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.