- Oct 1, 2015
He was a great pitcher, but the reason he isn't an inner circle HOFer isn't really because of his win-loss record. It's because his ERA numbers were good but not elite (more on this in a second), his WHIP numbers were decent (not great), and he never won a CYA and in fact in his incredibly long career only finished in the top 5 in CYA voting 5 times. Which, of course, is really good (most guys never sniff that level of performance), but not elite. You'd think at SOME point an inner circle HOFer would have won ONE major award at SOME point in his long, illustrious career. He's a no doubt hall of famer - like, no doubt whatsoever, and he was great, but he's not inner circle HOF material.A preconceived notion I (and many others, I'll wager) think that Nolan Ryan was a great pitcher, but he'd never be an inner circle Hall of Famer because he lost almost as many games as he won.
Looking at career Quality Starts, however, gives me a new perspective...
Now, back to what I said I'd return to. Here are his top 5 seasons by ERA+ (minimum 150 innings pitched):
In 1981 he pitched 149 innings with a 195 era+. So if you want to count that....fine. His career ERA+ was 112. Good, not great. Certainly not inner circle HOF level.
Compare that to other inner circle HOF elites (I'll leave off the guys in the dead ball era like Walter Johnson):
Grove: 217, 195, 185, 185, 175, career ERA+ of 148
Pedro: 291, 243, 219, 211, 202, career ERA+ of 154
Maddux: 271, 260, 189, 187, 170, career ERA+ of 132
Clemens*: 226, 222, 211, 176, 174, career ERA+ of 143
Koufax: 190, 186, 160, 159, 143, career ERA+ of 131
R. Johnson: 195, 193, 188, 184, 181, career ERA+ of 135
*I know Clemens isn't even in the HOF, but obviously he's an inner circle HOF level player.
The point here is that Nolan Ryan struck out a ton of guys, pitched forever, but really wasn't elite at keeping other teams from scoring runs. Which is one reason why his W-L record, over the course of his career, wasn't as good as you think it ought to be. Now when he was ON...obviously there are few pitchers who were better. And he was ON a lot in his career. Just not enough to be an inner circle HOFer.
By the way....take another look at those Pedro numbers. Absolutely RIDICULOUS.