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POLL: Nolan Ryan and the Hall of Fame

Posted by Andy on May 10, 2011

On another thread, we debated a bit about Nolan Ryan's career and legacy. I have long felt that some people give Ryan too much credit, but I'm not as sure that he doesn't deserve to be in the Hall of Fame anyway.

When it comes to Ryan's career, there are 3 things that most people think of in terms of his accomplishments:

  • 5,714 career strikeouts, which is first all-time
  • 7 no-hitters
  • 300+ career wins (324 actually, which is 14th all-time)

Let's attack those 3 main accomplishments.

Regarding his career strikeouts, although his total is #1 all time, his K/9 is "only" 4th at 9.548. The 3 guys ahead of him are more recent players--Randy Johnson, Kerry Wood, and Pedro Martinez, so it's a bit unfair to hold that against Ryan. Since strikeout rates have been increasing all the time, it's a little bit easier these days to rack up higher strikeout totals. Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that Ryan's career total is thanks at least in small part to his longevity.

Ryan also leads all of MLB in career walks, and his K/BB ratio of 2.044 is only 246th all-time. So he piled up a ton of strikeouts and a ton of walks, but relatively speaking he walked a lot more.

This segues into his 7 career no-hitters. They are very impressive, no doubt. Ryan's rate of hits per 9 innings is 6.555, also first all-time. So he was clearly the best-suited guy to rack up a pile of no-hitters, and that's exactly what he did. But we might overestimate how good of a pitcher he was based on those no-hitters. When it comes to keeping guys off base, his career WHIP is just 266th all-time. Think about that--the guy with the lowest hit rate of all time falls to 266th when you add in his walks.

Finally, as far as his career wins go, while he's 14th in career wins, he's 3rd in career losses. His overall record of 324-292 isn't all that impressive. His neutralized pitching stats put his W-L% at just about the same number.

There are tons of other things we could say about Ryan's career. All I've tried to do here is dispel some of the aura of the numbers of particular note to make sure that we look past them a little bit. I can't really imagine Ryan not being Hall worthy, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 at 7:35 am and is filed under Hall of Fame, Polls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

197 Responses to “POLL: Nolan Ryan and the Hall of Fame”

  1. Wow, now I understand the negativity about Juan Pierre here. According to this site the HOF should have 2 members, Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson.

  2. When I agreed he was overrated, I didn't mean to imply that I don't think he should be in the HoF. When I was a kid, when you were pitching, you pretended you were Nolan Ryan. He was a feared fastballer that would put together amazing performances of dominance relatively often. If you look at that in a vaccuum, you'll overrate him because his other numbers aren't that impressive. It doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the HoF. Like you said before, baseball is better for having Nolan Ryan and I don't think anyone can make a good argument against that.

  3. Yes, he's clearly overrated. Yes, he's clearly a hall of famer. Yes, these are amongst the two easiest questions you could ask anyone who knows even a tiny bit about baseball to answer.

    You also seem to hold his durability against him, while in many ways, it's probably his greatest asset. You could count on Ryan to go out there for 35-40 starts every year and pitch 200-330 innings every year. These days pitchers like Ryan, high K/high walk guys, barely throw 150 innings. Partly a change of the times, but partly because Ryan was a FREAK of nature health wise. It almost seems absurd looking back that he was able to throw in the mid 90s for that many years, while racking up insane pitch and inning counts year after year.

  4. Ryan is a HOF player but I agree with you that he was wildly overrated. I remember being at an MLB game about 10-15 years ago when fan votes were being taken for the greatest players of all time. A guy next to me was commenting how Ryan was his easy pick. I then started explaining how not only should Ryan not get his vote but that Ryan didn't belong on the ballot. His response: "But he had 7 no-hitters".

  5. Is it wrong that I suspect that Ryan could have been ahead of his time with PEDs? Let's face it, he was throwing in the high 90's at the age of 42. I know he's Saint Nolan and everything but if he did that today he'd get the Bonds treatment.

  6. hall of famer, but i could list at least 25 pitchers id want before him. way too many folks have him as a top 5 pitcher of all-time, or even top ten. he doesnt belong in either list

    the poll should be adjusted to: do you think Nolan Ryan is one of the 15 best starting pitchers of all time. THAT would show a split in the vote. this poll...should come out at least 85%+ in favor of HOF status

  7. #1 - Seriously? Babe Ruth? Dude couldn't cut it as a pitcher. Won ZERO Gold Gloves. Never had a 50 steal season. Just an awful player. Walter Johnson should be the ONLY Hall of Famer.

    But if we're going to include lesser players like Gehrig and Mays and such, well I'm for Ryan. The number that recently moved me more to the Ryan as a HOFer camp came about when I looked at number of games with game scores over 90. Ryan had 31 of those. By comparison, Seaver and Gibson COMBINED had 30. Randy Johnson was second on the list with 20 (of course, Deadball pitchers aren't included).

    31 starts is pretty much a season of starts (especially when you're going the distance every time out). A season of 90+ game scores? Ryan in those games was 26-1 with four no-decisions, had an ERA of 0.06. 285.2 innings, 54 hits, 98 walks and 407 strikeouts. The rest of your career could be Sidney Ponsonesque and still merit at least some consideration.

  8. I think he belongs though I was surprised at how easily he made it. I was born in 1969 so I remember a good portion of his career. And here's the thing....for most of his career, if you had suggested that Nolan Ryan would one day be in the Hall of Fame, you would have been laughed out of the room.

  9. also an interesting bit of trivia that most people completely get wrong. Nolan Ryan never won a Cy Young award. He didn't even finish in the top 3 after 1977.

  10. I'm in total agreement that Ryan's achievements are overrated by most. However, surely the career leader in strikeouts and no-hitters deserves to be in the Hall, even if on those facts alone.

    Nevertheless, it serves as a reminder that Ryan's career total is thanks at least in small part to his longevity.

    Well, yeah, but his longevity is also an important part of what made him a great player.

  11. Using your tools, could you check out some defensive metrics of the teams behind him? How good were they? How did he fare in terms of giving up HRs? If he gave up a lot of HRs, with runners on, then the walks are all of a sudden something he couldn't control. But if the data show he pitched to contact or managed to strand a ton of guys, then the walks all of a sudden don't seem like such a problem. Did he clean up the messes he created?

    How much run support did he get? What kinds of teams was he on during his career? Were they winning teams? Were they losing teams? Could some of this explain his record?

    Did he decline or get better over his career, by any metric? Did he still have good, late years? I want to address durability because it seems exceedingly rare. If one is able to maintain consistent performances over a long career, then that to me is perhaps one of the most impressive metrics.

    It's very easy to find numbers that support any argument in the baseball metrics world. If you think he's still Hall-worthy, then what supports that claim?

  12. BillyPhilly Says:

    Let's say that Nolan Ryan would be the number one pitcher in Joe Morgan's Hall of Fame.

    The beauty of Nolan Ryan is that he couldn't exist in the current game. He threw too many pitches to consistently pitch the innings that he was allowed because pitch counts have changed. He would have to adjust to reduce pitch count and then his strikeouts and walks would both decrease.

    But might he be an even better pitcher?

  13. Cy Young to syonara Says:

    I absolutely agree with everything you say. One may still be a Hall of Famer and be over-rated. Ryan is the classic example. Sutton is another who comes to mind.

  14. Since someone mentioned Joe Morgan, I have a question and it's sincere. There is more that one website out there dedicated to hating Joe Morgan. Can anybody tell me why? I've stumbled onto those sites, but it's like an inside joke and I'm late to the party and don't get it. The guy was a great ballplayer, and a good broadcaster with a really good voice. I don't get it.

  15. I would agree with what appears to be a consensus here; Ryan's most celebrated accomplishments--the no-hitters, the strikeout totals--make him unique, but not a Hall of Fame-caliber player in and of themselves. What makes him a Hall of Famer, what sets him apart from the other grinders in the Hall like Burleigh Grimes or Eppa Rixey, was the length of time that he was a quality major league pitcher. He was never the best pitcher in the game at any particular time, but he was a quality pitcher for a generation, and that makes him a Hall of Famer in my book.

  16. Larry R. Says:

    @14

    I think what people seem to hate is his ESPN analysis, not his abilities as a ballplayer. I believe those sights are also directed at Joe Morgan the ex-Red Sox manager, if I'm not mistaken.

  17. Dr. Doom Says:

    I don't think Andy is suggesting that Nolan Ryan doesn't deserve to be in the Hall - merely that it might be worth discussing. In fact, he said, "I can't really imagine Ryan not being Hall worthy, but I'd like to hear your thoughts," so let's not pretend like Andy wants to kick him out. I would agree that his stats and legacy merit a second look. He's frankly a very similar player to Bert Blyleven - overrated by some, underrated by others. Both are Hall-worthy, in my opinion.

  18. Larry R. Says:

    Doh...I mean "sites".

  19. Timmy P:
    The Joe Morgan hate comes generally from his disregard for stat heads, more specifically his hatred of "Moneyball" which he never read and believed that Billy Beane wrote himself. It spread to his general need to overrate speed guys and generally love on guys that stat heads can usually prove are not very good. Personally, I think he's just a typical old ballplayer who is simply spouting what he was taught about the game at the time he was playing.

  20. I have added a second poll at the end of the original post..please check that one out too.

  21. Patrick C. Says:

    It's ridiculous to look at his statistics. He's a HOFer on his 1970's stats alone. The guy had to pitch a shutout to get a win. A 2 something ERA with 16 losses? C'MON guys! Look at the stats! 220 complete games? STUPID!

  22. The poll would have given me pause if it had jumped from 10 to 25 to 50. I'm sure he's not top-10, and I'm sure he is top-50, but trying to narrow it down further would be tough.

  23. Timmy P.
    To continue the off-topic portion of this thread: It's a matter of opinion and preference regarding Joe Morgan. Listening to his broadcasts, I found him pompous, arrogant and extremely self-aggrandizing. He had no sense of pleasant discourse with his HOF broadcast partner, Jon Miller. I was absolutely amazed at how gracefully Miller suffered Morgan's boorishness.

  24. Here's the thing about Nolan Ryan: I feel like he's one of those guys who's been overrated for so long that he's now underrated.

    We-- at least, we who care about statistics to some degree-- have been talking for years about his poor strikeout/walk ratio and the fact that it was mostly durability that got him 300 wins and that the no-hitters don't really mean that much. That stuff has been out there, and anybody who hasn't thought about it hasn't thought that much about Nolan Ryan.

    But growing up in the 80's, he was still one of THOSE GUYS you considered with a certain reverence-- him and Clemens and Gooden for a while-- and he was good enough to be the ace of major league staffs in three different decades. (Well, the Astros of the 80's had Scott and Knepper and Niekro, but there were still some years where Ryan was best...) I'm in favor of considering things like that in addition to raw numbers.

    As to the numbers, though, he's the Pete Rose of pitching, but without the scandals. Rose was largely a singles hitter whose "hustle" was severely overrated-- but still and all, 4,000 hits is 4,000 hits. And 5,000 strikeouts is 5,000 strikeouts.

    As I said about Blyleven when he was under consideration, I don't generally believe in make-or-break milestones for Hall of Famers. But anybody who strikes out more guys than Walter Johnson, I'm OK with putting 'em in the Hall of Fame.

  25. @ #23:

    Since Morgan actually was the greatest second-baseman of all time, it would be pretty hard for him to be self-aggrandizing. Well, inappropriately so...

    He usually seemed like a really nice guy to me. It was just when he went off against advanced stats that he rankled.

  26. Spartan Bill Says:

    –noun
    1. widespread reputation, especially of a favorable character; renown; public eminence:

    That's tje 1st definition of fame at dictionary.com. keep in mind that we are not talking about the "Hall of Sabremetrically Advanced" . We are talking about the Hall of Fame.

    Nolan Ryan was one of the faces of the game, and not only set records for strikeouts and no-hitters, but was also.for the number of seasons played is reason enough to let him in. Just because of the fame factor.

    But since this is a site populated mostly by people who gfollow sabremetrics; let me point out that Ryan is 16 all-time in WAR for pitchers. Of 1 through 15, 12 are in the HOF. Two more (R. Johnson and Maddux) will almost certainly get in on the 1st ballot; and 1 (Clemens) has his own set of issues, but clearly has the numbers to deserve it.

  27. Hall of Fame: yeah. One of the hundred greatest pitchers: okay. When he was young, with the Mets around 1968 or 1969, I thought he, Koosman and Seaver would just dominate the National League for years. I think he had a clutch relief performance in the '69 playoffs against the Braves.

