All Forums > SimLeague Baseball > MLB > Nolan Ryan: Thoroughly Average Good Pitcher
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7/3/2013 8:50 PM
Top 30? I think that's a stretch.

He was the Best Strikeout pitcher of all time, no question.

But the best pitcher?

You can get outs in other ways. And perhaps, more effectively. That 112 ERA+ really jumps out at me. That says - "a decent number 2, a good number 3 guy"...

Pitchers with a superior ERA+ - which, remember, is a measure of how good you were at preventing earned runs from scoring, compared to the league average:--

Curt Schilling
Tex Hughson
Ellis Kinder
Tim Hudson
MIke Mussina
Cole Hamels
Jose RIjo
Mark Buehrle
Wes Ferrell
Bartolo Colon
Joe Dobson
Juan Guzman

...

THat's just a sampling. But would you consider any of the above guys in the top 30 all-time? But they were better than Nolan at getting outs and preventing runs from scoring, which is about all the job of a pitcher is.

Nolan is tied for 271st all-time in ERA+. I know its not the end all or be all of statistics, but it does have value because it captures whether the pitcher can prevent runs from scoring. Nolan simply wasnt very good at that. The dude could throw like a BEAST, but his command wasnt great, and as a result, he gave up runs even when he wasnt giving up hits.

Hypothetical - pitch him in his prime in the AL east the past 10 to 15 years. Would he be any good against those disciplined moneyball lineups? Taking walks, moving station to station? I dont know. We might not give a crap about him if that had happened.

I appreciate the fervor of the pro-Ryan responses - but simply saying "The guy was awesome" doesn't really tell me anything other than that you are subject to the hype of the Ryan Express, and goo goo gah gah over the strikeouts. Let's take a dispassionate look, shall we?
7/3/2013 10:11 PM
Many of those ahead of him are relievers that pitched a fraction of his 5386 innings.  And many of the starters ahead of him pitched a couple/few thousand less innings.  Allowing hitters a .204/.307/.298 line over that many innings is great.
7/3/2013 10:44 PM
It's not so great when you walk 2,795 guys (all-time leader) and allow so many runs that your career record is only 32 games over .500 in 616 decisions. His season average was 14 - 13. Yes, when he was on with his control he was AMAZING to watch and he will always be the greatest strikeout/power pitcher ever, but his bottom line is very pedestrian and reeks of an average pitcher. As I said before, Ryan and Blyleven as well were AVERAGE pitchers who had nice careers with inflated numbers because of their sheer longevity. There is no way you can argue with the fact that both of them were barely over .500 pitchers. Ryan belongs in HOF simply because of the no-hitters and one-hitters, but take that away and you've essentially got Blyleven. And Blyleven should never have even had a sniff of the HOF without paying for a ticket.
7/3/2013 11:56 PM
Posted by trsnoke on 7/3/2013 10:11:00 PM (view original):
Many of those ahead of him are relievers that pitched a fraction of his 5386 innings.  And many of the starters ahead of him pitched a couple/few thousand less innings.  Allowing hitters a .204/.307/.298 line over that many innings is great.
Most were fellow starters. But okay. Over 27 seasons and a ton of innings he compiled an 81.8 WAR. That's just north of 3 WAR a season. Even Blyleven averaged over 4.

That opponent hitter statline is awesome - especially in today's context - but remember he pitched when the game was a bit different.

And, as rsp notes - as good as he was, a .500 pitcher.
7/4/2013 1:41 AM
Seems a little backwards to use ERA+ as your primary measuring stick for value and then act like record matters.
7/4/2013 7:36 AM
There's a reason why this conversation keeps coming up.

Stat nerds seem to have a hard on for him, in terms of trying to tear Ryan down.

Frankly, there are two players in my lifetime where I would plop down money for a ticket just to watch that player; JR Richard and Nolan Ryan.

The simple fact that this keeps coming up over and over again is a testament to how good the Ryan Express was.
7/4/2013 11:36 AM
Posted by nanu on 7/3/2013 11:56:00 PM (view original):
Posted by trsnoke on 7/3/2013 10:11:00 PM (view original):
Many of those ahead of him are relievers that pitched a fraction of his 5386 innings.  And many of the starters ahead of him pitched a couple/few thousand less innings.  Allowing hitters a .204/.307/.298 line over that many innings is great.
Most were fellow starters. But okay. Over 27 seasons and a ton of innings he compiled an 81.8 WAR. That's just north of 3 WAR a season. Even Blyleven averaged over 4.

That opponent hitter statline is awesome - especially in today's context - but remember he pitched when the game was a bit different.

