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Monday, September 25, 2017

24 years ago, Nolan Ryan pitched in his final game - Houston Chronicle

My favorite player. My eldest son’s name is Ryan. It’s not a coincidence.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:19 AM | 85 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, nolan ryan

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   1. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: September 25, 2017 at 09:33 AM (#5537967)
Probably the most singular athlete of my lifetime - how he excelled, how long he excelled, the height of his success. Everything.

Randy Johnson had some of the elements; Tom Seaver had some of the elements; some closers have some of the elements. But the way he kicked back and fired the ball for 25 years, and got better with age. The number of pitches he threw per game in his 20s and 30s...and yet he still pitched as long as anybody in the last 50 years. All the no-hitters. He led the league in Ks/9 as a 25 year old...and a 44 year old...and the number was higher at age 44 than at age 25!

Look at 1974. He pitches in 42 games, with 26 CGs. He leads the league in innings (332), Ks (367), BBs (202!), fewest hits per 9 (6.0), and Ks/9 (10.4). That's not possible today.

He has the most Ks and BBs in history. And his takedown of Ventura is one of the most bad-ass things I've ever seen on a sports field.

And the, when you look at the leader boards for pitchers, you realize that the crop of pitchers of that era (Seaver, Niekro, Ryan, Jenkins, Perry, Carlton, Sutton, Blyleven, etc) was immediately followed by one of the weakest crops of pitchers. It's what gives Jack Morris such a chance of eventual HOF induction - it just feels like somebody from that era should be a Hall of Famer, right?
   2. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: September 25, 2017 at 09:40 AM (#5537973)
Ryan wasn't the best pitcher, but he was the most pitcher.
   3. Russ Posted: September 25, 2017 at 09:41 AM (#5537974)
A lot of bad luck for pitchers in the 80's.... Clemens may or may not have made his own bad luck. The rest of the top guys by WAR (from here:):


1 Dave Stieb 45.2 1980 1989 22-31 140 109 2328.2 3.88
2 Bob Welch 35.1 1980 1989 23
-32 137 93 2082.1 3.37
3 Fernando Valenzuela 34.8 1980 1989 19
-28 128 103 2144.2 3.25
4 Bert Blyleven 34.0 1980 1989 29
-38 123 103 2078.1 3.27
5 Orel Hershiser 32.8 1983 1989 24
-30 98 64 1457.0 4.50
6 Roger Clemens 32.3 1984 1989 21
-26 95 45 1284.2 5.03
7 Nolan Ryan 30.8 1980 1989 33
-42 122 104 2094.0 2.94
8 Dwight Gooden 30.2 1984 1989 19
-24 100 39 1291.0 4.68
9 John Tudor 29.7 1980 1989 26
-35 104 66 1622.2 3.66
10 Bret Saberhagen 29.0 1984 1989 20
-25 92 61 1329.0 4.36 
   4. PreservedFish Posted: September 25, 2017 at 09:42 AM (#5537976)
When's the last time someone led the league in both BBs and IP? That's the trickiest combo there. Ks, K/9 and H/9 are all nearly the same thing.
   5. Rally Posted: September 25, 2017 at 09:44 AM (#5537980)
And the, when you look at the leader boards for pitchers, you realize that the crop of pitchers of that era (Seaver, Niekro, Ryan, Jenkins, Perry, Carlton, Sutton, Blyleven, etc) was immediately followed by one of the weakest crops of pitchers. It's what gives Jack Morris such a chance of eventual HOF induction - it just feels like somebody from that era should be a Hall of Famer, right?


Blyleven and Morris probably should be considered part of the same era. Blyleven was only born 4 years earlier, about the same age difference as Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Justin and Felix though are exact contemporaries by their years as active MLB pitchers. Blyleven's first year as a full time starter was 1970, at age 19, while Morris was 24 in 1979. Morris outlasted Blyleven by only 2 years, so Blyleven was a contemporary for the entire portion of Morris's career where he was good.
   6. John DiFool2 Posted: September 25, 2017 at 09:56 AM (#5537989)
Nonetheless, in terms of birth years there is a large gap in HoF starters between Blyleven (1950) and Unit (1963). [Clemens 1962 whenever he finally makes it]
   7. eric Posted: September 25, 2017 at 04:27 PM (#5538641)
I always wondered if the 60's/70's trend of moving back to very-high-IP starters trickled down through the ranks to the point that HS/College/Minors were all emulating that practice, putting a lot more mileage on pitchers' arms by the time they so much as reached MLB. Thus more injuries before even making the majors, and quicker injuries once in the majors, and quicker burnouts overall. If so, that might explain the relative dearth of great starting pitching in the 80's as they were all getting hurt or used up before their time.

I've never thought it too much of a coincidence that a lot of the high-IP guys had relatively late starts to their high-volume use.

Gaylord Perry: One season of 200+IP in the minors (age 22). First 200+ season in the majors at age 25, first season 250+ at age 27. Ultimately had a 9-year stretch, 1967-1975 where he averaged just under 315 IP/season. 5350 for his career.

Nolan Ryan: One year over 200 IP in minors (age 19, hurt the next year, hmm...) first season 200+ (and 250+) in the majors was age 25. 5386 in his career.