  28. Spartan Bill Says:

    Oops forgot to close the tag

  29. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    Sorry if I'm repeating, I was only able to skim the entries.
    But Andy your argument that his K total is less impressive because his K/9 is ONLY 4th is weak and kinda contradicts something you've leaned on in the past, which is besides SO rates going up, starters 2-3 decades ago, saw batters 4 times - having two negative effects - 1. the batter saw far more pitchers, and 2. the pitcher's fatigue.
    But saying he was 4th in K/9 rate, like that was shameful, especially when Kerry Wood is one ahead of him, and he has 2,000+ more innings than Pedro.
    As far as his walks, they are pretty bad, but he seemed to get that under control later in his career. I also feel his coaching was partly to blame for allowing him to walk 200 batters in a single season.
    Now his W-L, again this is something you point out, but also on other blogs say is arbitrary and meaningless. I should point out in Houston, in '86 or '87 - He was the ERA leader, the strikeout leader, but went 8-16.
    I also think a product of his era, affecting a lot of pitchers was tons of decisions. I think they stayed in games longer, even if they were doing poorly or mediocre, because bullpens were smaller. So I think some of his losses played today, would be an early shower, followed by lefty righty match-ups.
    Lastly, I think despite other aspects of some player's careers, there are simply stats that are so amazing, they can not be ignored. This isn't a question of passing a milestones, this is setting the bar.

  30. Great poll! Let's vote on Babe Ruth next.

  31. 98% think he's a HOF-er. 73% think he's not in the top ten. Makes sense to me. The HOF is filled with guys like that. No one ever say Al Kaline was the best player of all time but there's no debate he's a HOF-er either.

  32. Just an FYI: MLB Media has a 3:50 highlight of Nolan Ryan's 7th no-hitter that shows a whopping 10 pitches from that game. At least my memory watching hitters frozen on those curveballs proves accurate.

    Gosh, MLB media is just terrible.

  33. What's amazing is that if it were anyone else we would be busting out WAR and ERA+ and dang near everything else. But it's Nolan Ryan, so even people who normally would break out WAR go - he had 5714 Ks - it's almost impossible to get past that. We're on 30 posts and no mention of WAR ...

    If we pretend Ryan was Blyleven ...

    He had 84.8 WAR - in the 1970s he had 42.8 WAR. In the 1980s he had 30.8 WAR. In the 1960s and 1990s combined he picked up another 11.2 WAR. Peak seasons - he had a 3-year stretch of 20.4 WAR (1972-1974) - his best WAR year (1977) is at 8.3 and is not included. Granted, after those 4 years (and one other at 5.5) he's like Lou Whitaker - very consistently between 2 and 5 WAR, but he did that for 18 years (outside of his top 5 seasons)!!! His 84.8 pitching WAR ranks him 16th all time. His 80.5 total WAR (including his offensive "contribution") ranks him 56th all-time. Plus, he has 61 shutouts!!! That's one more than Blyleven!!! All of his comps are in the HOF except for Clemens and Unit. His black ink score is 84 (11th all-time among pitchers), his gray ink is 254 (17th all-time). Oh, and he won 300 games.

    Note: He pitched in 8 All-Star games - I'm not sure which side that goes on. Probably the plus side. Someone would figure out how much better or worse he was than his teams.

    Detractors would say - only 20 wins twice? Never led the league in wins, his .526 winning percentage is pretty low - worse than Doyle Alexander, Ben McDonald, Tim Wakefield ... heck, it's worse than AJ Burnett. Or Rick Reuschel. Only led his league in ERA twice and WHIP twice, ERA+ twice as well. His career ERA+ is 112 (down there with Jeff Russell and Mel Stottlemyre, though in fairness they didn't pitch 5300+ innings). His career WHIP is 1.247, 266th all-time (though right behind Steve Carlton). He never won a Cy Young award (but did have 6 top 5 finishes). And oh those walks!!!

    In my mind, Nolan Ryan is the pitching version of Pete Rose. They played forever and amassed huge counting totals - they didn't have huge peaks, but there was a peak, and they were consistently good for a large amount of time around their peak.

  34. If Nolan Ryan isn't a Top Ten pitcher, I'd like to know who the Top Ten are. I'd slot Johnson, Koufax and Seaver ahead of Nolan, perhaps even Randy Johnson, but few other pitchers were as dominating as Nolan--compared to his peers. He played for bad teams throughout his career. And as far as longevity is concerned, longevity for a pitcher is far and away more impressive than it is for a position player. In baseball, the arm gives out quicker than anything.

    However, as an Astros fan, I always thought Mike Scott had better seasons when he and Ryan teamed together in the rotation during the mid to late 1980s, but Scott doesn't have the career numbers than Ryan has. Ryan, with his career numbers, was a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame.

    How about questioning Reggie Jackson's merits for the HOF?

  35. Brian Wells Says:

    I use to marvel how Nolan Ryan just kept on going and going.His longevity was almost superhuman!But honestly looking at all his stats I`m underwhelmed.He is overrated.He got over 98% of the votes when he was elected to the Hall of Fame.Ryan only led in lowest ERA twice in over 25 seasons and has probably the lowest winning % of any member of the 300(wins)club.Lefty Grove only got slightly over 76 %of HOF votes and is somewhat forgotten by today`s fans yet he has the highest winning % of 300 club,has record of 9 times leading in lowest ERA(in just 17 seasons),also record of leading in winning % 5 times.If Nolan Ryan is a great pitcher,then what does that make Grove?

  36. juan sin miedo Says:

    Over rated, Under rated that is the question? Hall of Fame? Really?
    Like it or not Mr. Nolan Lynn Ryan is still significant, he retired almost 20 years ago and still comes up in todays baseball stories and lore. Babe Ruth played some 80 - 90 years ago and is still significant today, same goes for Henry Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Pete Rose et al..........It is impossible to compare apples to oranges. Someone said in an earlier post that K's are much more common in todays MLB then in Ryan's, well that is because there are what 4 new teams (since 1992) or 100 MLB players out there that would not have made a major league roster back in the 60's, 70's, or 80's. Ryan will be significant in another 20 years and probably his name will outlast him and I. I feel this alone makes him not only rated correctly and a member of the hall of fame but also Legendary or Iconic.

  37. As with most things, Nolan Ryan's legacy depends on your perspective. First, the whopping amounts of walks during his career is used against his status as one of the best all time. It's fair to bring up the walks, but it has to be put in perspective. The year he set the major league records for walks allowed (204), his ERA was 2.77. I don't think there's another pitcher in the history of baseball that could pull that off. In addition, during his years with California, he averaged 15 losses a year, while posting an ERA of 3.07, making the argument against his W-L record a little less compelling. A last thought about his walks: he became consistently better with his control over the years. He walked 132 in 198 innings in 1975. In 1990, he walked 74 in 204 innings (I chose those two years, because they are somewhat similar in number of innings pitched). Although his walks can be viewed as a liability, from a certain perspective it worked for him. Hitters feared for life and limb when the went up to bat against him (see also Randy Johnson).

    On a separate topic, Ryan was phenomenal at keeping the ball in the ballpark. One of the best pitchers of this generation is clearly Roy Halladay. In Halladay's career, he has allowed 20 or more homers three times. Ryan's high was 20 homers in a season. What's even more phenomenal is that he allowed just 18 when he pitched 332 innings in 1974.

    Best of all-time? No. Overrated? No. His astounding, record setting career was achieved in spite of his wildness, which is a testament to his phenomenal talent.

    P.S. For post #8. Sports Illustrated had Nolan Ryan on the cover in 1975 with the headline, "The Great Nolan Ryan". In 1979, Ryan signed with the Houston Astros for $4.5 million dollars, making him both the highest paid player in MLB and the first to make $1 million in a season. Also, by the time he went to the Astros, he had 4 no-hitters and was already #4 on the all-time strikeout list. I'd be curious to know exactly who was laughing people out of the room for most of Ryan's career when the HOF was brought up.

  38. juan sin miedo Says:

    Another interesting tid bit of the Ryan legacy that has nothing to do with him being over rated or under rated and being a member of the HOF. All 4 teams Ryan pitched for: The Mets, Angels, Astros and Rangers were all expansion teams of the 60's. The Angels and Rangers (senators) in 61' and the Mets and Stros (colt 45's) in 62'. How bout them apples.

  39. Ryan was a freak of nature. He really shouldn't be compared with the likes of Greg Maddux or Pedro Martinez. Ryan had a gift all of us wish we had - the ability to throw baseballs at ungodly speeds for almost 30 years. IMO, his longevity and career accomplishments should be celebrated, not disparaged. Yes, he was often underwhelming on a season-by-season basis and in rate stats but the fact that he could do what he did for as long as he did is what makes him a Hall of Famer.

    This is sort of like asking "Is Pete Rose a Hall-of-Famer" and then criticizing his home run totals. It misses the point about what made him special.

  40. Ryan was simply an awesome pitcher, and he definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame. (I'd be interested to know why the people who voted against him think he doesn't belong in the Hall.) But that being said, I wouldn't put him in my top ten pitchers of all time. If I had one game to win, and I could choose from any of the pitchers of Ryan's generation, I'd want Tom Seaver or Steve Carlton on the mound.

  41. This whole debate is silly, the guy holds 4 marks that will NEVER be broken:

    1) All time strikeouts
    2) No-Hitters
    3) Single Season record for strikeouts (There will never be another pitcher to strikeout 300 batters in a season)
    4) 300k season 40 and over. (If the guys today can barely come close to 270, who is striking out 300 at age 40 and over?)

    The guy set marks that will never be touched period.

  42. This is a joke... I hope. Who cares if he is overrated, he had 324 wins and the most strikeouts (pitchings most prestigious stat) than anyone who ever played the game. Your telling me hes not a hall of famer? WHAT!?

  43. I'm pretty sure anyone with 5000K, is one of the top 5 pitchers of all time. Partly for his ability to strike out that many, and partly for his ability to last so long in the major leagues.

    Saying he isn't one of the best since he leads the universe in BB's, is akin to saying Cy Young wasn't so great 'cause he led the universe in losses in order to win 500. Which is funny, because win totals say less about a pitcher's ability than their K's & BB's. BTW, walking 4.7 per 9 IP ain't bad when you're striking out slightly more than twice that amount and giving up less base hits than anybody else ever. Isn't this obvious to everyone?

  44. This is the classic HOF argument: which is better, a short, dominant career, or a longer, merely "good" one?

    The top-tier HOFers were dominant for a long time. The second tier were either dominant for a short time, or "merely good" for a long time, and Ryan clearly falls into this category.

    Is he over-rated? Slightly, yes. But he belongs in the HOF.

  45. My immediate thoughts go along with the "Fame" over pure statistical analysis. Of his era which really spanned 2 era's he was the king of strikeouts, the no-hit wonder, and the flame throwing intimidator. Then consider that he achieved his fame while playing for multiple second/third tier franchises. How many guys have top 5 CY/MVP finishes for 3 teams.
    Then you get to his accumulation statistics such as 14th in Wins (4th Live Ball Era), 1st in Ks, 1st in No-hitters, 5th in IP (2nd LBE), 2nd in GS (1st LBE), 7th in Sho (2nd LBE), will likely be last pitcher with 200+ CGs
    On top of accumulation he was great per unit -1st in Hits/9ip, 4th in SO/9ip, 8 top 10 ERA's, 9 top 10 WHIPs, 8 top 10 K/W, 14 top 10 HR/IP
    And in Saber stats he is also among the elite 16th in WAR (11th LBA) and top 25 in most of the others. Bottom line a great player of any era.

    Now some questions on his less impressive statistics. His 3.19 ERA put him 246th all-time but his W/L% fairly low is their a predictor of how many wins his ERA should have produced? If he had the 246th best W/L% he would have had 348W's vs 268L's. The other question is on his K/W rate. Is there a way to see that over the course of a game. Did he walk more in the early innings or the late? Also did he have a lot of high walk games or were most of his games close to his average/per game. Basically did he get left in the game when his control was either off for the whole game or severley eroded in the late innings in order to preserve the bullpen staff.

  46. Johnny Twisto Says:

    That's tje 1st definition of fame at dictionary.com. keep in mind that we are not talking about the "Hall of Sabremetrically Advanced" . We are talking about the Hall of Fame.

    Tired argument. The HOF obviously does not exist to induct the most famous players. (1) They're already famous, why do they need to be inducted? (2) Would you advocate Mark Fidrych for the HOF?

    If Nolan Ryan is a great pitcher,then what does that make Grove?

    Arguably the best pitcher ever.

  47. Johnny Twisto Says:

    testtest

  48. Stu Baron Says:

    Why are comments 27 and up all in bold?

    @12 BillyPhilly: Pitch counts haven't changed - 1 pitch is still 1 pitch. It's the conventional wisdom and attitudes about pitch counts that have changed.

    @27 Steven: Ryan also had a save in his only World Series appearance. He pitched 2.1 innings to preserve a 5-0 shutout over the Orioles for Gary Gentry in game 3 that year. True to form, he walked 2 and struck out 3. Ironically, the Mets chose to include Ryan instead of Gentry in the Jim Fregosi deal in December 1971. The Angels were prepared to accept either pitcher.

    I believe Ryan's longevity and stats make him worthy of HOF induction, but I also remember that he seemed very beatable at times, probably because of all the walks he issued. He wasn't very good against the Mets in game 2 of the 1986 NLCS, but he was dominant in game 5 of the same series, striking out 12 and giving up only 2 hits in 9 innings in an eventual 2-1, 12-inning loss at Shea.

  49. Yetijuice Says:

    I am surprised that nobody here mentioned that Nolan Ryan pitched the bulk of his innings in pitchers ballparks (Shea Stadium, Anaheim Stadium and the Astrodome). Yes, I would put Ryan in the Hall of Fame. I put him in the Top 50 pitchers of all-time in the poll above.

