February 2009

Fire Brand’s latest by the author that is me.

An Underrated Yankee? More on Mussina.

Mike Mussina’s “Hall of Fame” candidacy has grown on me.  A lot.

At first I was a little skeptical because Mussina was out-pitched by multiple pitchers during the same period of time. 

Pedro, Randy, Roger, and Greg.  All better, clearly.

But who were those pitchers?  Four of the greatest ever.

So the next “tier” begins:  Schilling, Smoltz, Glavine, and…Mussina. 

Not the same kind of “prestige.” 

So during the generation of baseball players that I have witnessed, witnessed coherently anyway, Mike Mussina is no worse than the 8th best pitcher over that time-frame (probably the 8th).

8th best!

If I am missing someone that has legitimate beef to be considered greater than Mussina over the past 20 years, then please, feel free to chime in about it. 

So over the course of two decades, there were between 130-150 available rotation spots.  If Mussina was the 8th best out of either 130, 140, or 150 pitchers, isn’t that pretty great?

If that isn’t great, how about the number of pitchers to step on the mound over that same period of time. 

Well-more than 150, and I am not even including relievers.

Many couldn’t keep their jobs due to poor performance.  Many couldn’t stay healthy enough.  Many were simply on the team because it added to the depth of the rotation.

Whatever the reason was, there were many, many pitchers in and out of the game over Mussina’s career.

And Mussina stuck around.  Stuck around a long time.  18 years to be exact.  Which is great because his career extended from 1991-2008.  Roughly two decades.  And each decade just about in their entirety.

I know that some analysts of the game frown upon people referring to Jack Morris as a Hall of Famer because he had the most wins in the 80’s.  And I completely agree.  But the logic is flawed to begin with, and quite ludicrous if you ask me.

  • Wins are overrated.  I don’t value them much.  A lot of wins can represent longevity, but the quality around the “Win/Loss” record is much more important to me (although a pitcher must accumulate some counting numbers). 
  • Ten years isn’t 18 years.  The longer the time period the better the sample, and the more difficult it is to stay great.
  • Mike Mussina was clearly a much better pitcher than Jack Morris.  Clearly.

So we take just about a 20 year period, we say that a pitcher was the 8th best.  Can we agree that the pitcher in question was great? 

Great players should be in the Hall of Fame.  That is what it is for.

Mussina never “awed” anyone quite the same way that the top four pitchers of the decade did.  But he still awed people.  I would like to ask the Baltimore fans during his tenure just how great Mussina was while he was there.  Because I am pretty sure that they will say that Mussina was incredible.

But then I would question that, because it is very possible for fans to overrate their “Hometown Hero.”  So I would browse the numbers and see what conclusion I could come up with on my own.

And that conclusion would be that Mike Mussina was a great pitcher. 

The five best pitchers of “our” generation.

There are four significant names that have been drilled into everyone’s
head’s during the 1990’s and early part of this decade.  Four sure-fire
Hall of Famers.  Four of the greatest pitchers to ever step on a mound,
any mound, in any country, and in any world–any galaxy for that
matter.  I could see any of the four being placed into the top ten
pitchers of all time, and they all played during roughly the same

These four clearly separated themselves from the rest of the crop of
pitchers during their careers.  There was them…and everybody else. 

This list will contain the top five pitchers however, because “top five” lists
sound much cooler than “top four.”  Who cares about the four best? 
People want 5! 🙂

But anyway, open for debate as always, here are the five best pitchers of the past 20 years…

Included is career ERA+ (ERA Adjusted for ballpark and league)

