Leaderboarding: Randy Johnson and best lefty strikeout artists ever

There was no better Southpaw strikeout artist in baseball history than Randy Johnson.
There was no better Southpaw strikeout artist in baseball history than Randy Johnson. (Getty Images)

Throwback Rumor: Big Unit almost went to Cleveland in 1998

Earlier Sunday, we hopped in our virtual time machine and went back to the summer of 1998, when the Indians nearly landed Randy Johnson. As we now know, the Big Unit put together a Hall of Fame resume and went down in baseball history as one of the greatest strikeout pitchers of all-time.

If we narrow the discussion to left-handed pitchers, however, there's little doubt that Unit was the best ever at striking out opposing hitters.

In fact, by several measures, it isn't even close.

Here are the nine pitchers in baseball history who were/are left-handed, with at least 2,000 career strikeouts and a strikeout rate (strikeouts per nine innings or K/9) of at least seven. We'll also include strikeout-to-walk rate (K/BB), the percentage of opposing batters faced that were struck out (K%) and raw strikeout total (K). Just for kicks, I also included WAR.

Johnson's lead in every category is quite imposing. The chart is sorted by K/9, but interestingly enough, the K% also lined up.

Best left-handed strikeout pitchers ever
Name K K/9 K% K/BB WAR*
Randy Johnson 4875 10.61 28.6 3.26 104.1
Sandy Koufax 2396 9.28 25.2 2.93 53.2
Sam McDowell 2453 8.86 23.2 1.87 42.9
CC Sabathia 2389 7.75 20.7 2.86 54.4
Mark Langston 2464 7.49 19.6 1.91 50.2
Chuck Finley 2610 7.35 19.1 1.96 58.4
Rube Waddell 2137 7.23 n/a** 2.94 55.2
Steve Carlton 4136 7.13 19.1 2.26 84
Mickey Lolich 2832 7.01 18.7 2.58 48.9

Where Johnson ranks among the best left-handed pitchers in baseball history is something we'll tackle next offseason -- when he's eligible for the Hall of Fame -- but for our purposes here, there shouldn't even be an argument: Randy Johnson is the best left-handed strikeout pitcher in baseball history.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered the last five World Series beginning with the epic 2011 Fall Classic. The former Indiana University... Full Bio

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