    I would select Ferguson Jenkins on my pitching staff before I would take Nolan Ryan. Jenkins pitched the majority of his career in hitters ballparks (Wrigley Field and Fenway Park). Both Ryan and Jenkins pitched in Arlington Stadium, so that is a push.

    Low scoring games forced Ryan to constantly bear down. If Ryan pitched primarily in hitters parks and Jenkins pitched primarily in pitchers parks we would see different numbers for their ERAs and home runs allowed. Jenkins would almost certainly then have a lower career ERA than Ryan.

    To prove me wrong someone has got to show me how well Ryan pitched in hitters parks (Wrigley, Fenway and others) compared to how well Jenkins pitched in pitchers parks (Anaheim, Astrodome and others). I know there are variables to figure in that might be hard to find--was the wind blowing in or out, was the marine layer present or not.

    Wasn't Ryan's secret for his longevity the pickle juice he soaked his pitching hand in so he would not get blisters on his fingers? I don't believe there were any steroids in that pickle juice.

  50. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Hmmm, I think Andy might be trolling us this morning.
    Really? Nolan Ryan? I think Michael Jordan was overrated because his tongue wasn't long enough.

    Exactly 200 of those 292 losses came when his team scored 0-2 runs.

    I love stats as much as anybody, but admittedly, Im not a full-blown saber, so I dont know how nuetralized stats can put his w/l at the same mark. Common sense says that you put that man on better teams throughout his career and he would have 400 wins.

  51. Brett @ 34
    Walter Johnson
    Tom Seaver
    Roger Clemens
    Lefty Grove
    Warren Spahn
    Greg Maddux
    Cy Young
    Pete Alexander
    Christy Mathewson
    Bob Feller
    Bob Gibson
    Carl Hubbell
    Sandy Koufax
    Steve Carlton
    Robin Roberts
    Juan Marichal
    Pedro Martinez
    and about a dozen more...

    And Devon @ 43 Yes, he gave up fewer hits per 9 innings pitched than anyone but those 4.7 walks per 9 leave him with a WHIP of 1.247, which is 266th all time (it's in the article).

    Look, no one is saying that Ryan isn't at least a very, very good player & 97% think he belongs in the HOF, including me. But it's also true that, especially toward the end of his career, he was being called the greatest pitcher ever which he clearly wasn't.

  52. Bastaducci Says:

    Ryan is clearly a HOF'er. he is overrated in many of peoples eyes but still a clear HOF'er. but IMO it has nothing to do with his K total. you could change his K total to 1500 and keep the rest of his stats the same and he would be the exact same pitcher who just did it a different way.

    Now do not get me wrong...his SO total is impressive but people put way to much stock in it when talking about HOF. a out is a out and a BB is a single in my eyes. I personally do not think he was any better than Phil Neikro. but Phil Neikro was also a HOF pitcher.

  53. Voomo
    "Common sense says that you put that man on better teams throughout his career and he would have 400 wins."

    Only if those teams were the 1927 Yankees 27 seasons in a few and even then it's pretty doubtful...

  54. Yetijuice Says:

    second #22 -- "Why are comments 27 and up all in bold?"

    Probably because it is the second go around with the numbering of the posts.

    On my screen right now after comment #26 the numbering starts all over again with #1. My 12:27 pm comment is the second #23 comment.

    Perhaps it has something to do with the second #2 comment -- "Oops forgot to close the tag" ?

  55. Detroit Michael Says:

    @42,
    Please view the results of the first poll. Currently 97% of those who have voted think Nolan Ryan should be in the Hall of Fame.

  56. I don't think there's really any debate over whether he's a HOF pitcher, usually the problem is that he's often listen as one of the top-10 pitchers in baseball history by main-stream sports media. Ryan is definitely one of the top 50 pitchers of all time probably top 25 depending on how you value peak/career but he's not a top 15, 10 or top 5.

    Kind of amazing in retrospect that the 1969 Mets had 3 pitchers age 26 and under that would go on to finish among the all time leaders in pitcher's WAR. Seaver finished 4th overall, Ryan 16th and Koosman 44th. Then they had McGraw who was 25 and Matlack who came up in '71.

    As far as PED it is kind of interesting in retrospect to look at Ryan's career path. In 1986 at 39 years old it looked like his career was winding down. Then he puts up a 5.5 WAR season at age 40 in 1987? He hadn't had a 5+WAR season since he was 30 in 1977. He hadn't even had a 3+WAR season since 1982.

    His 4.9 WAR at 44 year old in 1991 is by far the best pitching season by a 44 year old. Only one other player even went over 3 WAR and that was Jack Quinn in 1928.

    From the ages of 31-39 from '78-86 he had One 4+WAR season and Two 3+ WAR seasons. Then from ages of 40-46 from '87-93, Ryan had One 5+WAR season, Two 4+WAR seasons, and One 3+WAR season. It's definitely an odd aging pattern.

  57. In some ways Ryan is to pitching as Hank Aaron was to hitting in the pre-steroid era. At the time he was the top career HR, RBI and total bases leader. If you look at more of the technical stats such as OPS, OPs+, WAR, etc, he is not the top hitter. I would even argue he is not in the top 5 as the EloRater shows (Ruth, Williams, Cobb, Mays, Gherig - all higher + Pujols when his career is over).

  58. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    @53 -
    i once went through his game logs and counted how many times he pitched 7+ innings and gave up 3 er or less.... and took the loss.
    Dont remember exactly. It was something like 84.
    By the way, the '27 Yankees are overrated.

  59. That kind of epic quantity has a quality all its own. Pitched on lousy teams. Clear HOFer.

    That is all.

  60. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Most losses when pitching at least 7 IP and allowing no more than 3 ER (since 1919):

    G. Perry.......88
    R. Roberts..86
    N. Ryan ......84
    P. Niekro....82
    W. Spahn...81
    S. Carlton...81
    T. Seaver...80
    B. Blyleven.80
    D. Sutton....74
    F. Tanana...72
    B. Friend....72

  61. I always thought Nolan Ryan was the best pitcher ever. Then I turned 12.

  62. I don't remember the coeffecients, but I know people have figured out the relative value of a walk as compared to a single (not as valuable, but certainly more than the zero value many old school folks put on it). Does this hold true when evaluating pitchers? Does a guy, like Ryan, with below average hits but above average walks have more value than a guy with the same whip but average hits and average walks or high hits and low walks?

  63. Dr. Doom Says:

    This bold thing is truly bizarre, because it's everything on the page below comment #27, including all of the fiddle-faddle on the bottom, not just the blog comments. Regardless, I feel really bad for Andy. A lot of people seem to think he was saying that Nolan Ryan doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame, which he wasn't. He was merely asking a question. He agrees that Nolan belongs. I'm not quite sure why so many people are so angry about it.

    As for a top ten pitcher, I'd have to say "no" to Nolan Ryan. Top ten? Young, Alexander, Grove, W. Johnson, R. Johnson, Clemens, Maddux, Seaver, Spahn, Koufax. But that's off the top of my head. Regardless, once you throw in Mathewson, Gibson, and others, there's really no way that Ryan gets into the top ten, in my opinion.

    I'm going to try to close the bold out here. I hope it works.

  64. @51:

    I would add these guys:

    Jim Palmer (not even close, he was FAR better than Ryan)
    John Smoltz
    Tom Glavine (admittedly, this one is a close call. But I've got to take Tom's winning percentage)

    I'm still a big Nolan Ryan fan. But I just can't get past all his losses. If he hadn't blown out his elbow at the age of 46, he'd have probably made it to 300 losses.

    He's in the top half of all Hall of Fame pitchers, in my opinion. But that ain't bad. Nothing wrong with being the 25th best pitcher or so of all time.

  65. John Autin Says:

    @1, Timmy P -- How about a little consistency and fairness in your approach? You have posted several controversial statements recently -- e.g., claiming that the Coriolis effect has a big impact on left-handers in baseball. You seem to want readers to take the time to read and consider your theories with an open mind.

    Yet your post @1 in response to Andy's opening is pure knee-jerk sarcasm. You attribute to Andy and others things that they never said.

    If you expect to be taken seriously, you should treat others the same way.

  66. Dr. Doom Says:

    @62

    In terms of run values, I believe a walk is about .33 runs, a single about .47 runs. Obviously, those coefficients hold regardless of whether pitcher or hitter. WHIP doesn't take into account the quality of the hit, so if you have a high WHIP, it's definitely better if that's primarily walks. However, using DIPS theory, since walks are something pitchers actually control, some people tend to overvalue them when talking about pitchers. In general, Ryan's DIPS outcomes are high - people tended to hit homers, strike out, or walk - just over 39%. That means that only 61% of balls were put in play against him, which is a good thing. Really, Ryan was a ridiculously good pitcher for a long period of time, in spite of high walk totals.

  67. The far better poll, rank these pitchers, all of whom are deserving Hofer's:

    Gaylord Perry
    Phil Neikro
    Nolan Ryan
    Bert Blyleven

    A very good argument can be made that Ryan is the least effective. In comparable innings he has the worst ERA plus, his best seasons were not as good and he was less consistent. I think someone once noted that he had more no hitters than games where he didn't walk anyone.

  68. I'm a little embarassed that I come to a site that would even ask this question. I mean not really, since asking questions is fine, but it really reinforces a belief that some members of the advanced metric community have against certain quality players, with Ryan being one of them.

    Ryan because of fastball and strikeouts does get a bit overrated (although I've never heard anyone say he's the best pitcher ever, and I've been watching baseball since the 1970s), but he also seems to be underrated by members of the sabermetric community. Face it, any time Ryan's name comes up, there seems to be a need to talk him down. His downside is he walked too many people. He was also the hardest pitcher to hit in the history of the game, and during his early years with the Angels, he had to win on a team with a mediocre offense and bullpen. He wasn't a five-inning pitcher; he was a nine-inning pitcher, increasing his value.

    He's nowhere near the greatest, but the idea that he shouldn't be in the HOF? Please.

    He ranks 16th all-time in WAR right here on Baseball-Reference. If the clone of Ryan showed up in the draft anytime in the last 20 years, is there anyone you'd take above him?

  69. Thanks, Doom. As I thought more about it, I realized a valid counter argument.

    The pitcher isn't given the option of give up a hit or give up a walk. The options really are strike the guy out, give up a walk, or let him put the ball in play. Obviously, the first option is the best one: almost zero chance of the guy reaching (only on a dropped third strike). The second ensures a baserunner but at a predictable .33 of a run. The third leaves the door open from everything from a double-play ball to a home run. Is there a run value for simply allowing a ball to be put in play? Part of me thinks there isn't, since I do believe that pitchers have some control over the types of balls they allow to be put in play and it would be hard to find any sort of meaningful average. But maybe there exists something. So, while a guy with a ton of walks and few hits might seem better based on my initial logic using run values, I now wonder if this is countered by the fact that he has fewer chance to record outs. (Obviously, it is even more complex than that since Ryan was a huge K guy, which the results were likely a direct result of.)

    Now my head hurts.

  70. Andy, we seem to have a technical glitch at this time. Answers 1-25 appear normal, then after 26 and all after are bold, and equally odd, what should be answer 27, is labled #1 and starts recounting up again, all in bold. Perhaps this has something to do with the second poll question? BTW I also can't see the poll results.

    Sorry, you've no doubt picked this up, but just noting it in case.

  71. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    Nolan Ryan is similar to his fellow 70s icon Reggie Jackson in being both overrated and underrated at the same time. While neither one was ever the best player (or pitcher) in the game at any point of their careers, both are obvious HOFers who were outstanding for a very long period of time.

    In the same way that it's ridiculous to question Ryan's HOF credentials (which I did _not_ think Andy was doing), it is just as ridiculous to consider him the #1 pitcher of all-time or anything close to that. I'd rank him #20-#25, without going to the trouble of listing all the pitchers clearly better than him.

  72. FWIW, I see the bold, but no re-numbering. That might not be a universal glitch. For instance, HectorR's post is #70 to me.

  73. John Autin Says:

    @60, Johnny Twisto -- I don't know if you were making a point with that list, or just answering Voomo's question.

    Since Ryan's 292 losses rank 3rd all-time, it's no surprise to find him high in a count of any specific type of loss. The ones on your list -- min. 7 IP, max 3 ER -- account for 28.8% of Ryan's career losses. Here's how the rest of your list looks if we sort it by % of career losses:

    Pitcher .... Count ...% of career losses
    T. Seaver...80 ....... 39.0%
    R. Roberts..86 ....... 35.1%
    G. Perry.......88 ....... 33.2%
    S. Carlton...81 ....... 33.2%
    W. Spahn...81 ....... 33.1%
    B. Blyleven.80 ....... 32.0%
    B. Friend....72 ....... 31.3%
    F. Tanana...72 ....... 30.5%
    P. Niekro....82 ....... 29.9%
    D. Sutton....74 ....... 28.9%
    N. Ryan ......84 ....... 28.8%

    Not exactly a boost to the Ryan mystique, is it?