  • Pedro Martinez:  ERA+ 154:  Mariano Rivera recently, within the
    past year, moved to the top of the ERA+ leaderboard on
    BaseballReference.com.  And I have to admit that I am not happy about
    it.  But Pedro is still the leader in my opinion, because well, my
    opinion has a strong “opinion” that starters impact the game in a greater
    manner than relievers.  No disrespect to Rivera, perhaps the greatest reliever
    of all time.  So Pedro has benefited from being injured during much of
    the last three seasons, or perhaps not benefited.  Martinez would
    undoubtedly like to have been healthier the past few seasons, because I
    would guess that he actually enjoys playing baseball, rather than
    trying to rehabilitate himself over and over again.  But it hasn’t
    worked out for him.  However, the fewer starts that he makes, the
    higher his ERA+ should be.  And that gives us a feeling that he never
    really declined to begin with. But his ERA+ is greater than any
    starter, ever.  6% better than Lefty Grove, who had it much easier in
    terms of opposing players (theory, not fact)(6 percent in regards to
    ERA+ is merely 6 numbers higher.  For example:  Pedro’s is 154, while
    Grove’s was 148).  So there is something to be said about having the
    highest/best “Adjusted ERA” of all time for a starting pitcher.  Seems pretty relevant to me. 
    His counting numbers are lacking when comparing him to the other
    pitchers on this list (mainly the bext three), however his rate stats are clearly the best. 
    Pedro is third ever in K/9.  Third best in K/BB, higher than any of the
    top four on this list.  Pedro holds two of the nine best seasons ever
    according to ERA+ (3 of the top 20)–and one of the other pitchers on
    this list can say the same thing, as far as “two of the top
    nine” I mean.  Pedro has finished with an ERA+ of 200 or greater in an
    incredible five seasons.  He was absolutely incredible at his peak, and
    has most likely been the best ever when at the top of his game ( I believe he has has been, but I didn’t want to say it as fact).  This
    matters.  Counting stats matter too, and the next four pitchers were
    great, both at their peaks, like Pedro.  But also great when counting
    up their career numbers.  But Pedro was THE BEST at HIS BEST.  So maybe
    he will trail in career “Win Shares,” but he would also be the pitcher
    that I would choose if I needed a starter to win the most important
    game of a season.  And if someone asked me who the best I ever saw was, then I would have to go with Pedro.
  • Roger Clemens:  ERA+ 143:  Clemens definitely has a strong case
    to be number one.  And I am going to avoid the PED crap, since everyone
    seems partially-guilty, and no one is in the clear.  If I had to guess,
    I would guess that the other four were clean, at least from using
    steroids, but how do I really know?  Anyway, enough negativity. 
    Clemens is one of the greatest pitchers this game has ever seen.  And
    if someone thinks he is better than Pedro, then I won’t put up too much
    of a fight.  Although I would disagree with taking Clemens over Pedro
    in a Game 7.  Clemens’ “Adjusted ERA” is tied for tenth all time with
    none other than Brandon Webb.  Obviously, Webb’s will come down over
    time, because I am pretty sure that Webb isn’t the same caliber of
    pitcher over the long haul, although great in his own way.  Clemens has seven Cy Youngs and an MVP. 
    Pretty remarkable, especially a pitcher winning an MVP (times have changed).  But Clemens
    was probably worthy of it, although not too long ago someone was
    arguing that statistically, Donnie Baseball deserved it more (I believe
    that it was Joe Posnanski arguing this).  But regardless, Clemens had
    an awesome season.  Clemens has three seasons of ERA+’s over 200.  And
    if no one understands, 200 is historically great.  There are far lower
    numbers that are considered great seasons for a pitcher, but 200 is
    just above and beyond them all.  Roger Clemens is perhaps the greatest
    pitcher of all time.  I might think Pedro,  but Clemens has a heck of a case