Phil Niekro: Never over 200 IP in the minors; high point was 172 at age 25. First season MLB 200+: age 28, first season 250+: age 29. 5404 for his career (the real modern game record).

Warren Spahn: over 200 IP in MiLB at age 20 and 21, then misses three years due to WWII, first season in MLB at 200+ and 250+ at age 26. 5243 for his career.

Steve Carlton started churning out his 200+ seasons at 23, Sutton at 21 (!!, although took a few years to do 250+, age 24), Maddux at 22, Blyleven at 20 (and 278 at that!), but of the modern guys, all the top three, and four of the top five had what I would consider a late start. I don't need to rehash the number of young, high-volume guys who have flamed out, or lost effectiveness seemingly quite young, but it's worth noting that era-workhorse Jack Morris was 25 and in MLB before getting to 200+ IP and, as an example, has a ~900 career IP advantage over Fernando Valenzuela, he of six straight 250+ IP seasons at ages 21-26.
   8. Batman Posted: September 25, 2017 at 04:44 PM (#5538657)
When's the last time someone led the league in both BBs and IP? That's the trickiest combo there. Ks, K/9 and H/9 are all nearly the same thing.
I think it was Phil Niekro in 1979. Niekro led in IP in 1977, 1978, and 1979 and BB in 1977 and 1979. He finished second behind J.R. Richard in BB in 1978. He also gave up the most hits in all three years.
   9. simon bedford Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:12 PM (#5538710)
I enjoyed Winfield pounding out a turtling and not so tough guy Ryan after one of the many times Ryan threw at someone ,Ryan was great when he was "on' and terrible when he was off, which is probably why the voters back then never gave him the cy young once, you watched him and thought "there is no way a guy who issues this many walks and hit batters and wild pitches can be the "best". What did Palmer say about his strikeout records? something to the effect of "who cares? some of us are actually trying to win games".
   10. Morty Causa Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:13 PM (#5538712)
My admiration for Ryan is great, if greatly qualified. He was unique.


But the way he kicked back and fired the ball for 25 years, and got better with age.

Did he get better? If so, it was slowly, very slowly, almost imperceptibly. He basically stayed the same kind of pitcher his whole career, and considering the kind of pitcher he was, that's miraculous. If you believe in miracles--I think he himself said that he was, in the final analysis, just lucky to have lasted.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:16 PM (#5538713)
Fergie, the most durable of the durable, threw 196 at 21 in the minors then was below 200 until 289 at age 24. From 24-32, he threw 2700 innings, averaging over 300 per and completing 22 games per year. He averaged over 1200 batters per year. In 1969, he made 42 starts; in 1971, he completed 30 of 39; in 1974 he completed 29 of 41.

Ryan can't touch those numbers. (Niekro and Wood can) His best 9 year run was about 90 batters fewer per season, almost 40 fewer CGs, almost 300 fewer innings. Ryan topped 300 twice plus a 299. Fergie topped 300 5 times, including 4 in a row.

Perry actually beats Fergie but loses points for the mustache.

EDIT: Hold on, didn't Perry have a crazy mustache? Now, I can't find a picture. Don't get old people!
   12. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:17 PM (#5538715)
What did Palmer say about his strikeout records? something to the effect of "who cares? some of us are actually trying to win games".

Agreed. Ryan could be replaced by two 162-146 pitchers.
   13. Sweatpants Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:20 PM (#5538718)
What did Palmer say about his strikeout records? something to the effect of "who cares? some of us are actually trying to win games".
“If you’re going to lose, it’s sure great to strike out 380 guys. I’m not saying he isn’t a winner. Maybe his niche is 383 strikeouts. Mine is winning two-thirds of my games.”
   14. Morty Causa Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:21 PM (#5538719)
I enjoyed Winfield pounding out a turtling and not so tough guy Ryan after one of the many times Ryan threw at someone ,Ryan was great when he was "on' and terrible when he was off, which is probably why the voters back then never gave him the cy young once, you watched him and thought "there is no way a guy who issues this many walks and hit batters and wild pitches can be the "best". What did Palmer say about his strikeout records? something to the effect of "who cares? some of us are actually trying to win games".

Yeah, he could have learned a lot from someone like Plamer (or even Seaver). But Ryan didn't listen and wouldn't be deterred in his approach. I believe one season Billy Martin took flak from the press and fans when he didn't choose him for the All-Star game, since he was leading the league in strikeouts (of course) and wins at the half-way mark. When reporters asked Martin's drinking buddy (Fisher?), the one he brought with him wherever he managed, about that, the guy replied something to the effect that "Billy ain't going to use a pitcher that won't or can't throw strikes."
   15. Morty Causa Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:23 PM (#5538720)
But he was a wonderful circus sideshow.
   16. Booey Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:30 PM (#5538725)
EDIT: Hold on, didn't Perry have a crazy mustache?


Not in any pictures I've seen.

He should've, though; it would've been one more great place to hide vasoline or pine tar.
   17. ajnrules Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:33 PM (#5538728)
EDIT: Hold on, didn't Perry have a crazy mustache? Now, I can't find a picture. Don't get old people!