    Let's check some more recent pitchers:

    Pitcher .... Count ...% of career losses
    P. Martinez ....... 34 ....... 34.0%
    B. Saberhagen.. 39 ....... 33.3%
    K. Brown ........... 41 ....... 28.5%
    W. Terrell .......... 35 ....... 28.2%
    J. Morris ............ 51 ....... 27.4%
    R. Johnson ....... 45 ....... 27.1%
    G. Maddux ........ 60 ....... 26.4%
    R. Clemens ...... 48 ....... 26.1%

    Ryan's % is on a par with Kevin Brown and Walt Terrell. Now, Brown was a hell of a pitcher, and I loved Terrell as a Tiger. But I'm not sure Nolan Ryan gains any stature from their company.

    Of course, in general, this stat (losses with min. 7 IP and max. 3 ER) says as much about the surrounding context as it does about the pitchers themselves.

  74. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Is there a run value for simply allowing a ball to be put in play?

    Certainly one could calculate the average run-value of a ball in play. And yes, it will change from pitcher to pitcher. A groundball pitcher will get more DP, but also allow more hits and errors. A flyball pitcher will have more balls in play turned into outs, but also allow more extra-base hits.

    Fangraphs calculates tRA, which I'm no expert on but I think it attempts to estimate a pitcher's performance based on the types of balls in play he allows. See here: http://www.statcorner.com/tRAabout.html
    --------------------------------
    I tried turning off the bold too but couldn't. Not that I know anything about HTML. It would be nice if someone could fix it..........

  75. Johnny Twisto Says:

    test ?

  76. @12 BillyPhilly Says...He would have to adjust to reduce pitch count and then his strikeouts and walks would both decrease. But might he be an even better pitcher?
    ---------

    Yes, it's possible his overall strikeouts might decrease because he would pitch less innings, yet I'm not quite sure. Ryan's strikeout rate increased as he got older, even as his fastball delinced. He held the single-season K/9 record earlier in his 20s, and then Dwight Gooden set a new one in 1984, and then Ryan came right back and set the record again in 1987, at the age of 40. Strikeout rates have been rising, driven chiefly by a chance of approach in hitting. It's not really a surprise that the record was set and then broken (and broken multiple times since) in the span of every few years. It's not the pitchers causing the increase in strikeouts, it's the hitters. Much more agressive style, especially with two strikes. Hitters in the 1970s had a more defensive hitting style, especially with two strikes.

    I believe a peak Ryan would shatter, absoluetly shatter the K/9 record if he peak years occured during the 1990s. I'm talking 14+ K per nine average. Ryan might "only" pitch 250 innings in a season today, as opposed to 330 in his day, but would anyone be surprised if he didn't strike out more than 400 batters in one of those seasons? I would be surprised if he didn't based on hitters' approach since Ryan retired.

    Getting back to Andy's original point. The fact that he is still #4 all time on strikeout rate, considering the period he played, and the great length of time he played (which should lead to a decrease in his strikeout rate) is actually amazing.

    He maybe overrated, but his is the greatest strikeout machine ever, and he would be in any period he played.

  77. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    @34: "If Nolan Ryan isn't a Top Ten pitcher, I'd like to know who the Top Ten are. I'd slot Johnson, Koufax and Seaver ahead of Nolan, perhaps even Randy Johnson, but few other pitchers were as dominating as Nolan--compared to his peers. "

    Nolan was scary and unhittable, but he wasn't unbeatable because he walked so many guys. Being top 10 all-time isn't just about how scary and fast your fastball is, or how many strikeouts you get. It's how often people reach base against you and score against you. By those measures, he was still excellent and thoroughly deserving of the hall (who are these 3.5%ers? Show yourselves!), but not in the inner circle.

    Here's 10 guys (in no particular order) I think were definitely better than Nolan Ryan, using only players whose careers intersected his:

    Tom Seaver
    Roger Clemens
    Pedro Martinez
    Greg Maddux
    Bert Blyleven
    Randy Johnson
    Robin Roberts
    Steve Carlton
    Pedro Martinez
    Bob Gibson

    So that's 10 already -- the only one I don't feel 100% sure about is Roberts -- and we haven't even included anyone who didn't pitch in or after 1966 when Ryan broke in.

    There's another bunch of guys over that span I think you could go either way:

    Koufax (only guy who is clearly more dominant but career so short it's arguable whether he was actually better by HOF standards)

    3 guys who were similarly very good for very long, not as dominant at their best, but ahead of him in career WAR/IP and close/ahead in career WAR

    Ferguson Jenkins
    Gaylord Perry
    Phil Niekro

    Another set of guys who are hard to compare but have much better career rate numbers (ERA+, DIPS, WAR/IP) over much shorter (but still solidly long) careers:

    Mike Mussina
    Curt Schilling
    Kevin Brown
    Don Drysdale
    John Smolz

    Note, every pitcher I have mentioned, including the ones I say are "arguable" has a higher career WAR/IP than Ryan, many of them by a lot.

    Add in spahn, grove, mathewson, wjohnson and cy young and probably a few others I'm forgetting, and there is just no way Nolan Ryan is a top 10 all time pitcher. Top 20 or 25, I'd have to think about. Top 50, for sure, no question. But top 10, no way.

  78. BSK Says: FWIW, I see the bold, but no re-numbering. That might not be a universal glitch. For instance, HectorR's post is #70 to me.
    ---------------------

    BSK, thanks. My #70 post (to you) is number 44 to me. Your post shows at #46. Maybe I'll shut down and see if that helps.

  79. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    Autin, Twisto,

    Thanks, those are great charts.
    So his tough losses in very quality starts arent the cause of his high loss count (at least, compared to his 'peers'.)

    What about the run support factor?
    200 losses when his team scored 0-2 runs.
    I'd wager that Nolan is 2nd to Cy Young on that one.

  80. Johnny Twisto Says:

    It's not the pitchers causing the increase in strikeouts, it's the hitters.

    I disagree, I think it's both.

  81. Over 150 people have Ryan in the top ten of all time and 11 have him as the greatest. Just goes to show you that even some of people who come here, where some of the absolute most knowledgeable baseball fans post, are still idiots.

    This is one of my pet peeves along with "Juicers should be in the Hall of Fame because everyone was doing it" and "Joe Jackson never took money."

    Ryan, albeit definitely deserves to be in the HOF - is not remotely one of the best pitchers ever, I wouldn't even put him in the top 50.

  82. Johnny Twisto Says:

    What about the run support factor?

    According to the late great Run Support Index blog, Ryan's career park-adjusted run support was 95 (compared to average of 100). That is quite low for such a long career. He was estimated to lose about 17 wins due to poor run support.

    http://replay.web.archive.org/20050227212956/http://runsupportindex.blogspot.com/2004/06/nolan-ryan.html

  83. To Ed Sullivan:

    What are you smokin saying Maddux and Blyleven are better than Ryan? Are you kidding me? I think 400+ career wins wouldnt be a stretch at all if he pitched for better teams like the Orioles or Yankees at the time. He also dominated in both leagues which neither did not even Carlton so think again. Ryan knew if he walked one an inning it didnt matter because NONE of the other hitters behind him will do any damage. That my friend IS DOMINANCE on the mound! The only pitcher in my lifetime who comes close to that is Randy Johnson and thats only because hes right on top of you when he finishes his delivery and hes ugly too which helps.

  84. Dan W is another idiot who doesnt look at the facts of statistics who also thinks he did roids, please. He is still the same size he was when he played so hes just a freak of nature farmboy like Mickey Mantle whose numbers would be even better if he had two good legs. youre the idiot moron. Ryan may have had more than 7 no no's if he played on better teams. Just a thought.

  85. [...] Over at Baseball-Reference, there was en entry this morning regarding Nolan Ryan and and his place among the best pitchers in history (Click here to see the post). [...]

  86. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Just a thought.

    And barely one, at that.

  87. Vitamin Tom Says:

    I'd be interested in seeing some run support number for Ryan, since his ERA is comparable to his contemporaries, yet his win/loss % is much worse. I count 5 seasons with 16 losses despite a sub-3.00 ERA in each, which seems statistically anomolous. Assuming normal run support, the only explaination I can conceive of is that the extra batters he faced due to the number of walks he issued created more opportunities for defensive lapses, and therefore unearned runs, but that seems dubious. Anyone else have a better explaination?

    As far as his HOF worthiness, it's a no-brainer. He was an effective pitcher, if not a spectacular one, for the better part of 25 years. No one else can come close to claiming that. In his time, every game he pitched was an event; a possible no hitter, or massive strikeout total. He had an impact, no matter the outcome or how well he pitched.

    The most amazing thing about him is how he evolved through his career. Early on, his wildness was part of his effectiveness, since an uncomfortable hitter is bad hitter. As he aged, he actually became a better pitcher. He led the league in SO/BB ratio at the age of 40, and lead the league in WHIP two years in a row, at ages 42 and 43!

  88. John Autin Says:

    @77, Michael Sullivan -- Very thoughtful post. However, I can't tell what you mean by "dominant."

    For Ryan and the 3 pitchers you called "not as dominant at their best," here are their peak WAR values -- their best single year, best 3 consecutive years and best 5 consecutive years -- along with career WAR

    Pitcher .... 1-yr ... 3-yr ... 5-yr ... Career
    ----------------------------------------------------
    Ryan ........ 8.3 ... 20.4 ... 28.6 ... 84.8
    Jenkins ... 9.2 ... 23.8 ... 37.0 ... 81.3
    Perry ..... 10.5 ... 26.1 ... 36.8 ... 96.3
    Niekro ..... 9.1 ... 24.3 ... 38.3 ... 96.8

    If we treat this as 12 comparisons with Ryan -- 4 categories times 3 other pitchers -- Ryan's record is 1-11.

    The foundation of Ryan's legend was laid from 1972-77, when he had five 300-K seasons, including the season record. That was also his best 6-year WAR run. But even in that exact span, he ranked just 5th in MLB in total WAR, behind Seaver, the sorely underrated Niekro, Perry and Blyleven, with Jim Palmer just behind Ryan.

    It bears repeating: The objective of pitching is not to amass strikeouts nor to avoid hits, but to prevent runs. And in that regard, Ryan was good for a very long time, but not great. In his 6-year peak, his combined ERA+ was 118; only once in his career did he have consecutive years of 120 or better, and his career mark was 112. You just can't build a "top-20" case on those numbers.

  89. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I count 5 seasons with 16 losses despite a sub-3.00 ERA in each, which seems statistically anomolous.

    Interesting. Yes, the other leaders (since 1893) are all from the deadball era, except for Bert Blyleven who also did it in the '70s. (Don't forget that Ryan did not spend much of his career in high-scoring contexts. In some of his seasons, a 3.00 ERA was not *that* impressive.)

    Walter Johnson has the most such seasons, with 6. Nap Rucker also had 5. Ed Walsh, George Mullin, Jack Powell, Eddie Plank, Vic Willis, and Blyleven all had 4.

  90. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Agree that Reggie is similar in being both under and overrated. And the reasons are similar. They both had elements of their game that fans tend to ignore or massively underrate and elements that fans tend to massively overrate.

    Reggie hit lots of homers, which tend to be mildly overrated. He had a below average BA which is hugely overrated, but above average OBP which is hugely underrated. His fielding was very solid when young which is usually underrated (unless you are a defensive superstar in which case it's overrated). He performed very well in the playoffs and WS and his teams won some titles, which fans tend to overrate (though nowhere near to the extent they do in basketball or football).

    Ryan's portfolio has some of the same, he struck out a ton of guys (overrated by many, underrated by some), he had a ton of walks (underrated how important this is), had a low winning percentage (massively overrated), high total wins (massively overrated), and supernatural longevity (massively under or overrated depending on who you talk to).

    The big key for Ryan is his longevity. It leads the sort of people who like nice big round threshold career numbers to overrate him massively, and people who commonly use the word "compiler" to underrate him massively. Most casual fans really fail to understand that there is a huge career value to being a solid starter for 10 (or more) years past your peak, but very little value to being a replacement level player (but still collecting stats like K, W, H, HR, etc.)

  91. John Autin Says:

    Just an observation: Several in the "extremely pro-Ryan" camp have defended his W-L record. But I don't think W-L record has been cited in any of the arguments from the "not-quite-as-pro-Ryan" camp.

  92. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    JA@88:

    When I talked about dominance, I was thinking more in terms of frequency of unbeatable game performances than a seasonal WAR count.

    In my post, I was trying to give massive benefit of the doubt to Ryan-loving. If I personally am making the list, I would put Nolan Ryan behind every single one of the pitchers I mentioned at 77.

    But I would say that at his peak, I think he had more games that you walked away from thinking "no way anybody was gonna get anything going on him today" than did Perry or Niekro or Jenkins, even if his total season numbers weren't quite as good.

    That is the sense in which I used "dominance". In that sense, I think most of the 10 I put clearly ahead are at least as strong as he was, even if nobody was as unhittable, since a lot of that unhittability was bought with walks. I'm much more impressed with the guy who is the most un-on-base-able (pretty sure that's pedro).

    Also, I'm not 100% sold on WAR for pitchers because it depends strongly on our poor fielding metrics. Ryan's DIPS numbers are a little better than those three guys, so I don't feel super confident that they should rate ahead of him.

