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Thread: Nolan Ryan's 7 No-Hitters

  1. #1

    Nolan Ryan's 7 No-Hitters

    I've been doing some serious baseball musing recently, and one question I have is, why are Nolan Ryan's No-Hitters so seemingly underappreciated?

    It might just be the climate of this board (it seems like the consensus around here is that Ryan is to at least some degree overrated).

    Every few months, a new discussion comes up about which baseball record is the most unbreakable (Vander Meer, Johnson's 110 shutouts, Dimaggio's hit streak, etc. etc. are all mentioned). I've never seen anyone bring up Ryan's 7 No-Hitters.

    When I think about them, it really is a remarkable achievement. Second place is Koufax (a far distant 2nd place) with 4. I also think about how many Hall of Fame caliber pitchers have never even had 1, let alone 7.

    Surely this record cannot just be the result of 7 games' worth of dumb luck or Ryan's notorious accumulation of "counting numbers." I wonder why this record is somewhat overlooked?
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  2. #2
    Ryan simply pitched his best when he kept runners off of the bases (is half joke). Basically he was mentally set up to have great games, and poor ones because he pitched much worse with runners on.

    And he had 7 no-hitters in 5000 innings. Koufax had 4 in less than 3000, though I think that had Ryan been at his peak in the mid to late 60s he would have had a couple of no-hitters each year and an excellent record because with fewer guys on base he would have pitched better, though walks always were an issue.

    Don't forget that he had his 5th in '81 but didn't get his 6th until '91, but also that the high strike (armpits) was totally gone by that time (I think that it got its final reduction in '88).
    Last edited by brett; 03-13-2009 at 07:27 PM.

  3. #3
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    I don't think his 7 no-hitters are unappreciated. I think most on this board give him his due for them. When on, throwing strikes, Ryan could be literally unhittable. Look how many 1 and 2 hitters he threw as well.

    But many on this board look beyond a handful of games. They will consider 'peak' f several years or as I do, overall career. When you look at Nolan that way he simply doesn't stack up as an top of the line pitcher in history.

    He had an overpowering fastball and a deadly curve. He could be ornery too, buzzing a batter (can you imagine being buzzed by a Ryan fanstball under the chin? I'd have to call time to change pants). Otherwise, he wasn't a well-rounded pitcher with a great variety of pitches. Plus, he could be wild, walking a of of hitters. As Brett mentioned he didn't pitch very well with runners on base. He had a terrible pick-off move. Actually, he didn't have a pick-off move. Runners got leads off him.

    So, while we can give his due for the 7 no-no's, his overall body of work leaves a bit to be desired and this boards' regulars recognize that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by yanks0714 View Post
    But many on this board look beyond a handful of games. .
    That is the key - this site is defintiely more career oriented than single season/handful of big moments oriented.
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    I'm in the (apparent) minority around here in that I give more weight to a player's peak value than his career value, but a single game is not a true indicator of a player's peak.

    Ryan is, without doubt, the single most overrated player active in my lifetime (i.e. since Koufax retired.) That's not to say he wasn't a very good pitcher for a very long time or that he doesn't deserve his induction in the Hall of Fame. But he's not as great as everybody back in 1990-1993 acted like he was.
    "The value of a stat is directly proportional to how good it makes Steve Garvey look." -- Nerdlinger

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    Quote Originally Posted by brett View Post
    Ryan simply pitched his best when he kept runners off of the bases (is half joke). Basically he was mentally set up to have great games, and poor ones because he pitched much worse with runners on.
    I wonder to what extent this is true of all pitchers.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Brad Harris View Post
    I wonder to what extent this is true of all pitchers.
    I am actually using relative stats in this discussion, describing what Ryan did RELATIVE to the average pitcher.

    I think he gave up a .191 BA with the bases empty for example, and about .250 with a runner on third only. The average batter actually hits slightly worse for BA with a runner on third (only).

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    Quote Originally Posted by brett View Post
    I am actually using relative stats in this discussion, describing what Ryan did RELATIVE to the average pitcher.

    I think he gave up a .191 BA with the bases empty for example, and about .250 with a runner on third only. The average batter actually hits slightly worse for BA with a runner on third (only).
    He often led the league in wild pitches, so it makes sense that he would probably change his approach somewhat with a runner on 3B. Maybe he didn't use his curve nearly as often in those situations? That could have also affected him with any runners on situation. With bases empty he could go all out without worrying about losing control of a fastball or breaking a curve off in the dirt.

    His worse situational splits were with a runner on 3B only (.712 OPS), and then with a runner on first only (.673). His overall OPS against was .606, btw.

    His overall BA against with runners on was .221, 30pts higher than with bases empty. With runners in scoring position, it was .209. Comparing that to some of the other top pitchers of his era(s).