Perry never had a mustache when he played, but he grew a fine one after his retirement.
   18. Greg Pope Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:35 PM (#5538729)
I enjoyed Winfield pounding out a turtling and not so tough guy Ryan

I've read this a few times and I'm not sure what it means.
   19. Baldrick Posted: September 25, 2017 at 06:48 PM (#5538736)
Did he get better? If so, it was slowly, very slowly, almost imperceptibly. He basically stayed the same kind of pitcher his whole career, and considering the kind of pitcher he was, that's miraculous. If you believe in miracles--I think he himself said that he was, in the final analysis, just lucky to have lasted.

From age 19-32, he walked 5.5 per 9 innings and had a 1.77 K/BB ratio in 2691 innings.
From age 33-46, he walked 3.8 per 9 innings and had a 2.44 K/BB ratio in 2694 innings.

Edit: that said, in terms of actual value, it's not clear that he really improved that much. I would say he became less of a caricature of himself, but that it didn't have a huge effect on the topline results.
   20. simon bedford Posted: September 25, 2017 at 07:56 PM (#5538783)
Greg Pope
when Ryan was on the astros he hit dave and dave came to the mound and pounded on ryan while he lay on the ground cowering.
   21. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: September 25, 2017 at 08:07 PM (#5538789)
Is his K rate even better in this era if he pitched now?
   22. Howie Menckel Posted: September 25, 2017 at 08:27 PM (#5538804)
Ryan had................. 5714 Ks
Smoltz + Glavine had. 5691
Koufax + Drysdale had 4783
Feller + Pedro had......5735
Spahn + Gibson had....5700
Ford + Valenzuela + Guidry had 5818

Ryan's lead over No. 2 Carlton in BBs is 2795 to 1833

Glavine, Maddux, and Smoltz combined had 3509 BBs
   23. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:48 AM (#5538896)
When reporters asked Martin's drinking buddy (Fisher?), the one he brought with him wherever he managed . . .

You may be channeling Art Fowler.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: September 26, 2017 at 02:35 AM (#5538904)
Is his K rate even better in this era if he pitched now?

Or do more guys pitch like Ryan now? It's a fair question.

Generally the guys today have good control with league K/BB higher than it's ever been (I think). Ks have gone up while walks have stayed reasonably stable. On the one hand, it's reasonable to think Ryan's Ks would go up; on the other hand, it's not clear it's humanly possible for a starter to K 15/9. Ryan's career rate was 25.3% in a 14.2% environment. Put him in Kershaw's environment and it's potentially 35%. But league average K-rates are actually down a smidgen relative to Ryan's career so he ends up with a K/BB of nearly 3. Roughly speaking, his K/9 - BB/9 would be nearly 9 -- massive. Even some of the best hitters would probably look no better than Joey Gallo against that. So I'm guessing real world time travel wouldn't turn out THAT well. Maybe he (esp in his early years) would get killed by the rake and take approach.

In terms of results, maybe our best comp is Rich Hill. It's only 72 innings of mostly relief but from ages 31-34, Hill K'd 12 while walking 6 which sounds like the young Ryan in today's game. From age 35 on, Hill has an 11/3 K/BB with a 153 ERA+ and just 6 H/9 -- that's roughly the same pitcher Ryan became at age 40. So it seems reasonable to conclude he'd be better than Rich Hill.

Ryan career: 9.5/4.7 K/BB, 0.5 HR/9, 6.6 H/9, 1.247 WHIP, 112 ERA+
Hill career: 9.4/3.8 K/BB, 1.0 HR/9, 7.5 H/9, 1.257 WHIP, 110 ERA+

There's the small matter of 4,647 innings pitched but that's pretty darn close. :-)
   25. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:32 AM (#5538912)
Thanks Walt. Good sidebar.
   26. Lassus Posted: September 26, 2017 at 08:25 AM (#5538916)
I know it's subjective, but hating Ryan always seemed to me like a good example of people who hate fun.
   27. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 09:03 AM (#5538938)
You may be channeling Art Fowler.

Yes. Thanks.
   28. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 09:15 AM (#5538945)
I can not say I enjoyed watching Ryan pitch, except in short spurts. His insistence on throwing the absolute perfect pitch every time, no matter what the situation, got old fast. He had to have made games considerably longer, as well less exciting by taking the rest of the team out of the game. Not only did he seem to go three and two on every batter, with unusual numbers of foul balls, when he would get the ball back from the catcher, he would massage the thing for a good while, like he was in the throes of intense corn-shucking, getting off the mound and stalking around it. After that, he was liable to try to pick some runner off first, inevitably throwing the ball into right field. His peripherals were awful.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: September 26, 2017 at 10:33 AM (#5539034)
I have mentioned before that I saw Billy Martin with Art Fowler in their natural habitat once - in a Boston bar the night before the Yankees' final game in 1986.

I was 25, and they looked 100. each. one hard drink after another for each of them - angrily.

I remember thinking Martin would be dead within a year, but he lasted 3 more somehow.

I had to look up Fowler - incredibly, he made it until 2007. also a late-bloomer SP with a debut at age 31 and finale at 41. NL FIP leader in 1956, and a key RP on the original Angels teams of 1961-64.