  93. I've always found "underated" and "overated" terms to be far too subjective and vague to be worthwhile.

    how can you even have a discussion when nobody agrees where these people are "rated" to begin with?

    He's in the hall of fame. So you can ask if is he one of the most valuable 72 pitchers of all time who have been retired for at least 5 years? Most people would answer yes, no doubt. So on performance he belongs in the hall. Add in his unique longevity and throwing power and his "fame" is unquestionable.

    So if we assume he is "rated" as one of the 10 best pitchers of all time I think you're getting a fair reply on this thread. Most people would agree he was not. So in that case he would be overated. Though who does this official rating I have no idea...

  94. John Autin Says:

    I posted the following at the end of the previous Ryan thread and I don't know if anyone cared to comment. Apologies for the duplication, but I thought it was worthwhile.

    Someone suggested that "you can't really blame Ryan for his wildness--he did what was asked of him early in his career, and trying to have more command over his fastball by slowing it down just made it hittable."

    I'm not familiar with this story, but I'll assume it's part of the accepted Ryan history.

    But I can't help wondering -- was that the only time he ever tried to make that adjustment? And is there any contrary evidence to be found in Nolan Ryan's career stats?

    So I compared his overall stats to his bases-loaded splits -- the situation wherein the pitcher has the strongest incentive not to walk the batter.
    -- Overall, Ryan walked 12.5% of all batters who did not execute a sacrifice bunt.
    -- With the bases loaded, he walked 9.2% of all batters.

    A 26% decrease in walks suggests that he did make an adjustment to improve his control with the bases loaded. So, how did that affect his hittability?
    -- Overall, Ryan allowed a .204 BA and .298 SLG, with a 25.5% K rate (of all non-sacrifice batters).
    -- With the bases loaded (and counting sac flies as AB), he allowed a .191 BA and .294 SLG, with a 28.7% K rate.

    The bases-loaded data is just over 500 PAs, so those batting numbers are not necessarily a perfect reflection of the impact of Ryan adjusting for control.

    But it strongly suggests that Ryan could have cut down his overall walk rate without a significant increase in hittability. He chose to pursue unhittability.

    Now, this is not a mortal sin. Many great players are selfish in some way, even to the occasional detriment of their team. Supposedly, Ted Williams rarely tried to take advantage of the infield shift by slapping the ball to the vacant left side.

    But I'm certainly not buying the notion that Ryan could not have reduced his wildness without becoming ordinary.

  95. Johnny Twisto Says:

    how can you even have a discussion when nobody agrees where these people are "rated" to begin with?

    A few ways to figure that:

    I *think* he received more votes than any other pitcher when MLB ran that "Team of the Century" poll in '99 or so.

    This site's Elo rater has him #20 of all time.

    Using a weighted average of the poll results above, he is ranked about #26. (E.g., for people who voted him "top 10," I assume they rank him somewhere from #6 to #10, so I took the average of that spread (8) multiplied by the number of votes. There is no choice for those who rank him outside the top 100 (presumably there are a few), so perhaps the actual ranking would be slightly lower.)

  96. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I *think* he received more votes than any other pitcher when MLB ran that "Team of the Century" poll in '99 or so.

    Yes, it's here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_All-Century_Team

    I'm not sure how many pitchers each voter got to choose. If they could pick more than one, this doesn't necessarily mean the public thought he was the best pitcher, just that most of them considered him one of the top 2 or 3, and then split their votes among those old-timey pitchers they don't know much about.

  97. I fixed the bolding. One of the comments didn't have a closed bold tag.

  98. Turns out somebody just needed to close the bold tag.

  99. @94 Agree completely. Sandy Koufax reduced his wildness significantly and he was anything but ordinary. I would say this comparison is valid as both developed at least above average curve balls.

    Bob Feller successfully developed the country boy, 'throw hard, strike out lots, walk lots too' dynamic that had to be to a certain degree adopted by Ryan.

    Ryan probably benefited from both Feller and Koufax. Koufax showed that a pitcher with raw skills that is given an opportunity, can be refined; Feller showed that if you throw really, really hard, stuff like walks don't matter much to stuff like legacy. Obviously for every Ryan/Koufax there is at least 1-10 Dalkowski's, but excess speed creates excess opportunity (see Matt Anderson's failed comeback this spring).

    Is Ryan a HOFer? The argument against can basically be lack of championships (he was not integral in 1969) and he was not the best pitcher on the team in 1980 and 1986. He was though the best pitcher on his team in 1981 by most measures.

    This leads to all those discussions no one wants to have (character, chemistry, leadership, etc.), so I won't either.

    I would argue therefore that the question about Ryan isn't so much about whether he is HOF worthy or not worthy (he is) or overrated or underrated (it doesn't matter), but rather: Why did Nolan Ryan get a higher percentage of votes in his first year of eligibility than others who are more or less inarguable hall of famers get in their first year?

    There isn't a Jackie Robinson and the Hall of Fame post; there isn't even a Don Sutton and the Hall of Fame post that I am aware of. Ryan represents one of the most extreme examples of how a collective's eyes can seem to deceive. 98.8% seems awfully high for a player no matter what standards are used (WAR, W-L%, ERA+), etc.

    I doubt this discussion would be taking place if Ryan was 77.9% in his first year or 85.2% after 3 years or something like that.

  100. I haven't read any of the comments yet, but I do wish there had been a Poll choice in between Top 10 and Top 50. That's quite a gap IMO. I voted him Top 10 as I think he's close to the Top 10 than he is to being "only" Top 50 (if there was a choice in between though, I would have voted there).

  101. My comment @101 - that should say I think he's closer to the Top 10 than he is to being "only" Top 50...

  102. John Autin Says:

    @100, RACope re: why Ryan fared so well in the HOF vote:

    Bill James addressed the inflation of Ryan's legend in the Historical Baseball Abstract. Here's a link to the book on Amazon; the Ryan passage is on pp. 861-62.

    http://www.amazon.com/Bill-James-Historical-Baseball-Abstract/dp/0684806975#reader_0684806975

  103. I am a bit surprised that about 30% of voters have Ryan in the top ten all time, so that lends support to the idea that he's overrated. Yet I do think that certain segments became so focused on the negative (his walks) that they ignored all his other positives and he became underrated.

    The poll would have been much more difficult if there was one more choice. I don't have him top ten, but I'm comfortable he's in the top 50. If there was a choice of top 25, that would have caused me to pause and think a lot more.

  104. To people who would put Ryan in the top 15...

    how would you rank these 4?

    Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver.

  105. @105, I'd have Clemens, Seaver and Johnson ahead of Ryan, yet I'd have the first three in my all-time top ten, at least I think. The only way I know for sure was to put together a list of my top ten, which I haven't done in a while. Ryan's not top ten. He's not top 15. It gets trickier after that and a lot will depend on how people weight peak value vs. career value.

  106. A more odd question but 1 that I think is interesting...

    would you rather have 20 Nolan Ryan starts or 12 Pedro Martinez starts and 8 AAA replacement level pitcher starts?

    I think you could make a case for either one. You might go 12-8 with Ryan, 9-3 with Pedro and 3-5 with the AAA picther and it all comes out in the wash.

    An amazing difference shows when you look at career leasders in WAR and pitching wins comparing Pedro and Ryan.

  107. Just a general comment about a few previous posts. Several have mentioned that a walk is worth about .33 runs, and a single at about .47 runs. If you do the math on Ryan's career Hits allowed/9 innings and walks allowed per 9 innings, if we assume that every hit he allowed was a single, and using his career rate of 87.7% of runs allowed were earned, those numbers would result in him having a career ERA of 4.08, and that's just factoring in walks and him only ever giving up singles. I don't think we can reliably use those values for singles and walks. They will consistenly over estimate a pitcher's ERA.

  108. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    @#91, autin -

    I think the W/L question is relevant because of what the argument would look like if it were different. If there is an anomaly, say of 30 games, and his record was 354-262, I don't this discussion happens.

  109. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Jared, you would also need to subtract runs for the outs Ryan got. Read about Linear Weights. This looks like a decent intro:
    http://triplesalley.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/understanding-linear-weights/

  110. Why are we debating Nolan Ryan when the voters just inducted in the poor man's Nolan Ryan (Bert Blyleven)?

  111. Johnny Twisto Says:

    would you rather have 20 Nolan Ryan starts or 12 Pedro Martinez starts and 8 AAA replacement level pitcher starts?

    Interesting question. It depends which Nolan or Pedro you are referring to, and I guess on what the rest of your team is made of. As a quick & dirty approach, I looked at their WAR per start for their best 5 consecutive seasons (which I chose as '72-'76 for Ryan, '97-'01 for Martinez). Martinez averaged almost twice as much WAR per start as Ryan. So in his 12 starts he'd total about 3.25 WAR, while Ryan is 2.86 in his 20. If you assume the "replacement level" starters are 0.0 WAR, then Martinez narrowly gets the edge.

    Pedro has the reputation of being fragile, but people forget that he pitched a lot of IP per start in his prime. He tended to miss a few starts each year, but '97-'00 he averaged 7.4 IP per start. That's only slightly less than Ryan, and much more impressive considering the era.

  112. Dr. Doom Says:

    @110

    Thanks, JT. I was just about to say the same thing. I was only posting about the relative value of a walk and a single, so that people could see that. But, obviously, walks have to be accounted for. I believe the Wikipedia entry on linear weights is good as well, and if not, I know Tangotiger has a kind of sabermetric wiki, and the entry on linear weights in there is quick and dirty. Just some further suggestions.

  113. Like most others here, I think it is clear-cut that Ryan is both overrated and a Hall of Famer. There are a number of HOF pitchers who are better than he was, but he stands out anyway. He was a freak of nature and set a strikeout mark that seems bafflingly high in an era when only a few starters get to 200 IP per year.

    His longevity is part of what made him great. I got into baseball in the late 80s when Ryan was considered an old man of the game, and he still had a couple of no hitters in him.

    But yes, he walked far too many guys. His shortcomings are often missed because of how amazing he was in other areas. Walking 200+ batters in a season is way, way too much, and he did it more than once.

  114. A few Nolan Ryan career stats to ponder (and all-time rankings)

    Win-Loss Pct %: .5260 (529th)
    Adjusted ERA +: 112 (276th)
    BB/9 innings: 4.7 (not in top 1000 best of all-time)
    WHIP: 1.2473 (266th)
    ERA: 3.193 (246th)
    Avg W-L per 162 gms: 14-13
    Total W-L rec / pct of all teams he played on: 2171-2143 .503*
    Ryan's career record: 324-292 .526
    Total W-L rec / pct of all teams he played on
    (minus Ryan's W-L): 1847-1851 . 499*
    *includes the entire 1966 Mets season (66-95, .410) even though Ryan played in only 2 games.

    Everything adds up to a slightly above average pitcher who happened to strike out a ton of batters (but also walk a ton of batters) and have flashes of dominance. Many have made the argument that he played with bad teams throughout his career, but that is obviously not true. His teams were incredibly average overall, and he was slightly above that. His career record through age 41 was 272-252, .519. Just because he had the physical ability (hopefully not on roids) to be above average for five additional seasons after age 41 doesn't mean that he still wasn't just slightly above average for his career.

    A great deal of attention is given to Ryan's seven no-hitters and 5716 K's, but his average per 162 game numbers are a 14-13 record and WHIP of 1.27

    Not a HOFer (but close) in my opinion. Too many people treat him like some sort of saint -- I don't get it.

  115. You have the choice of the following 3 pitchers to start a franchise with, let's assume all three are in their 'prime'. Who do you choose:

    Nolan Ryan, Satchel Paige or Bob Feller

  116. @115, unfortunately almost all the stats you use against Ryan relate to wins, losses and winning percentage, which as Felix Hernandez showed last year doesn't tell us much at all. Ryan himself could talk about the flaws in rating a pitcher by his wins with quite a few seasons playing for mediocre teams, including his 1987 season where he was 8-16, while leading the league in ERA and ERA+. Even ERA+ isn't tremendously helpful since it's not defense independent. I can cherry pick some stats too, like say Ryan has the lowest hits-per-nine-innings of any pitcher ever, or has a .205 BA against or only a .298 SLG average against, yet those also wouldn't tell the Ryan story.

    He's rated #16 all-time based on B-R WAR, and Bill James had him 24 all-time in his Historical Baseball Abstract. I have him somewhere in between those numbers. Doesn't really matter where. He's more than just average or slightly above average when we look at the entire work of Ryan.

  117. Voomo Zanzibar Says:

    @115, yeah, a 'saint' who would literally attempt to kill you if you tried to bunt.

  118. IMO the argument for Ryan for the Hall of Fame is the same as for guys like Winfield and Sutton and, soon Biggio, that is, how can you keep him out?

  119. JR @ 41 "(There will never be another pitcher to strikeout 300 batters in a season)"

    In the less than 20 years since Ryan retired that feat has be accomplished 8 times by 3 different pitchers plus 4 additional seasons over 290 which includes yet another pitcher. I would be amazed if it doesn't happen again within the next 5 years.