    Ryan - .191 bases empty, .221 runners on, .209 RISP
    Seaver - .222 bases empty, .232 runners on, .214 RISP
    Carlton - .239 bases empty, .243 runners on, .238 RISP
    Palmer - .231 bases empty, .228 runners on, .213 RISP
    Jenkins - .239 bases empty, .250 runners on, .233 RISP
    Clemens - .228 bases empty, .230 runners on, .211 RISP
    Hunter - .231 bases empty, .232 runners on, .226 RISP
    Gibson - .225 bases empty, .234 runners on, .219 RISP
    Sutton - .229 bases empty, .249 runners on, .232 RISP
    Perry - .239 bases empty, .255 runners on, .249 RISP
    Blyleven - .243 bases empty, .255 runners on, .246 RISP
    Tiant - .232 bases empty, .243 runners on, .238 RISP
    Marichal - .231 bases empty, .248 runners on, .233 RISP
    Koufax - .202 bases empty, .210 runners on, .205 RISP
    Neikro - .246 bases empty, .249 runners on, .234 RISP

    Other than Perry, who also threw a lot of wild pitches and would probably have had to be more careful with his spitters with runners in scoring position, none of them but Ryan were significantly more hittable in RISP situations.

    Palmer's almost the anti-Ryan. Not nearly as dominant as Ryan, but he excelled at stranding runners, which made him a much more effective pitcher.
    Last edited by mwiggins; 03-14-2009 at 03:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brett View Post
    Don't forget that he had his 5th in '81 but didn't get his 6th until '91, but also that the high strike (armpits) was totally gone by that time (I think that it got its final reduction in '88).
    Ryan had his sixth in '90, at age 43, and his seventh in '91, at 44.

    Finally got that right. I was confusing his sixth with a one-hitter in 1989, which Tom Boswell described as the breaking point where he (Boswell) was able to admit Ryan was a great pitcher who belongs in the Hall.
    Last edited by AstrosFan; 03-14-2009 at 01:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by brett View Post
    I am actually using relative stats in this discussion, describing what Ryan did RELATIVE to the average pitcher.

    I think he gave up a .191 BA with the bases empty for example, and about .250 with a runner on third only. The average batter actually hits slightly worse for BA with a runner on third (only).
    That's not true. For the last 4 seasons, MLB hitters hit .259, .262, .264, and .258 with the bases empty, and .272, .288, .269, and .281 with a runner on 3rd (only). It makes sense when you think about it, partially because when a runner is on 3rd you can sometimes fly out without hurting your batting average - a sac fly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mwiggins View Post
    He often led the league in wild pitches, so it makes sense that he would probably change his approach somewhat with a runner on 3B. Maybe he didn't use his curve nearly as often in those situations? That could have also affected him with any runners on situation. With bases empty he could go all out without worrying about losing control of a fastball or breaking a curve off in the dirt.

    His worse situational splits were with a runner on 3B only (.712 OPS), and then with a runner on first only (.673). His overall OPS against was .606, btw.

    His overall BA against with runners on was .221, 30pts higher than with bases empty. With runners in scoring position, it was .209. Comparing that to some of the other top pitchers of his era(s).

    Ryan - .191 bases empty, .221 runners on, .209 RISP
    Seaver - .222 bases empty, .232 runners on, .214 RISP
    Carlton - .239 bases empty, .243 runners on, .238 RISP
    Palmer - .231 bases empty, .228 runners on, .213 RISP
    Jenkins - .239 bases empty, .250 runners on, .233 RISP
    Clemens - .228 bases empty, .230 runners on, .211 RISP
    Hunter - .231 bases empty, .232 runners on, .226 RISP
    Gibson - .225 bases empty, .234 runners on, .219 RISP
    Sutton - .229 bases empty, .249 runners on, .232 RISP
    Perry - .239 bases empty, .255 runners on, .249 RISP
    Blyleven - .243 bases empty, .255 runners on, .246 RISP
    Tiant - .232 bases empty, .243 runners on, .238 RISP
    Marichal - .231 bases empty, .248 runners on, .233 RISP
    Koufax - .202 bases empty, .210 runners on, .205 RISP
    Neikro - .246 bases empty, .249 runners on, .234 RISP

    Other than Perry, who also threw a lot of wild pitches and would probably have had to be more careful with his spitters with runners in RIPS, none of them but Ryan were significantly more hittable in RISP situations.

    Palmer's almost than anti-Ryan. Not nearly as dominant as Ryan, but he excelled at stranding runners, which made him a much more effective pitcher.
    Great post. Some other guys with great numbers with RISP are Glavine, Spahn, and Ford. A few others with poor RISP numbers are Maddux and Mussina.
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  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by AstrosFan View Post
    Ryan had his sixth in '90, at age 43, and his seventh in '91, at 44.

    Finally got that right. I was confusing his sixth with a one-hitter in 1989, which Tom Boswell described as the breaking point where he (Boswell) was able to admit Ryan was a great pitcher who belongs in the Hall.
    I forgot that his first year in Texas was '89 when he had 301 K's. Then he had no-no's in each of the next 2 seasons.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by ipitch View Post
    That's not true. For the last 4 seasons, MLB hitters hit .259, .262, .264, and .258 with the bases empty, and .272, .288, .269, and .281 with a runner on 3rd (only). It makes sense when you think about it, partially because when a runner is on 3rd you can sometimes fly out without hurting your batting average - a sac fly.
    Oh yea. I was thinking of hitting being worse with a runner on second only, or on second and third. Those are the situations when a single is worth the most relative to a walk.

    Still, Ryan pretty clearly did worse in the more run-compounding situations relative to his baseline than most pitchers.

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    I think Ryan had always been given his due for his no-hitters and 5700+ K's. Those are special numbers.
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