Fowler's brother, Jesse, debuted in MLB 30 years earlier than Art, in 1924.
   30. Booey Posted: September 26, 2017 at 10:57 AM (#5539079)
when Ryan was on the astros he hit dave and dave came to the mound and pounded on ryan while he lay on the ground cowering.

Getting old so I may be misremembering, but I seem to recall Ryan bringing the Winfield incident up as part of his reasoning regarding what happened with Ventura. Something along the lines of he was never going to let that happen again.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:25 AM (#5539114)
Here's that full Palmer quote:

“Nolan’s got so much more natural ability than the rest of us. He’s like a child prodigy. You can’t even comprehend what it’s like to be that talented … [but] he tries to intimidate people. I try to get them out. If you’re going to lose, it’s sure great to strike out 380 guys. I’m not saying he isn’t a winner. Maybe his niche is 383 strikeouts. Mine is winning two-thirds of my games.”

That was from a 1980 Inside Sports profile written by Tony Kornheiser, and here was Kornheiser's later reaction to what Palmer said:
Upon rereading the story, Kornheiser was struck by Palmer’s barbed response. “Palmer didn’t have a jealous bone in his body,” Kornheiser said. “Palmer was perfect! He may have been dismissive of people, but I don’t think Palmer was ever jealous. Palmer was the handsomest guy in the world. He had a fabulous record, he was on World Series winners, he was brilliant — brilliant — he had total recall of every pitch he ever threw. And he would stand and talk to you, and there would be a twinkle in his eyes, and afterward you’d say, ‘It’s him and Paul Newman — those are the two handsomest guys in the world.’ I don’t think Palmer was jealous, I honestly don’t. I think, if anything, he just said, ‘Are you kiddin’ me? What are you talking about with this guy?'”
   32. Bug Selig Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:35 AM (#5539136)
“If you’re going to lose, it’s sure great to strike out 380 guys. I’m not saying he isn’t a winner. Maybe his niche is 383 strikeouts. Mine is picking my teammates well.”
   33. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:37 AM (#5539138)
Palmer was remarkably mature for an athlete and famous sports figure. This was never more clearly expressed the way he reacted to Braden getting all upset at A-Rod crossing "his mound". Plamer said something like, "Yeah, what you do is find a way to use that to your benefit, you don't lose your #### over it."

EDIT: He also said, "I don't have any problem with that. Why would I care?''
   34. donlock Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:46 AM (#5539154)
Always feel compelled to cite my two Art "The Hummer" Fowler stories when his name comes up.

When he would visit the mound as a pitching coach, he would say, "Babe Ruth's dead. Throw strikes."

and

When a pitcher was getting shelled, he would offer, "Billy's getting mad. Get some outs."
   35. Wahoo Sam Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:42 PM (#5539243)
In a previous life when I worked at the Baseball Hall of Fame, we had a nice holiday party at the Otsega Hotel in Cooperstown. The same hotel that hosts the baseball celebrities during Hall of Fame weekend. It's beautiful. An hour into the party a Santa showed up, looking quite splendid in a very "authentic" looking traditional Santa costume. He handed out presents to all of the employees. He clearly had a nice bushy, real beard. He was also quite plump and had rosy cheeks, probably from the heat of wearing that costume and perhaps a few nips of brandy. That Santa was the great grease baller, Gaylord Perry. He was a jolly Santa, and I think he performed that role a few times.
   36. Covfefe Posted: September 26, 2017 at 12:45 PM (#5539250)
Ryan was such a tale of two pitchers, career-wise... I have two very distinct impressions of him - the guy up to his mid/late 30s, who seemed just to be a K prodigy but pretty meh pitcher and then the guy from then until the end, when he proved any doubters wrong.

I vaguely recall that Bill James took him to task in one of the mid-80s annuals as being rather overrated... and at the time - late 30s, seemed likely to sunset soon - he might have been right. Just picking an arbitrary mid-80s cutoff - he was around ~55 WAR and 23 WAA... that's probably a hall of famer; though - back in those days, being what seemed impossibly short of 300 wins, he was not at all a lock.

Then - he somehow manages to layer on another ~30 WAR and 15 WAA to make him a no doubt about it.

   37. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:25 PM (#5539281)
I believe Bill James opined somewhere in the early abstracts that Ryan was basically a .500 pitcher and could just very well end his career winning 300 games and losing 300 games. And I think he said this was so regardless of whether he had a good or a poor offense supporting him. Poor and it he was a 52 percent winning pitcher; good and he was 55. (Relying on memory.)
   38. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:27 PM (#5539285)
I think it's probably not fair to bring in Phil Niekro comparisons. One of these guys was pitching howitzer shells, the other was pitching sacher tortes. There's a reason that knuckleballers live forever.
   39. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:28 PM (#5539287)
34:

The one I like was when Fowler visited the mound, and the pitcher immediately began discussing his mechanics, saying something was off-kilter and did Art notice anything he was doing different or wrong. Fowler waved that aside impatiently, "You're not throwing strikes and Billy is getting pissed."
   40. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 01:31 PM (#5539291)
There's a reason that knuckleballers live forever.