    And a lot has been said about Ryan losing 200 games in which his team scored 2 or fewer runs. The majority of Ryan's innings were between 1966 & 1983 when offense was between historical lows and below average for the most part. Don Drysdale, who started more than 300 games less than Ryan and played roughly equal portions of his career in high/low run scoring environments as Ryan started 163 games in which the Dodgers scored 2 of fewer runs (163 out of 465) and produced a record of 31-109. I suspect that a lot of pitchers who's careers were centered around the 60's & 70's would have similar or even higher ratios (Seaver, Gibson, Marichal, Carlton, Niekro, Perry, Bunning, Palmer, Kaat, Lolich and others). And I'm sure the pre-1920 rates would be even higher.

  120. Random Sports Guy Says:

    He stinks. John Tudor was better.

  121. It's not even debatable. The "Express" is definitely a HOF'er. Is he overrated ? That's a tough call. I'd say that he was more likely over-hyped than overrated. I have never heard his name mentioned as an answer for "the guy you'd give the ball to in game 7". If he was hyped as "that" guy I would say he was overrated. I've heard for years that guys would stand around and get tired when they played behind him. He would always go deep into counts, which would tire his fielders. Maybe they took that out to the plate with them ? Who knows ? It always seemed like his teams hit worse when he was on the hill than when others were. Maybe this is why ? He was still a great show, because any day he could throw a no-no. Definitely worth the price of admission.

  122. Wow, work a long day, miss BRef for 12 hours and fall 100+ posts behind!

  123. @65 John Austin - Well since I'm not running for anything or trying to sell anything, I don't care if you take me serious or not. And just to be clear it's the Coriolis force, not the Coriolis effect, big difference. As far as the topic at hand, I think the question of Ryan in the hall was designed to create a big response and it did. I'm sure whoever started it was aware that there might bet a few sarcastic responses and they have braces themselves, talked with a support group, talked with a phsyciatrist, and will be able to handle the sarcasm aimed at them. I don't think any serious babeball person can argue Ryan should not be in the HOF. Silly!

  124. @124
    Timmy, it's John Autin to you!!! Get it right.

  125. In response to post #114: Without you even realizing it, the first sentence of your post argues against the very point you're trying to get across. By definition, you can't overrate a player and believe he is overrated at the same time. If you believe that people are generally in concensus (at least in this thread) that he is overrated, then that means that those who actually overrate him are in the minority. If those who overrate him are in the minority, then it is logically impossible to designate him as overrated. Be careful of the availability heuristic. This cognitive bias can lead people to overestimate the presence of something (in this case, people who think Ryan was better than he was) merely based on a small, but vocal, minority. Just because a few people overrate him doesn't mean that in general he is, in fact, overrated.

  126. Robin Ventura Says:

    Regardless of whether he was overrated or underrated, Nolan Ryan gives a heckuva noogie and that has to count for something.

  127. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Well since I'm not running for anything or trying to sell anything, I don't care if you take me serious or not.

    A lot of time taken to write so many posts if you don't care how they are received.

  128. Neil, you sound like you're still sore from the spanking I gave you over Pierre, put some ointment on it and you'll feel better. I understand you're from Canada, but haven't you ever had someone disagree with you before? Don't they have that up there? Cause they have it here, happens all the time in my business. Johnny, I put the truth out there, if you're mind is not open you'll miss out. I'm giving free insight into how things work and making a serious effort to help you.

  129. John Autin Says:

    Such juvenile behavior -- and in a public forum, too....

  130. John Autin Says:

    Sidetrack: Chris Carpenter entered tonight's game winless in 7 starts this year, his longest drought to start any season. Meanwhile, in 302 career starts before tonight, he had never allowed more than 12 hits. The Cubs reached Carpenter for 13 hits tonight, but only 4 runs, and Carpenter got his first win of the year.

  131. Well you guys can have a big laugh at my expense later, I have $1000 on AZ beating Timmy L. tonight in SF. But if I win I'll be getting paid +183 on my money which was the peak payout, gametime went off at +160 so I'm pretty proud of myself win or lose. That's American money Neil!

  132. Does everyone really take themselves that seriously on this forum when they post? I wonder how many times a poster thinks, "When Rob Neyer reads this he is going to LOVE IT." I imagine it happens a lot more than it doesn't.

    Seriously though there needs to be a topic "Jim Creighton and the Hall of Fame" because he is the most worthy HOFer not in the HOF.

    P.S.,: Rob, if you're reading this, I have a fanzine that I would LOVE to interview you for.

  133. @127

    Love it!

  134. Next HOF discussion should be why it took so many years for Wahoo Sam Crawford to get into the hall. Seriously, it took forever because of the way he ended his career. He went out west to play in the PCL and I don't think MLB ever forgave him. Along with Cy Young, Wahoo Sam holds a major career record that will never be broken.

  135. birtelcom Says:

    For what it's worth, Ryan had the 8th highest pitching WAR total of the 1970s, and then he moved up to the 7th highest pitching WAR total of the 1980s. That does give a sense of how good he was and for how long. Of course it also might be worth noting that Blyleven had the 4th highest WAR total of the 70s (behind only Seaver, Niekro and Gaylord Perry) and then was 4th again in the 80s (behind only Stieb, Welch and Valenzuela).

  136. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Johnny, I put the truth out there, if you're mind is not open you'll miss out.

    Among your myriad ramblings I have no idea what you think the truth is. Lefties can't throw the ball because of the rotation of the earth? Juan Pierre has 2400 hits?

    I'm giving free insight into how things work and making a serious effort to help you.

    You write as if you want attention, not as if you want to share insight. Get over yourself son, you ain't curing cancer in this piece.

  137. @116

    I'd take Satchel. I think a lot of people forget we have MLB stats for the guy to validate the legend.

    How many pitchers can match Satchel's 125 ERA+ and 9.7 WAR after turning age 42?

    A: Roger Clemens and Hoyt Wilhelm.

    I'd wager he was every bit the pitcher Lefty Grove was but most of America only really got a chance to appreciate him at age 42, 43, 44.

  138. Why do I feel like in 10 years people will have this identical debate but the name will be Ichiro?

  139. Johnny if you have a study disproving the Coriolis force and it's affect on baseball please share it. If you're able to come up with one yourself, please share it. The Coriolis force is a force and it exerts itself on all objects esp the further north or south of the equator you get. If you refuse to beleive it than blow me off, what are you getting so upset about? Hook up with some of buddies that still thing the Earth is flat and a BBQ this weekend, won't bother me in the least. You're the same guy that poo-poo'd the idea of soaking the balls in Denver, "Oh that'll never work, that's stupid".

  140. @139 - Ichiro 1st ballet HOFer.

  141. Win/Loss is pretty meaningless over a season, but over a long career things tend to even out. I like to look at a pitcher's W/L compared to the rest of his team. Take the number of his decisions each year and see how many games above, (or below), the rest of his team he was. For his career Ryan was 21.6 games above his teammates, a good number, but not great. I haven't checked everyone, but I don't think Ryan is in the top 40. Blyleven, who was specifically said to have won less than he should given his runs allowed, was 26 games better than his teammates.

    Well if Ryan didn't have a great ability to win games in general, maybe he was great in the clutch? Fangraphs has been figuring a clutch score for every player/season starting in 1974, so we miss the first 20+% of Ryan's career. But, for the rest he was more than 8 games below average. That is he was more likely to get a strikeout or other out(s) when it mattered less toward winning a game then when it mattered more, compared to an average pitcher.

  142. @139

    Who said Ichiro will not belong in the hall? That was part of my point... both Ichiro and Nolan Ryan are hall of famers. But it would be a mistake to think Ichiro had the same value as Hank Aaron.

  143. "Johnny if you have a study disproving the Coriolis force and it's affect on baseball please share it."

    The burden of proof lies on the person making the claim, and just saying it over and over again doesn't count as proof. Pierre's limp noodle arm and Mark Grace's pretty swing also don't count as proof.

  144. Also, this, since you persist on using water drainage as proof.

  145. I agree with your point, I was just making my point that I think he should get in on the first ballot. You are right that there will be an argument.

  146. What are you getting so mad about Hawk? Why the hostility? If you don't agree, fine. I'll bet you and Neil are government employees, I know Neil is. You guys can't stand to have someone disagree with you.

  147. @120.

    Hartvig, since 2003, only one pitcher (Randy Johnson) has struck out more than 270 batters. The next highest total was 269 by Verlander. It will be a long time before someone k's 300 batters in a season again. The closest guy that could do it would be Lincecum, but I doubt it will happen.

  148. Hawk - The Snopes article has nothing to do with what I'm talking about, and nothing to do with baseball. The Coriolis force acts on everything, including undisturbed tanks of water as has been proven in tests. It does not dictate the drainage to be clockwise or counter-clockwise as the Snopes article mentions, and I challenge you to show me where I made that claim, I did not. Mark Grace's swing is beautiful with or without the Coriolis force, and occasionally generated powerful blasts to right field. Since Grace is retired I would like you to watch Carlos Zambrano next time he plays. His swing from the left side is beautiful and generates a tremendous amount of power from what appears to be little effort, he truly has a beautiful swing. No one has challenged my observation that left handed swings are more beautiful than right, nor has anyone mentioned a right handed swing that is as smooth.

  149. Dr. Doom Says:

    @149

    Obviously, lefties have prettier swings than righties. That's because they torque their bodies TOWARDS first base, which is the direction in which they will be running. Righties have to turn AWAY from first base, and then BACK TOWARDS it. That's got nothing to do with distance from the equator. Rather, it means that years and years of jerking the body one way and then the other leads to shortened, less "beautiful" swings, by necessity. If runners were allowed to circle the bases in whichever direction they chose, there's no doubt in my mind that righties would have just as beautiful of swings as lefties.

    Also, Pat Burrell had a lovely righty swing, in spite of the odds being stacked against him.

    And also, I would say that the people you're insulting have no problem with your disagreement - rather, you seem to have a problem with theirs.

  150. Why does anyone give Timmy P any attention? He is a troll. Please everyone ignore his posts :)

  151. John Autin Says:

    Dave V -- Motion seconded.

  152. I responded to him with respect after his first few posts. But then........

  153. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @126/ Jared Says: "In response to post #114:... ... This cognitive bias can lead people to overestimate the presence of something (in this case, people who think Ryan was better than he was) merely based on a small, but vocal, minority. Just because a few people overrate him doesn't mean that in general he is, in fact, overrated."

    Jared: yes, but it wasn't a "small, but vocal monority" or "a few people" who overrated him. In a 1999 general-audience poll, Ryan was voted the #1 pitcher of the 20th Century - that sounds like a whole lot of people. That pretty fits the definition of "overrated'.

  154. John Autin Says:

    Re: Ichiro -- Interesting parallel to the Ryan discussion. It seems almost certain that he will elected to the HOF, and I think he will deserve it. Unlike Ryan, I don't think Ichiro is exactly overrated; but I think the distribution of his value is widely misunderstood.

    He's overrated on the offensive side; all those singles (many of them infield hits) just don't put a lot of team runs on the board. Although he's led the league in AB and hits most of his seasons and has averaged 734 PAs per year, he has never led the league in runs, even when the M's had a solid offense (2001-03, 2007). In fact, just once has he ranked higher than 6th in AL runs scored.

    But while he's just good offensively, he's marvelous on defense; he's 6th among active players in career defensive WAR. And the combination adds up to the 4th-highest total WAR among position players over the past 10 years -- higher than Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, Todd Helton, Lance Berkman, Derek Jeter, Vlad Guerrero and Jim Edmonds. The 3 players above him (Albert, A-Rod and Barry) are all clearly top-tier HOFers (judged on performance only), while those next 7 include a couple of certain HOFers and the rest fringe candidates.

  155. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @154/ OOPS, the last sentence shoud read
    "That pretty MUCH fits the definition of "overrated'."

    I should also know better than to get into an argument about logical reasoning with someone who sounds like they are an _expert_ in logical reasoning - but I still think Nolan Ryan is overrated. I also think he's a no-doubt HOFer.

    An interesting comparison on the opposite end of career length is with Sandy Koufax, who is also a no-doubt HOFer, but is frequently somewhat overrated by the casual baseball fan.

  156. Lefty swings also tend to "look" better because of the angle. Traditionally, the camera has been positioned over the pitcher's right shoulder, giving a better vantage point for viewing a lefty's swing than a righty's.

  157. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "The Coriolis force is a force and it exerts itself on all objects esp the further north or south of the equator you get."

    That is true. But it it important to remember the scale of the force, which is based on the differential in the earth's rotational surface velocity between one point and another. When you are shooting mortars miles to the north or south or calculating the future position of weather systems, it's something you need to calculate carefully or you will never be accurate. On the scale of a ballpark, it's not going to make more difference than a mild breeze.

    Also, it will disappear almost completely when the ballpark is oriented such that the pitch path is mostly E-W.

    The only effect it has that could possibly affect LH more or less than RH pitchers is on sideways breaks. Also, while there is a tendency for parks to be aligned so that the pitcher is N of the batter, there are some parks which are the opposite, and a number of parks which are primarily EW oriented. In these cases, any differential effect of coriolis by handedness will be mitigated or even reversed, limiting the average effect.

    Just for kicks, I did a little calculation of what the maximum coriolis affect on a pitch would be. Near the poles where the effect is strongest, assuming a perfect NS orientation of a ballpark, the rotational velocity difference between pitcher's mound and home plate would be around .003 mph or around 15.8 feet per hour (at typical US or canadian ballpark locations it would be 8-12 ft per hour, the closer to the equator, the smaller the difference).

