, 319 strikeouts, seven complete games and an 8.2 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 101-78 with a 3.35 ERA, 126 ERA+, 3.27 FIP, 1.120 WHIP, 1,554 strikeouts, 61 complete games and 38.6 fWAR

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Schilling’s absolute peak came with the Diamondbacks, and between his time with Arizona and the Boston Red Sox, he won three World Series titles in his career. But, the Phillies were his primary team, as he called Veterans Stadium his home for parts of nine campaigns.

As a Phillie, Schilling made three All-Star teams (1997-1999), while leading the NL in strikeouts (1997 and 1998) and complete games (1996 and 1998) on multiple occasions.

What makes Schilling’s run of success with the Phillies even more impressive is that it came during the height of the Steroid Era, the least opportune time to be a pitcher in MLB history.

A lack of team success ultimately led to Schilling’s departure from Philadelphia, as 1993 was the only winning season the Phillies enjoyed during the righty’s time with the team.

That postseason, Schilling began his legend as one of the best playoff pitchers the sport has ever seen, posting a 2.59 ERA over 31 1/3 innings as the Phillies won the NL pennant. In the process, Schilling won the NLCS MVP.

No. 4: Cole Hamels (2006-2015)

Best Season as a Phillie: 2011 – 14-9 with a 2.79 ERA, 137 ERA+, 3.05 FIP, 0.986 WHIP, 194 strikeouts, three complete games and a 5.1 fWAR

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Career Stats as a Phillie: 114-90 with a 3.30 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.47 FIP, 1.145 WHIP, 1,844 strikeouts, 14 complete games and 40.5 fWAR

There are two World Series MVPs in Phillies history, and Hamels is one of them. At just 24 years old, Hamels came of age during the 2008 postseason, going 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. Not only was he the World Series MVP, but the NLCS MVP as well.

While the 2008 postseason was the highlight of Hamels’ career, the 2002 first-round pick packed a ton into parts of 10 seasons with the Phillies. As a Phillie, Hamels pitched 200 or more innings on six occasions, made three All-Star Game appearances and finished in the top eight in NL Cy Young voting on four occasions.

Hamels’ finest season came in 2011, when, despite being an All-Star and finishing fifth in Cy Young voting, he was the third-best starter on his own team, behind the aforementioned Halladay and Lee. Of that trio, though, Hamels ultimately accomplished the most as a Phillie.

Fittingly, perhaps the finest start Hamels ever made with the Phillies was his final one. Just days before being traded to the Rangers, Hamels pitched a no-hitter at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs on July 25, 2015.

No. 3: Grover Cleveland Alexander (1911-1917; 1930)

Best Season as a Phillie: 1915 – 31-10 with a 1.22 ERA, 225 ERA+, 1.82 FIP, 0.842 WHIP, 241 strikeouts, 36 complete games and a 9.6 fWAR

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Career Stats as a Phillie: 190-91 with a 2.18 ERA, 140 ERA+, 2.38 FIP, 1.075 WHIP, 1,409 strikeouts, 219 complete games and 50.8 fWAR

It’s obviously difficult to evaluate someone who pitched more than 100 years ago, long before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier. But, what Alexander — whose real name was Pete — accomplished in his era made him a legend, both in Phillies history and the broader lore of the sport.

Alexander’s first stint with the Phillies, which lasted from 1911 to 1917, is when he had the bulk of his success. During that period, Alexander led all of baseball in innings pitched (2,492) and his fWAR (50.9) ranked second only to Walter Johnson, who might be the greatest right-handed pitcher ever.

The Cy Young Award didn’t yet exist, but considering Alexander led the NL in wins, ERA, FIP, WHIP, strikeouts and innings pitched on multiple occasions as a Phillie, it’s fair to assume he would have won the top pitching honor at least once.

Among Phillies pitchers, Alexander is the all-time leader in complete-game shutouts (61), winning percentage (.676), FIP (2.38) and win probability added (29.3). Alexander became a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.

No. 2: Robin Roberts (1948-1961)

Best Season as a Phillie: 1953 – 23-16 with a 2.75 ERA, 153 ERA+, 3.12 FIP, 1.111 WHIP, 198 strikeouts, 33 complete games and an 8.4 fWAR

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Career Stats as a Phillie: 234-199 with a 3.46 ERA, 114 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, 1.171 WHIP, 1,871 strikeouts, 272 complete games and 62.6 fWAR

Roberts is the second-greatest pitcher in Phillies history and would be the top arm to have ever pitched for a lot of teams.

Across 14 seasons with the Phillies, Roberts made seven All-Star Game appearances. He led baseball in wins (1952-1955), complete games (1952-1956), innings pitched (1951-1955), batters faced (1952-1955), BB/9 (1952-1954; 1956) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (1952-1954; 1956; 1958) all on at least four occasions.

The Cy Young Award wasn’t given out until 1956, at which point Roberts had already finished in the top 10 in MVP voting on five occasions, including a runner-up finish in 1952. As with Alexander, you can bet Roberts would have won the Cy Young multiple times if the award had existed for his entire career.

Roberts is the Phillies’ all-time leader in complete games (272) and innings pitched (3,729 1/3). The Phillies retired Roberts’ No. 36 in 1962. If you need an idea of how important he was in Phillies history, his number was the first the franchise retired, and it was retired before his playing career even concluded.

Roberts would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.

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No. 1: Steve Carlton (1972-1986)

Best Season as a Phillie: 1972 – 27-10 with a 1.97 ERA, 182 ERA+, 2.01 FIP, 0.993 WHIP, 310 strikeouts, 30 complete games and an 11.1 fWAR

Career Stats as a Phillie: 241-161 with a 3.09 ERA, 120 ERA+, 3.05 FIP, 1.211 WHIP, 3,031 strikeouts, 185 complete games and 75.5 fWAR

Carlton is the greatest pitcher in Phillies history and one of the five best left-handed pitchers in the history of the sport.

Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade following the 1971 season, Carlton turned in one of the greatest seasons in MLB history in 1972, winning 27 games on a disastrous Phillies club that managed just 59 total victories the entire season.

Carlton captured the NL Cy Young Award that year, one of four that he would win during 15 seasons as a Phillie. He is one of just four pitchers in MLB history to win the Cy Young Award four or more times, along with Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson.

Despite not beginning his career with the Phillies, Carlton is the franchise’s all-time leader in fWAR (75.5), wins (241), strikeouts (3,031) and games started (499). He also helped the Phillies to win two NL pennants (1980, 1983) and the first World Series title in team history in 1980.

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The Phillies retired Carlton’s No. 32 in 1989, and the BBWAA elected him to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 1994. His long-time teammate Mike Schmidt is the greatest overall player in Phillies history, but Carlton is almost certainly No. 2.