Did any knuckleballer last longer than Ryan?
   41. eric Posted: September 26, 2017 at 02:27 PM (#5539363)
somehow


The steroids era began in the late 50's/early 60's...

His time with the Rangers moved him from "he's amazing, but is he really a HOFer?" to "one of the most amazing players ever." I think it was a counting stat thing--he passed 300 wins, and then moved so far beyond everyone else in no-hitters and Ks that it was utterly ridiculous.

I was a kid at the time ingesting every baseball article written multiple times over, and at the time of his signing with Texas the consensus was that he was probably not a HOFer. By his retirement five years later, he was on baseball's Mt. Rushmore.
   42. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: September 26, 2017 at 02:33 PM (#5539371)
Niekro: 5404 IP
Ryan: 5386 IP

Anyway, the point was that Ryan lasting forever is way more impressive than Niekro lasting forever. It's what you expect from knuckleballers. It's not what you expect from guys like Ryan.
   43. dejarouehg Posted: September 26, 2017 at 02:58 PM (#5539388)
My son's college baseball coach, who is in the college baseball HoF, detests walks. My son isn't the greatest control pitcher and all I'm thinking is that freakin' Nolan Ryan would walk 9 guys a game but get out of it with minimal damage - much like my kid has his entire career. Then I enter back into reality by reminding myself that the only thing my son and Ryan have in common is that they both NOW throw in the high 80's
   44. Rally Posted: September 26, 2017 at 03:00 PM (#5539391)
Did any knuckleballer last longer than Ryan?


Total length of career or pitching to an older age?

Neikro, Wilhelm, and Jack Quinn (I think he was knuckleballer, but this was a long time ago) were older than Ryan in their final years.

Charlie Hough pitched to age 46 like Ryan. Going by days old in their last games, Ryan was a bit older. They were also teammates for 2 years in Texas.

   45. PASTE, Now with Extra Pitch and Extra Stamina Posted: September 26, 2017 at 04:52 PM (#5539472)
I think Ryan and A-Rod are the two guys who got the closest to the amazing feat of entering the majors as the youngest player in the majors, and leaving them as the oldest.

And I mean, Ryan got REALLY REALLY close. He just barely missed being the youngest player in the majors when he came up in 1966--missed both ways; Charlie Vaughan, whose entire major league career consisted of 7 innings in 1966 and 1 inning in 1969, is three months younger than Nolan Ryan, and debuted in the majors eight days before Ryan.

As you might have guessed, Ryan was the oldest player in the majors for the last four years of his career.
   46. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 26, 2017 at 04:55 PM (#5539476)
Did any knuckleballer last longer than Ryan?

Total length of career or pitching to an older age?

In bed.
   47. Batman Posted: September 26, 2017 at 05:10 PM (#5539483)
Ty Cobb was the youngest in the majors when he started, and he was third-oldest his last year. An outfielder named Al Nixon was eight months older than Cobb, and Jack Quinn was three and a half years older and then pitched five more years. Quinn was one of the six oldest players in his league for the last fifteen seasons of his career.
   48. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 26, 2017 at 05:24 PM (#5539492)
Nolan Ryan is a good barometer for determining if the fan you are talking to is familiar with modern statistics and pitcher evaluations, or is casual fan who follows the game and knows of some names/teams/famous players. There isn't anything wrong with being either, but how they talk about Ryan (or how they would rank him among the greatest pitchers of all time) is usually a clear indicator of which kind of fan they are.
   49. TDF, FCL Posted: September 26, 2017 at 05:24 PM (#5539493)
His time with the Rangers moved him from "he's amazing, but is he really a HOFer?" to "one of the most amazing players ever." I think it was a counting stat thing--he passed 300 wins, and then moved so far beyond everyone else in no-hitters and Ks that it was utterly ridiculous.

I was a kid at the time ingesting every baseball article written multiple times over, and at the time of his signing with Texas the consensus was that he was probably not a HOFer. By his retirement five years later, he was on baseball's Mt. Rushmore.
This is crazy talk.

If Ryan had retired instead of signing with the Rangers, he would've still been #1 in career K at the time (only Johnson and Clemens would've passed him since) and #1 in career no-hitters. If he never pitched after leaving Houston, he'd have more bWAR (68.6) than Jim Palmer, John Smoltz, or Juan Marichal - #23 on the all-time list for pitchers at that time, and still #30.

He had both the stats and the fame that even before he was signed by the Rangers he was an easy HOFer.
   50. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: September 26, 2017 at 06:24 PM (#5539530)
Palmer was remarkably mature for an athlete and famous sports figure. This was never more clearly expressed the way he reacted to Braden getting all upset at A-Rod crossing "his mound". Palmer said something like, "Yeah, what you do is find a way to use that to your benefit, you don't lose your #### over it."

EDIT: He also said, "I don't have any problem with that. Why would I care?''


Palmer's also just about the best and most informative color commentator I've ever heard, and his book of memories about his relationship with Earl Weaver** is endlessly entertaining.

** Palmer and Weaver: Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine
   51. Rally Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:03 PM (#5539540)
If Ryan never pitched for the Rangers he's 273-253. Still the all time strikeout leader, and 5 no hitters, but I think he might have had some trouble, considering how long it took Blyleven with his 287 wins.