And, as rsp notes - as good as he was, a .500 pitcher.
40% of the list ahead of him in ERA+ pitched 1/3 the amount of innings he did or less and another 25% pitched half his innings or less.  Pitching that many more innings above league average is the definition of being above average.

MLB while Ryan was pitching - .257/.323/.381; league walk rate of 8.6%, strikeout rate of 14.1%
since Ryan - .264/.333/.419; league walk rate of 8.7%, strikeout rate of 17.3%.  Biggest change is batted balls turning into hits and increase in HR.  Looks like league has become more free-swinging, not much more patient.

You know this, but baseball is a team sport.  Wins depend on pitching, defense, offense.  Ryan had 2 runs of support or less in 37% of his starts.  I think league average was about 31%.  I'm sure there are teams he could have been on where his record would have been worse but probably more where his record would have been better. Someone else can look up park factors to see how that influenced his pitching and offensive support.
7/5/2013 1:34 PM
Would you rather have a pitcher who's doubtless HOF great for 12-15 years and gets injured a lot, or Nolan Ryan who can pitch his start almost every time for 27 years and usually be among the best? His longevity, his durability throughout the season, the number of pitches he would routinely throw - all of these save the team from using lesser quality relievers or AAA replacement starters. This is very hard to measure, but from having him in a couple progressive leagues, I'm reminded of how valuable it is.
7/5/2013 1:44 PM (edited)
He has 1000 more walks than the next closest pitcher...he's way overrated.  6876 baserunners in 5386 innings
7/6/2013 11:25 AM
I buy mattedesa's argument that sheer durability was among his chief values that is not captures in advance stat metrics. Makes you wonder hiw many of his walks came in the late innings when perhaps he was losing his edge, and a lesser mortal would already have been in the showers.

7/6/2013 4:50 PM
I checked that - his worst walk rate was the first inning.  That surprised me. 
7/6/2013 5:02 PM
Here are some per inning results.  I like BB and K per batter faced instead of per 9 innings but put both here since the latter is usually more familiar.

Split  IP  ERA  BA   OBP   SLG   OPS   BB/9   K/9   BB/PA   K/PA 
1st inning    766.1    4.13    0.221    0.347    0.325    0.672       6.1      9.9 15.4% 25.0%
2nd inning    751.1    3.11    0.196    0.304    0.294    0.598       4.7    10.1 12.8% 27.2%
3rd inning    736.0    3.11    0.194    0.297    0.292    0.589       4.5      9.4 12.1% 25.2%
4th inning    721.0    2.67    0.199    0.297    0.283    0.580       4.2      9.6 11.4% 25.9%
5th inning    694.0    3.15    0.203    0.301    0.296    0.597       4.4      9.5 11.8% 25.5%
6th inning    618.1    3.35    0.206    0.306    0.305    0.611       4.6      9.0 12.3% 23.9%
7th inning    494.2    3.00    0.203    0.297    0.292    0.589       4.3      9.6 11.4% 25.5%
8th inning    343.1    2.67    0.207    0.296    0.303    0.599       4.0      9.2 10.7% 24.3%
9th inning    231.2    2.99    0.202    0.297    0.287    0.584       4.1      9.0 11.0% 23.9%
Ext inning      29.1    2.76    0.241    0.349    0.315    0.664       5.3      8.7 13.0% 21.4%
7/6/2013 5:12 PM
Posted by deathinahole on 7/4/2013 7:36:00 AM (view original):
There's a reason why this conversation keeps coming up.

Stat nerds seem to have a hard on for him, in terms of trying to tear Ryan down.

Frankly, there are two players in my lifetime where I would plop down money for a ticket just to watch that player; JR Richard and Nolan Ryan.

The simple fact that this keeps coming up over and over again is a testament to how good the Ryan Express was.
Seems to me a statnerd would have no case.

I forget the 'tard that declared FIP to be the best new stat for a pitcher.    Ryan comes out pretty good.
Pedro Martinez - 2.91
Ryan - 2.97
Clemens - 3.05
Randy Johnson - 3.19
Greg Madduz - 3.26

And, of course, his WAR is within range also.
7/10/2013 6:39 PM
WAR says it all. At worst he was the 20th best pitcher of all time, at the worst. Only two pitchers were comparable to him during his career and that was Lefty and Blyleven. Everyone else played in different era's. And if you ever saw him pitch regularly you would also know that he had the reputation of being easy to steal against until of course coming to Rangers at end of career. Crappy catchers who could not throw out my grandmother and she is dead. Was he Pedro, Randy, Maddux, Koufax....NO but outside those greats he was the Best. 
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