    A typical major league pitch is between 80 and 100 miles per hour and takes about 1/2 second to travel from the pitchers hand to home plate. Even a very slow junk pitch will be at least 50-60mph and take well under 1 second to reach home plate.

    A junk pitch at 50mph thrown in a regulation ballpark with the pitchers mound at exactly the north or south pole would have a coriolis displacement of about 1 millimeter.

    That's the maximum possible displacement.

    In a typical MLB ballpark with the pitch path oriented true N-S, on a normal breaking pitch speed of 80-85mph, the displacement would be between .33 and .5 millimeters.

    Remember this is the maximum effect, not an average.

    I don't think there's any way that coriolis has significantly advantages any particular handedness in its ability to get batters out. A mild breeze or small ballpark variation will make more difference than coriolis.

  158. so in other words it probably has the same effect as a fart in the 3rd row on the first base box seats.

  159. Doug B-

    You've clearly never smelt or felt one of my farts. I'm good for at least a millimeter and a half.

  160. @160
    Woah..... I’m eating lunch as I read.

    Thank you for the calculation, Michael.

    Even on a throw across the diamond or from the outfield the Coriolis displacement is likely to insignificant. That was my original point in the post @31 in the blog http://www.baseball-reference.com/blog/archives/10991.

  161. Bastaducci Says:

    @ post 155. you seem very knowledgable so don't take what I say here as picking at you. but..that is my problem with defensive war...a lifetime rightfielder (think he had 1 year at center) is 6th all time in defensive war? I mean there is 30 (at least) catchers ,centerfielders and shortstops every year that mean more defensively than Ichiro does in rightfield. defensive war has a long way to go and as of now it has no significance whatsoever.

    That being said..it does not change the fact about your point of him also being a great defensive player besides being a excellent offensive player.

  162. Kaiser The Great Says:

    Hall of Fame, not Hall of Great Stats. That's the way it should be anyway, but never the way it seems to be.

  163. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Bastaducci, defensive WAR as shown here is *only* the player's performance in comparison to others at the same position. I think the correct way to show it would be combining the player's performance and his position, which would eliminate the problem you speak of. That is not a flaw with WAR, it's just a choice in how the numbers are being presented.

    Since positional value is not included in the Play Index, there is no easy way to list which players truly have the most total defensive value. It can be done, you'd just have to check all the players.

  164. John Autin Says:

    @162, Bastaducci -- No offense taken. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Two counterpoints:

    (1) I said Ichiro is 6th among active players in career defensive WAR, not 6th all-time. His all-time dWAR ranking is 42nd.

    (2) SS and 2B are fundamentally more important defensive positions than RF -- but that doesn't mean that every SS or 2B is more valuable defensively than every RF. Dan Uggla is a very bad defensive 2B; does he add more defensive value to his team than Ichiro adds to his? In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Ichiro could play a better 2B than Uggla.

    BTW, I accept that dWAR is imperfect, but when the other assessments line up (including range factors and Gold Gloves), I see no reason to doubt Ichiro's dWAR score.

  165. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Right, last season WAR rates the positional difference between a full-time RF and 2B as being worth 11 runs. So a very good RF who rates 11 runs better than the average RF would have as much total defensive value (according to WAR) as an average 2B who rates 0 runs above average.

  166. @154: There is another cognitive bias called the recency effect. This is the tendency to rate more recent events as more important than earlier events. Translated into the sports world, we tend to rate current or recent athletes more favorably than previous athletes of similar accomplishment. Even if we take your evidence as true that Nolan Ryan was popularly viewed as the greatest picther of the 20th century in 1999, we also know that 1999 was the year that Ryan was elected in a landslide to the Hall of Fame, all of his major accomplishments being brought to the forefront. Thus, it is likely the recency effect was in place at the time the poll was being administered. So, if we assume your evidence is true, all you've really proven is that Nolan Ryan was overrated in 1999. The recency effect dictates that the further away we get from Nolan Ryan's career, the less overrated he will become, and I think we see that happening today. Are there people out there who still overrate him? Yes, but I did an quick internet search on where people are rating him these days, and most of them don't have him in the top ten. Except for a small but vocal minority, I think the general overrating of Ryan is a thing of the past, which is supported by your original post that most in the chat room agree that he is overrated. See my previous post for how it's impossible for most people to believe someone is overrated and for that person to actually be overrated at the same time.

  167. fredsbank Says:

    @ 158 so timmy p just got told...

  168. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @167/ Jared - Thanks for taking the time to disagree with my argument in a reasoned but polite way. I guess we will just have to "agree to disagree" - I believe Ryan is still _somewhat_ overrated by the general baseball fan, even if he is not overrated as much as he was in 1999.

    I've got to admit that I hadn't considered that he was just elected/inducted to the HOF the same year that poll was taken (1999), that's a good point.

  169. @167, Jared, yes, I think the recency effect did impact him.

    Ryan is a seductive figure. Just as people are fascinated by the HR figure, they are equally seduced by the power pitcher, who can hit 100 mph and strike out any batter. In that way, there is no more seductive pitcher than Ryan, who Bill James in 2001 perhaps summed it up best in his HBA, saying that perhaps in "another ten years we might have a better perspective on him" when trying to balance the positives and the negatvies. It's now ten years later, and I don't think we're there yet. I think we have a little better perspective, but my guess is it may take another ten, twenty or thirty years for the overall baseball community, and the sabremetric community, to truly figure out the Ryan Express. It's possible his star my dim slightly with the general fan community, but could increase some with the advanced metric community. Either way, he's an easy HOFer.

    Seeing the fan buzz around Strasburg, and now Chapman, I would have loved to have seen Ryan come along today. His last pitch, at age 46 and with a torn ligament, was clocked at 98 mph. His 100.9 mph pitch in 1974, clocked by Rockwell engineers several feet in front of home plate, equates to 108.1 mph by today's method. If nothing else, he always made for an interesting discussion, and long after his retirement, he still does. In Ryan's case, perhaps the recency effect is still in play.

  170. @169: In a sense, I think we're probably both right. Nolan Ryan presents an odd dichotomy not usually seen among successful pitchers. On the plus side, he was the least hittable pitcher in major league history, as measured by his hits allowed per 9 innings, he threw 7 no hitters, struck out more batters than anyone else, won 300 games, and piched successfully in the bigs until he qualified for Medicare. On the other hand, he lost a lot of games and allowed way to many free passes. He never meaningfully contributed to a world championship team, and he never won the Cy Young award. So on the one hand, he's got a resume like no one else in history, but on the other hand his resume is significantly incomplete. I think that sort of dichotomy sets people up to either over or under value his career depending on how they weight his accomplishments. I definitely agree that there are people who still overrate him (and probably always will be). I just think that as more time passes between now and the end of his career, fewer and fewer people will overrate him. We're seeing that now with Ryan being replaced in the "best of all time" discussion with Maddux and Clemens, which I think is ridiculous, by the way. We all know that the best pitcher of all time was Jesse Orosco.

  171. [...] my Nolan Ryan post from yesterday, the second poll asks readers to classify Ryan's rank all-time. Judging by the first thousand votes [...]

  172. @158 Once again, you are looking at the problem as being the coriolis effect, and not the Coriolis force. When you talk about ballparks that are configured north/south you are completely missing the point. Even with your skewed approach you came up with the game being affected the same a mild breeze. I contend it's more because of the displacement of a ball that is rotating along with the body of a hitter and the arm of a thrower. But nonetheless a mild breeze in the same direction over the course of millions and billions of throws and swings will have a significant affect. Hence the force helping lefty hitters and hurting lefty outfielders. Thanks

  173. Timmy P is either the worst poster ever or some sort of troll. Either way, I wish it was possible to ban him

  174. That's it, ban guys that disagree with you. If you want to go back you can see that I am polite and respectful until made fun of by Neil.

  175. Johnny Twisto Says:

    That's the thing though, no one disagrees with you because you don't actually stake any positions. You seem to claim Juan Pierre is awesome, BUT then that great players don't make 5 errors in a month -- so what are you actually saying? You claim you want to discuss the coriolis force's effect on lefthanders, but provide no evidence that it has any effect or what the effect would even be (except your subjective opinion of a "flowing" swing). You type a lot and say nothing. As I posted before, I found it humorous at first. Then you started becoming combative and repetitive. IMO you are not interested in discourse but in getting attention. I suppose that's the definition of a troll, even though I think people are too quick to throw that term out anyone one who seems to break the conventions of an Internet community.

  176. fredsbank Says:

    @ 173
    if the coriolis effect and the coriolis force are different things, why does searching for them on google return the same wikipedia page as the number one result for both entrants?

  177. Nash Bruce Says:

    @Jared(171) I had mentioned quite awhile ago, that there should be a "(profane) your pants" rating/statistic of some kind....measuring the feeling, that the other team had, when facing said player- the higher the rating, the better, for said player. (I think that the post might have had something to do with John Franco, and his HOF chances.) Another poster, a regular, I forget who(sorry!), said that he'd, himself, proposed such a stat, quite awhile before, himself.
    So, let's take Ryan. I mean, is he, as someone else said, the pitcher, that you would think of, when Game 7 came around? Ehhhhhh......no, probably not. But just throw out a random number, say Game, oh, I don't know, 92. 143. 17. Or, even "Game 7". What are the chances, that, on that day, he will be the most untouchable pitcher, who has ever played the game? Compared to a pitcher, like say, Phil Niekro, who (while I also agree, was quite underrated) I'd say Nolan's "PYP" rating would be off the charts.
    I guess that this post is not a response, to those of you, who have put together quality, solid lists, of pitchers who are better than Nolan. But, how can anyone say, that maybe he's not even HOF worthy??? Really?
    Good luck, to you, if you were in a Game 7 against him, and he was on. I'd have taken him over anyone.

  178. Nash Bruce Says:

    arrrgggh, meant to say,"Niekro, (who, I'd also agree, was quite underrated) I'd say........."
    sry :(

  179. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    The "coriolis force" is not a real physical force that acts on things, it is merely a mathematical convenience in classical mechanics to treat the displacement caused by the earth's differential rotational velocity as if it were a force. This why it is called a "fictitious force".

    The effect, the displacement of things, is all there is to it. The effect on the scale of the human body is too small to be noticeable. That it could matter at all in a baseball context only makes sense on long throws (pitch or longer), and my calculation demonstrates that the effect is of very little significance. One pitcher gets a .1-.5mm extra break on some of his pitches in some parks, while another gets .1-.5mm smaller break. That's it. That's the effect. The effect on fielders throws is essentially the same for all players, a slight displacement.

    The fact that the ball is spinning is irrelevant to any coriolis effect on baseball play. It might be relevant to microscopic beings living on the surface of the baseball who are trying to throw things accurately toward/at each other. It may be relevant to intricate calculations about how the individual molecules of the baseball react. It's not relevant to how the ball with throw. The spin of the ball will react with the air to create various curve effects. That's fluid dynamics and has nothing to do with coriolis, except to the extent of the very small coriolis displacement that I calculated.

    The only possible way it could affect anybody negatively relative to other players would be pitchers on sideways breaking balls. All hitters will see the same displacement. All throwers will see the same displacement. No hitter depends on the ability to put controlled sidespin on the ball when they hit it, nor do throwers in the field. What matters is velocity and direction, all of which are affected by coriolis in the same way no matter what hand you throw or hit with.

  180. @ 175
    In this thread, you mention another poster needing ointment after the spanking you gave him.

    In the first post I ever saw from you, you said "Some numb nut said there are dozens of players in AAA that are better than Juan!"

    Yep, you sound really polite

  181. Chuck Knoblauch Says:

    @180
    Not cool, dude. Now I have to come up with an answer besides "Coriolis Force, son. Coriolis force." when my kid asks me why I couldn't make an easy throw to first and got shipped out the Left.

  182. @180 "The "coriolis force" is not a real physical force that acts on things, it is merely a mathematical convenience in classical mechanics" That is absolutely, 100% false. That is not true! Everything you said has to do with observation, the so-called effect.

  183. Besides baseball there is no other sport that requires a round ball to be thrown anywhere from 200' to as much as 400'. Let's say throws to home from medium outfield depth of 275' - 300' to nail a runner at the plate. Leave lefty 1b and pitchers out of it, because of the distance and the fact that lefty pitchers make adjustments to spin to counteract the Coriolis force, they just don't know it. My bringing up the Coriolis force has nothing to do with pitching or the movement of pitches, only long outfield throws. You seem to concentrate on the actions of the ball after it leaves the players hand, and are not taking into consideration the required arm motion, or for hitters the swing. Even with your flawed analysis you come up with fractions of mm's for throws of 60' 6", now take those fractions of mm's and add 200' to the throw. Over the course of millions of throws you will see a difference in statistics in lefty vs. right handed throwers.

  184. How many atheletes in American professional sports have had their numbers retired by at least three different franchises in their sport.....

    Of course Jackie Robinson and Wayne Gretzky were honored by all the franchises in their sports. After that, two, only two atheletes have had their numbers retired by three franchises.