  • Randy Johnson:  ERA+  137:  Randy Johnson’s career is probably
    going to be remembered by many for his lack of success in New York.  A
    few problems with that:  One being the fact that Johnson was 41 during
    his first year in the “Big Apple.”  How many pitchers are great at the
    age of 41?  It was unrealistic to think that he could continue to be
    dominant at that age.  Plus, he wasn’t terrible, but average during his
    time there.  The other problem is that it is simply unfair to remember
    only two seasons in media-market hell (when you are playing below
    expectations).  Randy Johnson won five “Cy’s” in parts of 17 seasons up
    until his “struggles” in New York.  And the guy is still pitching well
    at age 44, and maybe at age 45 (2009).  But I mentioned that Pedro was
    third ever in K/9.  Well, guess who was first?  “The Big Unit,” that’s
    who.  The best K/9, ever.  EVER!  Since K’s best resemble what we think
    of as dominance, then Randy Johnson is just about as dominant as they
    come.  His postseason numbers are a little less appealing to the eye than his regular
    season numbers, but that is in part due to his forgettable years in New York. 
  • Greg Maddux:  ERA+ 132:  Maddux was the other pitcher with two of
    the top nine ERA+ seasons of all time, along with Pedro.  Maddux was
    more reliant on his defense, way more than the other pitchers.  But he
    did not beat himself, walking very, very few batters each season. 
    Maddux walked only 20 batters in 33 starts back in 1997, which is
    almost unheard of.  And although he relied on his defense more so than
    the other pitchers listed, he may have had more control on balls in
    play than any pitcher that has ever lived.  If I needed one of these
    pitchers to be my pitching coach, Maddux would definitely get the nod.  At one point Maddux won four consecutive “Cy Youngs,” which is truly incredible if you think about it.  Actually those
    were the only four he won, but he was great in the surrounding years as
    well.  The durability that he displayed was amazing too, missing
    just a few starts over his entire career.  And that includes the part
    of his career at the end there where he hovered around league average for the last three years or so. 
  • Curt Schilling/John Smoltz:  ERA+ 127:  I have tried to separate
    the two of them, but it is just too difficult to do.  They have the
    exact same ERA+, they’ve pitched roughly the same number of innings,
    roughly the same number of K’s.  Schilling did walk fewer, and allow
    fewer baserunners.  But it is so close that I really can’t find much
    distinction between the two of them.  Both were really great in the
    postseason, etc.  I find it hard to believe to find two pitchers with
    more closely related numbers than the two of these guys.  

And let me tell you something, before I even reviewed the ERA+
leaderboard, I had already made up my mind on the order of this list. 
It just happens that they are in order of their “Adjusted ERA.”  But I
would totally understand if one values 2-4 more than they value Pedro. 
Like I said, I place a lot of emphasis on Pedro being the most dominant
pitcher at his peak.  That matters a lot to this man.  But the other
pitchers careers extended much longer, and they had to sustain normal
declines (well, some did 🙂, something that Pedro hasn’t experienced, and may never REALLY
experience.  Although I very much cheer for him to put together a full
season again, to see how he can do with diminished stuff.

The next tier of pitchers (6-10).

Since choosing only five of 150 possible rotation spots felt like too
few, I figured that I would chime in on a top ten list this time.  The
first five of course being chosen already, and spots 6 thru 10 being
chosen now. 

6)  Josh Beckett:  ERA+ 114:  Beckett was
excluded from the top 5 because of inconsistent innings logs, but the
Beckett we see now in Boston is clearly a better pitcher than the one
that relied more heavily on his 4-seamer in Florida.  But really, a lot
of Beckett’s “greatness” is hinging on three things:  great stuff, a
great 2007, and a great postseason track record.  Beckett lacks true
greatness during the regular season that other pitchers have clearly
had.  Beckett is in the toughest division in baseball, in a hitters
park (and is better now than he was pre-2007).  But he needs to be more
durable, and he needs to simply pitch better in the regular season to
move up.  That being said, I am confident that Beckett will be great in
2009.  He seems to have cleared up any temporary issue of walking
batters that he had in 06,’ and his strikeout totals haven’t changed

7)  Jake Peavy:  ERA+ 134:  Peavy is a great pitcher and
has been for four of the last five seasons.  His ballpark definitely
helps him, but his K rates are great regardless.  His career road
numbers are still good, just not great.  That being said, Peavy struck
out a batter less an inning in 2008 then he did in each of the last 4
years.  His walk total increased as well.  We may be seeing a decline,
but Peavy was great, so maybe I am looking too much into it.  So he
could be going from “great” to “less-great.”  Or of course, Peavy could
replicate his very great 2007 season for all I know.  I don’t know how
much stock we should put into Peavy’s “decline.”