Ryan as a legendary figure really gained ground in his Rangers career.
   52. dejarouehg Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:11 PM (#5539542)
Palmer's also just about the best and most informative color commentator I've ever heard, and his book of memories about his relationship with Earl Weaver** is endlessly entertaining.
It's a shame the national audience rarely gets to hear him.
   53. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:22 PM (#5539546)
Did any knuckleballer last longer than Ryan?

Total length of career or pitching to an older age?


I had in mind total length of careers, but no need to shut down other considerations. Ryan has only handful fewer innings pitch than Phil Niekro, who most of his career couldn't have thrown the ball through one of those high school paper rings football players run through to start the game.
   54. Morty Causa Posted: September 26, 2017 at 07:28 PM (#5539548)
Palmer's also just about the best and most informative color commentator I've ever heard, and his book of memories about his relationship with Earl Weaver** is endlessly entertaining.

I remember him from Monday Night Baseball on ABC a hundred years ago. Yes, he was incisive and very smart. Seaver was good, too, when he was on it for a while. But Palmer was the best. Palmer could fend off Cosell without coming close to losing his cool.
   55. Howie Menckel Posted: September 26, 2017 at 08:24 PM (#5539571)
Palmer and Seaver had many other parallels, including the 1969 World Series.

I know Seaver is generally thought of as a dick in his retirement (I heard one particularly douchey moment first-hand), but don't know about Palmer. some upthread suggests Palmer wins that battle - perhaps handily.
   56. eric Posted: September 26, 2017 at 10:50 PM (#5539732)
This is crazy talk.

If Ryan had retired instead of signing with the Rangers, he would've still been #1 in career K at the time (only Johnson and Clemens would've passed him since) and #1 in career no-hitters. If he never pitched after leaving Houston, he'd have more bWAR (68.6) than Jim Palmer, John Smoltz, or Juan Marichal - #23 on the all-time list for pitchers at that time, and still #30.

He had both the stats and the fame that even before he was signed by the Rangers he was an easy HOFer.


WAR wasn't a glimmer in any baseball fan's eye at that time. People were going by traditional stats. To build off of Rally's point...

If Ryan never pitched for the Rangers he's 273-253. Still the all time strikeout leader, and 5 no hitters, but I think he might have had some trouble, considering how long it took Blyleven with his 287 wins.

Ryan as a legendary figure really gained ground in his Rangers career.


Ryan was seen as a very peculiarly talented .500 pitcher. Now, had he retired after 1988 I bet he would have gone into the HOF eventually, but, I do think Blyleven is probably the closest approximation for how it would have went (Blyleven got 17.5% his first year on the ballot and was elected in year 14). Jim Kaat and Tommy John show how guys < 300 wins were treated at that time. 300 game winners were a dime a dozen, and guys with a W% in the low .500s were not thought of highly. Hell, Don Sutton had almost that exact WAR total (68.7), many more IP (5282), more SHO (58) and a much higher W% (.559) than our hypothetically truncated Ryan, won 324 games, and still took five years to get in.

It was a different time. Ryan was viewed as Tommy John with more K's (and BB's) and a worse W%. His talents were held in reverence, but it was only once he passed the magic 300, the magic 5000 and landed on an amazing 7, that he was deified. Until then, he was controversial, with a seemingly substantial portion of the media writing him off as a sideshow.
   57. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: September 26, 2017 at 11:52 PM (#5539805)
Fowler's brother, Jesse, debuted in MLB 30 years earlier than Art, in 1924.


These two hold the "Brothers most separated in age who ever played in the majors" distinction.
   58. John Northey Posted: September 27, 2017 at 12:31 AM (#5539824)
Nolan Ryan was always the guy you'd pay to watch. Every start could be a no-hitter or a wild 10-9 game with 10 walks and 10 K's. I love unique players and he was one of those without a doubt. Much like Rickey Henderson was fun even in his last years as he could always steal a base and was cocky about it too. I bet he still thinks he could steal 20 today.
   59. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 27, 2017 at 12:37 AM (#5539825)
I think Ryan and A-Rod are the two guys who got the closest to the amazing feat of entering the majors as the youngest player in the majors, and leaving them as the oldest.


Beltre has a legit shot at doing it.
   60. Rally Posted: September 27, 2017 at 08:57 AM (#5539891)
I had in mind total length of careers, but no need to shut down other considerations.


Ryan pitched in 27 MLB seasons, which is a record. Tommy John and Jamie Moyer pitched in 26.

Finding the record for most pro seasons is not so easy to query. Jack Quinn had 29, from ages 23-51. Ryan also had 29.

Iron man Joe McGinnity pitched 10 MLB seasons, winning 246 games, and 26 total pro seasons for a total of 485 wins and 7210 innings. He pitched in the minors until he was 54.