    1. Wilt Chamberlain in the NBA....Warriors, 76ers, lakers
    2. Nolan Ryan in MLB Angels, Rangers, Astros

    Ryan was good for his teams and for baseball.....he was a role model for hard work and modesty, he pitched 27 consecutive years....2 MORE years
    then any other pitcher in the history of baseball

    And he put up some extraordinary numbers. A great pitcher with the capbality to completely dominate in any game In my mind maybe somewhere between the 25th and 30th best of all time...,

  185. I was doing some research into Ryan's career just now. I came across the 1983 season, sorted by WAR for pitchers with 100 IP's or more. Ryan had a 2.7 WAR in 1983, which was 48th amongst pitchers. But what stood out to me is that Phil Niekro was listed on the line right below Ryan, as he also had a 2.7 WAR. Glancing at the numbers, that seemed like a huge mistake. Take a look at the numbers for both Ryan and Niekro in 1983:

    Ryan: 14-9 record
    Niekro: 11-10 record

    Ryan: 29 games/29 starts - 196.1 IP - 5 CG & 2 shutouts
    Niekro: 34 games/33 starts - 201.2 IP - 2 CG & 0 shutouts

    Ryan: 134 Hits - 6.1 H/9 (led league) & 101 BB - 4.6 BB/9; 1.197 WHIP
    Niekro: 212 H - 9.5 H/9 & Niekro: 105 BB - 4.7 BB/9; 1.572 WHIP

    Ryan: 183 K - 8.4 K/9
    Niekro: 128 K - 5.7 K/9

    Ryan: 2.98 ERA & 114 ERA+
    Niekro: 3.97 ERA & 98 ERA+

    Ryan: 9 HR's, 5 WP's
    Niekro: 18 HR's; 6 WP's

    Ryan: .195 BA, .300 OBP%, .277 SLG%, .577 OPS%
    Niekro: .276 BA, .362 OBP%, .391 SLG%, .754 OPS%

    I know that one example of stats doesn't invalidate an entire season. But looking at the numbers, it is inconceivable to me that WAR could say that Phil Niekro was equal to Nolan Ryan in 1983. The only stat that Niekro was better in was making 4 more starts and pitching 5 more innings (of course, Ryan pitched more innings per start than Niekro did, by coming up only 5 innings short of Niekro in 4 less starts).

    I don't have enough info to state whether Ryan should have had a higher WAR relative to all the other pitchers in MLB that year. But there's no way Niekro should be as high as Ryan. Park factors,m defensive metrics and whatever else you want to account for, there's just no way Niekro pitched even close to Nolan Ryan in 1983. Niekro's name has been mentioned in this thread (or is it the other Ryan thread?) and they are both HOF pitchers, so its just interesting to me that WAR considers both of their 1983 statistically the same. I wonder if there are other years like this as well? Unfortunately I don't have time for all that research right now...

  186. I should proofread before clicking on Submit. In my second-to-last paragraph, I meant to say "I know that one example of stats doesn't invalidate an entire system".

  187. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    Timmy. I did not say coriolis doesn't affect outfield throws. I said it affects all outfield throwers the same way. They all have to aim something like a few millimeters off (or less depending on how fast they throw, and the compass orientation of the throw). Doesn't matter whether they are righty or lefty. The ball will end up in a slightly different spot than if there were no coriolis. But it's the same for everybody, and in adjusting for the park and the breeze, they will automatically also adjust for coriolis.

    The only way it affects left or right handers differently is if you are trying to make the ball curve sharply left or right. Then, in certain orientations and certain kinds of curves, it can work for or against your natural curve. The only players who care about the break of a ball rather than just where it ends up are pitchers, so that is the relevant calculation.

  188. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    "I don't have enough info to state whether Ryan should have had a higher WAR relative to all the other pitchers in MLB that year. But there's no way Niekro should be as high as Ryan. Park factors,m defensive metrics and whatever else you want to account for, there's just no way Niekro pitched even close to Nolan Ryan in 1983. "

    First, looking at raw numbers will lead you very very wrong here, because Niekro pitched in a major batters park, while Ryan was pitching in a major pitchers park (108 v. 93). So looking at WHIP, H/9, BB/9, K/9 and raw ERA are going to make Ryan look *much* better than he really was relative to neikro.

    So the huge ERA gap, when corrected for park is only *1/2* a run, rather than a full run.

    Next, WAR looks at all runs, not merely earned runs, and Niekro gave up fewer unearned runs than did Ryan.

    Secondly, WAR adjusts for fielding. The astros in 1983 had an excellent fielding team worth 34 runs over average according to TZ. The braves had a relatively poor fielding team worth -16 runs on average. That's a difference of 50 runs over the season which works out to about 7 runs in 200 IP.

    So Ryan saw 74 runs with 6.85 saved by his fielders (relative to Niekro), while Niekro saw 94 runs. 81*(1.08/.93) for the park adjustment is 93.7 runs. Given that Niekro pitched 5 more innings, by this metric they were just about the same.

    Since that is the metric WAR uses, that is the reason they come out to having the same WAR.

    If you don't like using total runs, you can do the calculation using ER only. Then you get 89 runs for niekro, and adjusting you get 83.43 for Ryan. That will give a WAR difference of around .56

    The real answer to who pitched better is probably somewhere in that range. It's likely that Ryan did have a slightly better year and that some of the difference in unearned runs was due to luck rather than skill. So I suspect that WAR is off here, but not by nearly as much as you seem to think.

  189. @189 - Ryan gave up 9 unearned runs and Niekro gave up 5 unearned runs. If you look at total RA, Ryan moves from a 2.98 ERA over to a 3.40 RA. Niekro moves from a 3.97 ERA over to a 4.20 RA. Still a big edge for Ryan.

    I get that WAR accounts for park factors and defensive metrics as mentioned and you mention "looking at raw numbers will lead you very very wrong here" but IMO, when you can't look at raw numbers at all, then that's a problem.

    I mean, Ryan beats Niekro in every single raw number. If there is literally nothing at all visible to the naked eye to show that Player X is better than Player Y and only a calculator can show that Player X is equal (or better than) than Player Y, well that's not good.

    Take Felix Hernandez and his Cy Young last year. Though he didn't have a gaudy W/L record, you could still look at his raw stats and see that he had a great season. You could directly see that he outpitched everyone else in the AL (and thus was a deserving Cy Young winner). Now obviously neither Ryan nor Niekro were Cy Young-caliber in 1983. But when we get to a point where actual raw stats can't be looked at to tell a picture, I'm kind of at a loss. Some pitchers have good seasons despite pitching in a hitter's park and/or having a weak defense. Some pitchers have bad seasons despite pitching in a pitcher's park and having a great defense. You deal from the hand you're dealt. Saying that a guy who pitched well is equal to a guy who pitched poorly is wrong, regardless of the circumstances IMO. I'm a fan that tries to look at things from both an "old-school" and sabermetric viewpoint, but if this makes me sound "old-school" (and thus in some people's eyes, uninformed), well so be it.

  190. Michael E Sullivan Says:

    You are comparing a pitcher in one of the best hitters parks to a pitcher in one of the best pitcher's parks. Raw numbers are going to be worthless. It's like looking at the raw stats of a hitter in coors in 2000.

    If you compare raw numbers of pitchers in comparable parks, then yes, you'd think if pitchers were comparable, then most of the raw numbers would be comparable, or favoring different guys.

    With felix vs. CC, the raw numbers (except for W-L where being on the Yankees vs. Mariners was a huge advantage for CC) actually favored Hernandez unfairly, as he was in a real pitcher's park, while CC was pitching in a hitter's park. Looking purely at raw numbers (and ignoring w-l) the gap looks much larger than it really was between felix and CC. Felix is still comfortably ahead after making adjustments for these things, but it would not look as dramatic in the raw stats if their parks were not so disparate.

    Raw numbers are nearly worthless for making fine distinctions. If a guy has the best raw numbers in the league, sure, you can tell he's at least really good, and if he has the worst, he's probably really bad.

    But for deciding between two guys who are both pretty good, both mediocre, or both excellent, or deciding whether somebody is pretty good or excellent, or a bit below versus a bit above average, or a bit below versus replacement level -- raw numbers are useless.

  191. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Dave, there's nothing wrong with looking at the raw numbers. They are what actually happened. But if you dismiss anything that conflicts with them, then you should ignore WAR. There would be no point in having WAR if it just rubber-stamped what you already know to be true. I mean, this is kind of the goal of sabermetrics in general: the search for *objective* knowledge about baseball. Ryan pitched in a more favorable park, and probably had a superior defense, and yes, each had to deal with the hand he was dealt. WAR attempts to strip away those contextual factors which were outside the pitcher's control. If you think a 3.00 ERA is always better than a 4.00 ERA, that is your right. I believe sometimes the 4.00 ERA has more value. Context context context.

  192. I don't dismiss anything that conflicts with the raw numbers and I tried to convey that when mentioning "I know that one example of stats doesn't invalidate an entire system" (though I posted that sentence incorrectly in my first post and made the correction in the post right below) :) I do however think that WAR is wrong in this specific case for sure.

    Niekro had two teammates in 1983 who had pretty successful seasons despite pitching in the same ballpark and having the same defense that Niekro did. Craig McMurty and Pascual Perez finished 10th and 17th respectively in pitcher WAR that season. And for the most part, both seem to have respectable raw numbers unlike Niekro. They managed to pitch well, as did Ryan (they all dealt with the hand they were dealt). Niekro didn't pitch well, at least this season IMO. He shouldn't get undue credit just because of where he pitched. Sometimes a pitcher in a tough pitching situation is just a mediocre or bad pitcher IMO (obviously I'm not saying Niekro was mediocre/bad his whole career of course).

  193. A few things to consider for those discussing ballpark factors between Ryan's and Niekro's 1983. It's easy to compare performance by removing the ballpark factor. This can be done by comparing each pictcher's performance on the road, meaning they each pitch in a variety of ballparks, which should even things out statistically. Ryan still outpitched Niekro pretty convincingly in virtually every category. Now, that doesn't factor in the defensive prowess of the team playing behind them. However, over the course of the season, 8 hitters reached on an error while Ryan was pitching and 9 reached on an error while Niekro was pitching. Not much difference there on this particular measure of fielding. One more thing to consider is how well Ryan pitched in Niekro's ballpark (a hitter's park) and how well Niekro pitched in Ryan's ballpark (a pitcher's park). Looking at the splits, Ryan pitched in Atlanta once that year, allowing 2 hits and 2 runs over 8 innings. Niekro pitched once in Houston, allowing 8 hits and 3 runs in 4.2 innings. You can't speculate too much over one start each, but it highlights the problems with applying adjustments based on the aggregate to individuals. It puts you in a position where you are adjusting individual stats due to aggregate base rates, which always introduces error. One last note, ERA+ is adjusted to the ballpark, and Ryan's was 114 and Niekro's was 98, pretty much nullifying the ballpark factor. WAR can be a useful number, but I think the comparison of the two seasons shows that it has flaws just like any other advanced stat.

  194. Timmy Patrick Says:

    @186 Dave V. - Great example, I am always skeptical of WAR. I don't mind so much if it's comparing the best of the best, but if it's used to keep a player out of the HOF I don't like it.

  195. Dave V, you may be severely underestimating what a crazy pitcher's park the Astrodome was, esp at that time.

  196. @JohnAutin

    I'm the one that said that early in his career that Ryan was told to reduce his wildness and didn't have much success doing it. While a comment of that nature from Ryan or people that worked with him early in his career is perhaps self-serving, and your statistics of his performance with the bases loaded is interesting, I'm not particularly moved. If all other things were equal, then you'd have a case, but the myriad of differences between most situations and a bases loaded situation don't make for a reasonable comparison. Are hitters more aggressive? I imagine they are but I don't have those figures in front of me. Are pitchers more inclined to try to get the ball over the plate, but also really wary of giving up a big knock? I imagine they are but again I don't have those figures. But that's only part of the question. The other part of the question is how does facing Nolan Ryan with the bases loaded affect your mindset/approach as a hitter? Do you tell yourself that whether he walked (or HBP) one or all of the runners on base he isn't going to want to walk you? Do you try to draw a walk and get K'd instead as Ryan trying to get it over the plate instead of being his own worst enemy yet again? What goes on in Ryan's mind? I don't think that can be answered and again feel uncompelled by your usually compelling analysis.

    Additionally, I should note that Ryan was set to quit baseball very early in his career, IIRC a combination of homesickness/dislike of the big city and (probably) frustration with his performance. Considering that and that there was somewhat more bias against pitchers walking batters at the beginning of his career, I don't buy that he just 'chose' to be unhittable rather tha be more effective.

    Lastly, I didn't make that comment to pretend like he was a better pitcher than he was--I made it because Ryan's critics have always pointed to his wildness, and I just don't buy that he was selfish, apathetic, or ignorant. I still like the anecdote that Randy Johnson attributes Nolan Ryan with helping him. Ryan wasn't a pitching coach, wasn't on the same team, but he saw something that no one else saw (or something that Randy had been told about but didn't listen to when received from other sources). I'm not sure how that anecdote fit into my post before but I meant for it to be as evidence of his maturity as a pitcher over the years.