8)  Cole
Hamels:  ERA+ 145:  Hamels has posted great seasons, back-to-back.  And
as far as changeups go, there are few that are better.  It would be
very realistic for Hamels to be in the top five in all of baseball
sometime during the 2009 season, and a great lefty, with a great
changeup, well, might be very close to Johan Santana (already is).  Not
to forget, Hamels has been great in a few postseason games also, which
only helps I would guess.

9)  Dan Haren:  ERA+ 138:  I was under
the impression that Haren may be more of a number 2 starter,
eventually.  But he was yet again a number 1 in 2008.  Two great
seasons consecutively.  Haren may come down some, but I have no real
evidence that he will either.  Maybe the NL will have adjusted some and
get to him a little more in 2009. 

10)  Tim Lincecum:  ERA+
167:  I know that track record has mattered a lot in these rankings,
and it does.  That is why Lincecum is not in the top five, because he
could be with his type of stuff.  I debated between he John Lackey.  But Lincecum in his first season
struck out more batters per nine than anyone in the game, and not to
mention, had the second best ERA+ in the game.  Lincecum walked more
batters than an ace maybe should, but also gave up the fewest HR per
9.  And Lincecum is still learning how to pitch to an extent, so the
walk totals may decrease moving forward.    

Link, not Zelda.

My most recent Fire Brand post.

Anyone wonder how much more of an opportunity CF’s have than corner OF’s in terms of tracking down batted balls?  Read this Dave Cameron post.  Well, you don’t have to read it.  I will just tell you what I am referring to. 

In 2008, fly-balls were distributed like this around the majors:  27% to LF, 48% to CF, and 23% to RF.  So anyone wondering why Fred Lynn had more defensive value than Jim Rice, simply based on opportunity, is because Lynn impacted the team in a greater way.  A CF has more opportunity to impact the game than that of a corner OF.  So an average CF > average LF or RF.  Something that must be taken into account when comparing Ted Williams and Joe Dimaggio.  Although, I think Williams still comes out on top. 

A great post about my all-time favorite player. 

The Top 5 pitchers in the game.

This will be the most difficult ranking, but five worthy pitchers will be chosen…

Pitchers aren’t always easy to evaluate, because some of their “success” is attributed to the defense that is backing them up.  A pitcher with a great defense can appear to be a little better than he actually is, especially if his outs are recorded via the defense more of the time.

So we strip it down to K’s, BB’s, and HR’s allowed.  Then a pitcher will come out, strikeout a bunch of hitters, walk some, but not many, and allow only 19 home runs.  But with a great defense behind him, this same pitcher will end up with an ERA+ of 105.

105?  Yes, that isn’t exactly great.  So there has be some consideration put into more than just ERA, more than just K/BB. 

And this ranking is going to have some debating I assume.  Just like every other ranking, each person will want their pitcher to be on the list.  And I try to do my best when ranking them, or if not my best than “better than my worst.” 🙂

