A Few of the Best Pitching Duos (That Lasted!) in MLB

Koufax/Dysdale. Maddux/Glavine. Marichal/Perry. Schilling/Johnson. Which tandems come to mind when you think of the best long-lasting pitching duos?

In 2015, Aroldis Chapman was a relief pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds…and one of the best relievers in the game.

But In 2016 he was with the Toronto Blue Jays…and the New York Yankees…and the Chicago Cubs—all in that one year. He helped the Cubs win their first World Series in 108 years.

But guess where he was the very next year?

He was with the Yankees again and helped them reach the AL Championship Series.

Pitchers come and go pretty easily these days, especially ace STARTING pitchers. There are a few pitchers who have stayed put for long stretches of time—Madison Bumgarner (Giants), Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Steven Strasburg (Nationals), but that’s not the norm.

…which is why the list of the best pitching duos in baseball history isn’t as long as you might think (without going too far back).

Yes, there have been some pairings that have had a few good seasons (and maybe one great one). But after a few seasons, one or both of those pitchers moved on to other teams.

And yes, there have been some great pitching staffs here and there (the Orioles of the ’60s perhaps), but the 1-2 combinations are somewhat few and far between.

Good pitchers. Weak team.
It doesn’t matter how good a couple of pitchers are if their team can’t help them win enough games to be in contention. Losing teams don’t produce many star pitchers, let alone memorable pitching duos.

Think of Nolan Ryan, for instance. Does any other pitcher instantly come to mind when you think of him? Ryan moved around from team to team in an era when that wasn’t too common.

Like bread and butter.
Here is a look at some of the best-known (and recognized) pitching duos to have played Major League Baseball:

Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
On the Dodgers together 11 years, 1956 to 1966
Koufax and Drysdale pitched their entire careers for the Dodgers and were teammates from 1956 through 1966, Koufax’s last season. (And yes, they were both young pitchers in Brooklyn for a few seasons!)

And for a stretch of five years, 1962 to 1966, the two put up some impressive numbers:

1962 Koufax 14-7 Drysdale 25-9
1963 Koufax 25-5 Drysdale 19-17
1964 Koufax 19-5 Drysdale 18-16
1965 Koufax 26-8 Drysdale 23-12
1966 Koufax 27-9 Drysdale 13-16

Koufax averaged 22.2 wins over that stretch, while Drysdale averaged 19.6 The Dodgers went to the World Series in 1963, ’65 and ’66. Koufax struck out 382 batters in ’65. Both pitchers are in the Hall of Fame, and they pitched when there were dozens of future Hall of Fame players in the League, including their rival San Francisco Giants, with May, McCovey and Cepeda.

Speaking of the Giants, another great tandem comes from the San Francisco team of that same era.

Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, San Francisco Giants
On the Giants together for nine years, 1962 to 1970

The Giants battled the Dodgers during the ’60s with two Hall of Fame right-handed hurlers of their own: Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say that in some ways they were overshadowed by their Dodger counterparts, who played in three World Series in the ’60s, winning two.

Marichal/Perry played together for 10 seasons. Marichal won 25, 21 and 22 games from ’63 to ’65, and he was consistently stronger than Perry, who didn’t really hit his stride till 1966.

1966 Marichal 25-6 Perry 21-8
1967 Marichal 14-10 Perry 15-17
1968 Marichal 26-9 Perry 16-15
1969 Marichal 21-11 Perry 19-14
1970 Marichal 12-10 Perry 23-13

During that five-year stretch, Marichal averaged 19.6 wins a season and Perry averaged 18.8. Perry would go on to win 314 games in his career, to Marichal’s 243. The only downside to their time together was that they made it to the World Series only once, losing to the Yankees in 1964 in seven games.

Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, Atlanta Braves
On the Braves together for 10 years, 1993 to 2002
In 1993, when Greg Maddux came to the Atlanta Braves from the Chicago Cubs, Tom Glavine had just completed two consecutive 20-win seasons for Atlanta. Together, the pair would go on to pitch 10 seasons together for the Braves, dominating the ’90s. (The Braves won 14-straight division titles from 1991 to 2005.) But more significantly, Maddux and Glavine teamed up to make one of the longest-lasting and most successful dominating starting-pitcher duos of all time. (And with John Smoltz on the staff, the Braves had a trio of great pitchers.)

Here’s a look at their 10 years together:

1993 Maddux 20-10 Glavine 22-6
1994 Maddux 16-6 Glavine 13-9
1995 Maddux 19-2 Glavine 16-7
1996 Maddux 15-11 Glavine 15-10
1997 Maddux 19-4 Glavine 14-7
1998 Maddux 18-9 Glavine 20-6
1999 Maddux 19-9 Glavine 14-11
2000 Maddux 19-9 Glavine 21-9
2001 Maddux 17-11 Glavine 16-7
2002 Maddux 16-6 Glavine 18-11

With 178 wins over that stretch, Maddux averaged just under 18 wins a season. Glavine’s 169 wins from ’93 to 2002 average out to 16.9 wins a season. Maddux won four-straight Cy Young Awards during that stretch (’92–’95) while Glavine won one (’98).

Here’s a modern duo that was great…but didn’t last:

Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks
On the Diamondbacks together for four years, 2000 to 2003
Randy Johnson pitched 22 years in the Big Leagues and Curt Schilling pitched 20. But they played just four seasons together for the Arizona Diamondbacks when baseball entered the 21st century. The Diamondbacks made it to, and won, the 2001 World Series because of their two aces, Schilling and Johnson, who were in their second season together as starting pitchers. Here’s a glimpse of three of their best seasons together:

2000 Schilling 5-6 Johnson 19-7
2001 Schilling 22-6 Johnson 21-6
2002 Schilling 23-7 Johnson 24-5

Schilling averaged 16.7 wins over those three years, while Johnson averaged 21.3 wins.

But, as is typical for these days, pitchers don’t stay on the same staffs for too long. In the 2003 season, Schilling went 8-9 and Johnson was 6-8. The next year, Schilling joined the Red Sox and helped them win the 2004 World Series.

It may seem as if there have been great pairings in recent times, but when you look closely, you’ll see that a couple of pitchers strung a few good seasons together, and it’s those seasons that stick in our mind, especially if the team makes it to the League Championship Series or the World Series.

Schilling and Johnson are good examples of modern-day aces who wind up on the same staff for a few good years and lead their team to success…only to move on to another staff and team up with another ace.

For instance, do you remember Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers, who pitched together from 2013 to 2015? They both averaged about 17 wins each of those three years.

And then Greinke jumped ship to join the Dbacks….

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