Nolan Ryan: Overrated and Underrated

To some, Nolan Ryan is the greatest pitcher of all time. 5714 strikeouts, 324 wins, and and seven no-hitters. To others, Nolan Ryan was more mediocre than great. 2795 walks, 4.67 BB/9.

So, where exactly does Ryan stand? Well, somewhere in between.

Lets get his bad traits or trait out of the way. Walks. Walks, walks, walks, walks, and more walks. This was his downfall. A career BB/9 of 4.67 is bad. That’s 4-5 base runners per nine without including hits allowed. Nor was this inflated by bad years when he was young or really old. The lowest BB/9 of his career was 3.26 in 1990.  In fact, it took until his thirtenth season to get a BB rate under 4. Walks alone take him out of the conversation for a top ten pitcher of all time, let alone the best pitcher of all time. Another issue is the wins and no-hitters. If you’re a devout follower of this blog, you probably know wins and no-hitters are worthless in determining someone’s greatness. Yet those are two of the biggest reasons why people call him the best pitcher of all time.

Now, time for the good. He could strike people out. Except for his last season in 1993, Ryan struck out at least eight batters per nine innings in every year of his career. He has a career 9.55 K/9 over the course of 5386 innings. That is unbelievable. Unbelievable. Moreover, he didn’t give up home runs. His 0.54 HR/9 is also very good and he never gave up 1 HR/9 in a season.

Ryan also has a fantastic career 2.97 FIP. Moreover, he was very consistent. From his first full season in 1972 to to 1992 his FIP ranged from 2.28 to 3.22.  Finally, he threw a shit ton of innings. One of the most undervalued aspects of pitching is innings thrown. His longevity and success throughout his late years speaks very well for him.

So, is Ryan the best of all time? No. His WAR/100 IP is 1.57. Good, but it doesn’t even compare to some of the games best. Roger Clemens has a WAR/100  of 2.61 in 4916 innings of work.

However, he still was great. Great K rate, HR rate, and FIP throughout a long career.

So, to the common fan is he overrated. To most stat nerds, he is actually underrated.

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