MLB: Pitchers who thrived after turning 40

Bartolo Colon dazzled us last night, joining the ranks of the elite pitchers who succeeded after hitting 40.

(Photo Credit: Terry Foote)

Bartolo Colon nearly accomplished what seemed impossible last night in nearly no-hitting the reigning World Series champion Houston Astros, a team whose lineup is specifically designed to kill opponents with “small ball.” 

Colon was perfect through seven innings before walking Carlos Correa to lead off the eighth and then giving up a base hit to Josh Reddick. At 44 years of age, that’s impressive.  But Colon isn’t the only pitcher who’s that thrived on the mound well into his 40s. He joins the ranks of a few guys whose names are difficult to forget, even in their later seasons. 

  1. 1 Nolan Ryan

    Nolan Ryan pitched until he was 46 years old. And in his age 44 season, much like Colon, he was also on the mound for the Texas Rangers. That year he had an ERA of 2.91 and a FIP of 2.75. He was still striking out 10.56 batters per 9 innings as well.  Age didn't slow down Ryan much at all, in fact, up until his age 46 season, he threw well over 100+ innings each year. Opposing batters were still only batting  .172 against him which was his second-lowest opposing batting average since his age 25 season with the Angels.

    Oh, and let's not forget he also threw his seventh career no-hitter that same season!

  2. 2 Randy Johnson

    The Big Unit. At age 40, Johnson just missed winning his 6th Cy Young award, losing only to the man we previously mentioned, Roger Clemens. Regardless, he still had a great year with the Diamondbacks, putting up a 2.60 ERA and a FIP of 2.30, even throwing a perfect game!

    After pitching two seasons with the Yankees, he returned to Arizona at age 43, where he was still bringing the heat. Johnson was averaging over 11 K/9 that year and ranked second in career strikeouts after retiring at age 46 in 2009.

  3. 3 Gaylord Perry

    Perry pitched until his age 44 season and while his ERA rested on the higher end of 4.00 after that, he was still named to his final All-Star team at 40. At 43, pitching for the Seattle Mariners, he notched his 300th career win. Perry remained consistent regardless of his declining with age, going out there each year and giving his team well over 100 innings.

  4. 4 Phil Niekro

    Niekro pitched until he was 48 years old. He won a Gold Glove with the Atlanta Braves at age 44 and was named an All-Star once again at 45. The knuckleballing Niekro pitched the most innings perhaps of anyone on this list, going over 200+ each season, a truly impressive feat we probably won't see much of as time goes by. More and more pitchers are putting a strain on their elbows to throw harder, so the days of the 40-year-old pitcher with over 200 innings in a season could be well behind us. 

  5. 5 Mariano Rivera

    Mariano.  The Sandman.  I nearly forgot about him since he's a reliever, but he deserves just as much praise as any other guy on this list. The man spent his entire career with the New York Yankees and remained dominant through to his age-43 season. Not to mention there was that ACL injury at age 42, which should have ended his career. Instead, he returned for another season for the Yankees, putting up a 2.11 ERA as their closer. He recorded 44 saves that year and in his final season was once again named an All-Star. 

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