2008 ERA+ included.

  • Johan Santana:  ERA+ 166:  Not sure who else to go with in this spot.  If I needed a pitcher to pitch in 2009 for an AL East team, then maybe I choose someone other than Santana.  However, Santana, after an ERA+ of 166 last season, is the safe bet at number 1.  According to that one stat, that was the second best season that Santana has had.  That is debatable, but it was great regardless.  Johan is going to go down as one of the greatest pitchers that the game has ever seen.  His career ERA+ of 144 will probably decrease, but Santana made the move to the less difficult National League, and now he has the ability to keep it pretty close to that for a while (or until the quality of players in the NL begins to improve some). 
  • Roy Halladay: ERA+ 154:  Like Santana, Halladay could have won the Cy Young in 2008, and I would have had no problem with it.  The problem with Roy is that he plays in Toronto, not Boston, not New York, not Chicago.  Underrated is an overrated term to use, but in this situation it is perfect.  During five of the past seven seasons, Halladay has thrown 220 innings of more, including one season in which he threw 266 innings!  It still might be wise to trade Halladay, but that is a touchy subject, and is not meant to diminish his “greatness” at all.  
  • CC Sabathia:  ERA+ 162:  There is a reason that the Yankees spent so much money on CC.  One of the reasons is because they have more money than anyone else.  The other reason is because Sabathia is a great pitcher, and deserves to be one of the highest paid in the game.  People often point to his playoff failures, but you have to get there first.  Sometimes that gets lost within the mix.  Is anyone else so great in the postseason that they are clearly a more viable candidate than Sabathia?  I didn’t think so…I do know that the Yankees would be wise to try and keep his innings down to the 215-220 range if either Kennedy or Hughes show that they are worthy of giving quality spot starts this season.
  • Brandon Webb:  ERA+ 139:  Say what you want about Brandon Webb, but he is a great pitcher.  Sure, I would rather have Josh Beckett pitch a meaningful game, but that is partially because I have seen it so often at the highest level.  Webb has put up six straight seasons of ERA+’s 126 or better.  In 2006 and 2007 both were greater than 150.  Webb, like Halladay has a great ability to make the opposing hitter put the ball on the ground.  But both have very passable K rates, and that isn’t even the main skill that they possess.  Webb does play in the NL West, so the offenses he has faced are fairly weak.  He is also semi-reliant on a defense to field his groundballs, So I understand where some might take a pitcher who strikes out more batters.  But Webb racks up enough K’s AND has the greatest ability to “dupe” the batter into hitting a ground ball (or the second greatest ability of doing so).  
  • Roy Oswalt:  ERA+ 120:  I know this is debatable, and I understand.  But Oswalt has been a really great pitcher, and even though he had a “down year” last season, I believe that it was an outlier.  His K rates are still legit, although not what they were earlier in the decade.  And Oswalt didn’t walk any more batters.  Oswalt does put the ball on the ground a good amount of the time, so he is reliant on his defense some, especially for a pitcher that is thought by many outside of Houston to be simply a “strikeout pitcher.” 

What to expect from the next “Johan?”

There was a time in 2006 when Francisco Liriano was a dominant force to be reckoned with. 

Liriano was mowing down hitters at an alarming rate and appeared to be the next of the great crop of pitchers in the game.

Or the next “Johan” to be exact. 

Both were lefties.  Both had great stuff.  One more established than the other of course.  But then again, there was a time when Johan was not “Johan The Great.”  But rather Johan Santana, a pitcher striving to be a successful Major Leaguer, trying to do what he loves (while earning a very “comfortable” income).

Liriano went 12-3 in 2006, not pitching in the rotation until later in the year.  The same route Johan took once he was on the Twins Major League roster.

The young lefty, Liriano, K’d 144 in only 121 innings, while allowing only 32 bases on balls.  A monstrous 4 1/2 K’s per free pass allowed. 

I remember it well, although actually saw little of it.  But had Liriano thrown more innings, he very well could have won the Cy Young.  Johan actually took home the award that year anyway, so at least a fellow teammate benefited from the absence of Liriano early on in the season. 

Tommy John surgery puts all of the buzz about Liriano on hold…

Then he returns in 2008…But most of the year, is designated for Liriano to learn how to pitch again. 

He tears up the minors at one point, then gets the possibly overdue call to the Majors.  67 walks, 32 walks, in 76 innings, ERA+ 104.  Far from 2006-esque, but acceptable seeing how he was absent from the game for a year+. 

So what to expect from what we would call a pitcher with sick stuff? 

Since I am only human, I will allow the projection systems to explain.

The three systems I have available to me project an ERA between 3.62 and 3.97. 

Bill James’ projection is the most generous of the three, both in reference to rate stats and innings pitched.

So Liriano should be above average at worst according to these projections.  But we all know that there is much more potential to be unlocked than this.  Liriano could win the Cy Young and none of us would be surprised.  Well, maybe a little.  After all, Liriano is going to pitch his first FULL season at the Major League level as a starter (if everything goes right). 