Phil Niekro had 28 total seasons. Satchel Paige had 29 between MLB, minors, and Negro leagues, at least by BBref. I know Satchel had a dead arm period in the middle of his career, but bbref has no record for him between 1937-1939. Perhaps he was pitching in an independent league during part of that time. Tommy John had 28 pro seasons, as did Jamie Moyer.
   61. TDF, FCL Posted: September 27, 2017 at 10:02 AM (#5539925)
Ryan was seen as a very peculiarly talented .500 pitcher. Now, had he retired after 1988 I bet he would have gone into the HOF eventually, but, I do think Blyleven is probably the closest approximation for how it would have went (Blyleven got 17.5% his first year on the ballot and was elected in year 14). Jim Kaat and Tommy John show how guys < 300 wins were treated at that time. 300 game winners were a dime a dozen, and guys with a W% in the low .500s were not thought of highly. Hell, Don Sutton had almost that exact WAR total (68.7), many more IP (5282), more SHO (58) and a much higher W% (.559) than our hypothetically truncated Ryan, won 324 games, and still took five years to get in.
Blyleven: 3 ASG, 5 years CYA votes
Kaat: 1 ASG, 1 year CYA votes
John: 4 ASG, 4 years CYA votes
Sutton: 4 ASG, 5 years CYA votes
Ryan before he went to Texas: 7 ASG, 7 years CYA votes. Plus the K and no-hitter records.

Ryan would've debuted on the ballot in '94; that was Carlton's and Sutton's 1st ballot and Niekro's 2nd. Ryan can't compare to Sutton, but Ryan was a bigger deal than Niekro who got 60% or Sutton who got 56.8%. Poo-poo all you want, but not only did Ryan have the records, he also had a lower ERA than either of those guys in addition to the ASG and CYA "fame".

As for wins, remember that just 2 years earlier Ryan finished 5th in CYA voting despite a 8-16 record. Even at that time, blind win totals were starting to lose their luster.

Finally, remember the statement I was originally responding to: at the time of his signing with Texas the consensus was that he was probably not a HOFer. The fact that it took comparable pitchers (without the records) ~60% initial support doesn't mesh with "probably not a HOFer". If Ryan took 5 or even 10 years to get in, he's still a HOFer.
   62. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 10:34 AM (#5539953)
I bet he still thinks he could steal 20 today.

Have you seen him lately? He's probably right. Dude still looks like he's about 35.
   63. Rally Posted: September 27, 2017 at 10:44 AM (#5539963)
Have you seen him lately? He's probably right. Dude still looks like he's about 35.


A friend of mine met Rickey and took a selfie with him at a baseball card show last year. Rickey looks like he could handle a comeback. He was the leadoff hitter in this year's allstar weekend celebrity softball game. Rickey led off the game with a homer. Because, of course that's what Rickey would do.
   64. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 27, 2017 at 11:10 AM (#5539992)
Finally, remember the statement I was originally responding to: at the time of his signing with Texas the consensus was that he was probably not a HOFer.

My anecdote to this point is that I bought my Ryan rookie card in January of 1989 for about $100. This was during the winter that he signed with Texas. In his first four months with Texas, he pitched two 1-hitters and had another 8IP/1H game striking out 15, 12, and 11 batters in them and striking out 11+/9 overall, then the 5000th strikeout, then a 300-strikeout season... at the age of 42. During this time, that 21-year-old $100 card jumped into the $1000+ range and it was really over those first four or five months of the season that Ryan went from an enigmatic curiosity and eventual Hall of Famer to a baseball legend inner circle HoFer (in perception... not analytically) in the eyes of the baseball public.
   65. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 11:17 AM (#5539996)
A friend of mine met Rickey and took a selfie with him at a baseball card show last year. Rickey looks like he could handle a comeback. He was the leadoff hitter in this year's allstar weekend celebrity softball game. Rickey led off the game with a homer. Because, of course that's what Rickey would do.

...said Rickey Henderson.
   66. Morty Causa Posted: September 27, 2017 at 11:28 AM (#5540010)
Have you seen him lately? He's probably right. Dude still looks like he's about 35.

"Rickey eats a bowl of ice cream every night. Rickey says you should too."
   67. Random Transaction Generator Posted: September 27, 2017 at 11:53 AM (#5540042)
My anecdote to this point is that I bought my Ryan rookie card in January of 1989 for about $100....During this time, that 21-year-old $100 card jumped into the $1000+ range


You bought your card RIGHT as the entire market went through the roof (not just Ryan's card).

1989 is when Upper Deck joined the baseball card game and it was in the middle of a crazy bubble that burst around 1994-95.

In 1979, when Mr Beckett published his first official price guide, the 1963 rookie card for Pete Rose (the all-time Major League Baseball hits leader) was valued at $5, while the 1973 rookie card for Mike Schmidt, a Hall of Fame third baseman, went for 12 cents. Just five years later, when Mr Beckett’s guide went monthly, those values had risen to $350 and $65 respectively. In 1994, at the top of the market, the cards purportedly fetched $1,100 and $425. Among high-value cards the rise in prices in the decade to 1994 was on a par with equity-price increases in the ten years to 2000 and home-price gains in the decade to 2006.
- The Economist
   68. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 11:57 AM (#5540051)
The Ryan rookie was my best card as a kid too. I got it as a Christmas present from my great-aunt in maybe 1988 - the story was that the local card shop had a stack of about a half-dozen of them. When I had first seen them, they were priced at $25. When she went back to buy it, they had raised the price to $60, but apparently had neglected to change the price tag on the one at the bottom. It wasn't NM condition or anything, but it was a pretty cool story a few years later when it was booking at $1000+.
   69. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:00 PM (#5540156)
1989 is when Upper Deck joined the baseball card game and it was in the middle of a crazy bubble that burst around 1994-95.