Liriano could very well be the reason Twins fans all but forget that Johan “The Great” ever came through Minnesota to begin with.

But then again, those are very lofty expectations, and unfair to a young and partially undeveloped pitcher.

…With great potential… 

Is Jon Garland still a groundball pitcher?

Jon Garland has always had the reputation of a “sinker-ball” pitcher. 
Using the two-seamer to induce ground balls and create opportunities
for his defense to convert the ball in play into an out. 

But Keith Law in a recent chat dismissed this as fiction at this stage in Garland’s career.

So I figured that I would wrestle around with some numbers until I came up with my own conclusion. 

Garland’s GB% (percentage of batted balls on the ground) was at 49.9%
in 2008.  This was high enough to qualify for 14th in all of baseball. 
Which means that his reputation would have been accurate for at least
this past season.

Garland was 12th in GB/FB, another reason to believe that at least in 2008, Garland was a “groundball pitcher.”

If one were to research just a little further back though, then
Garland’s rep for keeping the ball on the ground might take a hit. 

Garland’s GB% in 2007 was 39.4%.  If one were viewing only Garland’s
2007 season, then yes, they would be questioning his way of retiring
batters via the ground.  If a pitcher is tied with Tim Wakefield in the
percentage of ground balls induced, then I too would be very skeptical
over how much the sinker was actually “sinking.”

But generally, the year in which things look odd from the rest of the sample, is the aberration…

And that 2007 has clearly separated itself from the rest of Garland’s seasons, in terms of putting the ball on the ground.

The problem with that, is 2006 is also a rather low rate of ground balls per batted ball, not quite as low however. 

In the five seasons of data that I have available, Garland has had ground-ball rates better than 45% on three occasions. 

Once was it below 40%, and that was during 2007, as I mentioned already. 

And then another season it was at 42% (2006).

Garland’s GB/FB had declined during three consecutive seasons.  But
then following those years of decline, it rose to its highest. 

So I do not know that we can dismiss Garland as a “ground-ball” pitcher
just yet.  For his rate was at its peak last season.  And while it
makes sense for Garland to induce fewer ground-balls from here on out
then he did in 2008.  I can also see Garland maintaining a higher
percentage than he did in the few seasons previous to the last. 

As for Garland’s overall decline, that is probably because his K/9
basically decreasing every single year of his career (and in part
because of varying GB rates) 

When a pitcher strikes out fewer batters, it is simply harder to be as good as they once were… 


Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan is overrated.  There, I said it!
But then again I wasn’t the first to explain it in writing.

HE was.

Or the first that I had read it from anyway.

Of course, my first post ever was at the same time that I first discovered that Ryan, in fact, was not the greatest pitcher ever.

My first post ever.

Not really even close comparatively, when speaking of the greatest pitchers ever (after much research, one who thought he was the best ever soon discovers that his greatness was less than originally thought).  But of course, very, very close to the best ever, in relation to the amount of pitchers that have toed the rubber overall.  And that number is great.

Let me state something, something that may be misconstrued while reading this post.

First, this is not meant to disrespect Nolan Ryan.  He was a great pitcher.  And his 5,000+ strikeouts are 5,000+ more than I have below my non-existent name on “Baseball Reference.”  But these kind of arguments are part of why sports fans enjoy being sports fans.  So to argue one’s greatness, should still be a form of flattery, cause Ryan is still great (I doubt the athlete would take it as “flattery” however, if one is trying to make them appear less-great).

Second, I am not ripping off Stark, because I will explore this a little differently.  And I came to the conclusion that Ryan was overrated before the book ever came out anyway.  I just didn’t have a platform, a name, or any other means to get it out with any kind of readership.  Although give Stark credit, for he was more concrete in his opinion, more deliberate earlier.  And even though he has built up a name, a respect in the game, he did actually write a book about the subject.  And neither Stark, nor I, probably originated this opinion anyway.  There are most likely multiple stat-guys that have proposed this premise.  The “Nolan Ryan was overrated” premise.