It burst much sooner than that for all the 1989 rookie cards I was buying of Ty Griffin, Willie Ansley, Steve Avery, Dave West, Andy Benes, Ramon Martinez, and the like.
   70. Rally Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:03 PM (#5540161)
I don't think my Eric Anthony rookie card is going to help me retire any time soon.
   71. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:12 PM (#5540179)
But not those overpriced Griffey Jr UD rookies. I was much too smart to pay a whole dollar for a rookie card of such an unproven player. Instead, give me all those other unproven players at a quarter a piece!
   72. Srul Itza Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:15 PM (#5540187)
I remember talking about whether Ryan was a Hall of Famer in or around 1987-88. My friend, who did not follow baseball as closely as I did, was not sure -- barely over .500, not at 300 wins, all those walks, and who pitches much after age 40 when he relies on a fast ball? But when I pointed out the 5 no hitters, he said, oh yeah, he's going in.

This was the casual fan, which probably also encapsulated a lot of the people who had BBWAA voting privileges back then. He was going to get in.

Then, he continued to be a fireballer for another 5 years, picked up 2 more no hitters, went WAY over 5,000 Ks, went well over 300 wins, and went from being a pitcher to a folk hero.

So those last 5 years in Texas were probably not necessary for him to make the Hall (even if it took some time), but it moved him from being a curiosity to being a LEGEND.
   73. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:23 PM (#5540199)
It burst much sooner than that for all the 1989 rookie cards I was buying of Ty Griffin, Willie Ansley, Steve Avery, Dave West, Andy Benes, Ramon Martinez, and the like.

Mike Harkey. Can't forget Mike Harkey. Bill Bene...Ricky Jordan...Steve Searcy...
   74. PreservedFish Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:27 PM (#5540207)
You guys really struck out with those losers, my Tom Gordon and Gregg Jefferies cards are probably worth a buck each.
   75. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 01:36 PM (#5540215)
my Tom Gordon and Gregg Jefferies cards are probably worth a buck each.

I'm gonna take the under on that...
   76. CheersUnusualPlays Posted: September 27, 2017 at 02:17 PM (#5540260)
I remember a card from my youth that had a split Jerry Koosman / Nolan Ryan, so I started following those two pitchers. Koosman also had a fine career
   77. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 02:20 PM (#5540263)
I remember a card from my youth that had a split Jerry Koosman / Nolan Ryan, so I started following those two pitchers. Koosman also had a fine career

That's the Ryan rookie card we're talking about. Indeed, that has to be the best dual rookie card ever, no?
   78. PreservedFish Posted: September 27, 2017 at 02:24 PM (#5540268)
ElRoy, do you still have it? What's it worth today?
   79. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: September 27, 2017 at 02:25 PM (#5540269)
Indeed, that has to be the best dual rookie card ever, no?

It's a quad card, but Molitor and Trammell make a fine pair on their rookie card.
   80. TDF, FCL Posted: September 27, 2017 at 02:31 PM (#5540275)
So those last 5 years in Texas were probably not necessary for him to make the Hall (even if it took some time), but it moved him from being a curiosity to being a LEGEND.
Yep, this is what I was trying to get at.
   81. CheersUnusualPlays Posted: September 27, 2017 at 02:40 PM (#5540288)
Crap, I lost mine long ago - never realized its value
   82. Traderdave Posted: September 27, 2017 at 03:21 PM (#5540320)
Just looked at Ryan's BBRef page and was surprised to see that he pitched more innings with the Angels than any other team. Bar room bets could be won wit that tidbit.
   83. Howie Menckel Posted: September 27, 2017 at 03:27 PM (#5540326)
I got the Ryan rookie card in a pack of 5 cards for 5 cents in 1968. still have it, and in the album it looks decent. but when you take it out, not so much.

gimme a break - I was 6 years old!

I also got the Johnny Bench rookie card that year. but his 'partner' - Ron Tompkins - didn't really pan out, so 7- or 8-year-old me decided to bend the card in half since only Bench was worth looking at. #costly
   84. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 03:31 PM (#5540329)
ElRoy, do you still have it? What's it worth today?

I do. Actually, I still have pretty much all of my card collection in the basement at my parents' house (where I do not reside, ahem). Most of it is crap from like 1986-1993 (I got it at exactly the wrong time), but I do have a fair amount of older star cards because I loved to buy those when I could afford them. No idea what they're worth today, but from what I hear, the grading services and all that bullsh*t have bifurcated the market. Old cards that receive top professional grades go for crazy prices, while the ordinary ones in a condition that my 12-year-old self could afford are in very little demand. Kind of a microcosm of American society these days, come to think of it.
   85. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 27, 2017 at 03:33 PM (#5540330)
It's a quad card, but Molitor and Trammell make a fine pair on their rookie card.

Molitor and Trammell are all well and good, but how much of a badass is Washington on that card? It's like he's daring them to put periods after U and L.

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