I guess there should be a “third” reason why too, so…

Third, I have to make it clear.  ERA+ or “Adjusted ERA” if you wish, is a pretty telling statistic.  But there are other factors that make a pitcher great.  Although earned runs allowed are pretty critical, just understand that there are variables.  Defense being one of those variables, crucial to understand this at its extreme. 

Of course, when are there not variables?

But one thing that must be understood–and most do, although there are some that don’t–is the more innings that are pitched, the harder it is to sustain greatness, or to sustain a certain level of performance.  Basically, more innings will generally lead to a lower level of performance, compared to whatever the performance had been (if there was even a “had”).  It is less difficult to give a team 200 quailty innings than 300.  So rate stats will generally be less appealing with the greater number of innings pitched.

And this is an example of why closers have better ERA’s than starters.  They can come in, throw as hard as humanly possible, and produce better rate numbers. 

For example, Jonathan Papelbon’s ERA+ was 198 last season, while CC Sabathia’s was 162.  Sabathia was definitely more valuable, but that would appear deceiving because Papelbon’s ERA+ is significantly higher than Sabathia’s. 

Of course, anyone that watches baseball probably understands this already, but it applies to the subject.  So no matter its primitiveness, I felt that it was important to explain a little.

Because this plays a role when comparing from one era to the next.

Nolan Ryan averaged 231 innings adjusted for 162 games.  Averaged!  “Innings eaters” eat about that many innings nowadays at their max, usually fewer than that.  But Ryan averaged that many.  So naturally, Ryan’s ERA+ will be lower (worse in the case of ERA+) because he threw more innings than the pitchers of today do, generally speaking anyway.

Because in todays game, an ERA+ of 111 would most likely fall short of Hall of Fame induction (focused on solely of course). 

Looking at pitchers of recent, and their workloads.  That Adjusted ERA just wouldn’t cut it.  Mike Mussina is a pretty borderline case to many different minds surrounding the game, and his ERA+ was 122.  Schilling’s (who isn’t a shoe-in to many) was 127.  And Blyleven’s was 118 while averaging 245 innings per 162–and he may not even get in (although Blyleven is more in Ryan’s mold because he averaged so many innings and pitched in the same time-frame.  That should only increase his candidacy though).

So his ERA+ was 111.  Effected by Ryan and one thing.  What was that one thing?  The “adjusted” part means that it already takes into account the ballparks that Ryan played in, and the league(s) that he played in. 

So that one “thing” would have to be team defense. 

The defense that was backing up Ryan in his effort to win ballgames.

Among pitchers who qualify, Nolan Ryan’s ERA+ falls in tied at 287th.  Tied with AJ Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Todd Jones. 

Ryan is better than any one of those pitchers. 

And speaking of Todd Jones…there are some relievers on this list, another reason why pitchers on this list are not in order of actual greatness.

But over Ryan’s career, his average team’s “Defensive Efficiency” was ranked 11th out of 25.  Roughly average.

So it seems clear that Ryan’s lower ERA+ was not do to a poor defense, which could have been an excuse without the proper research. 

Ryan simply wasn’t as great as everyone thought that he was, and everyone thinks that he is still. 

Again, 5,714 strikeouts is incredible, it really is.

But listen to some of Ryan’s single-season walk totals:  157, 162, 202!, 183, 204!, 148. 

Two times Ryan walked over 200 batters.

Those are somewhat skewed when compared to the era we are currently witnessing because of the innings pitched issue.  But they are still valid to the point.  The base-runners allowed by Ryan were not exactly scarce. 

Never did Ryan allow fewer than a base-runner per inning. 

Pedro has done this 6 times.

Clemens never did it either, but came close many, many times.

Bob Gibson, although playing in the NL (pitcher bats, obviously), at least did it once.  And Ryan DID spend half of his career in the National League too, so it wasn’t as if the better opportunity to put up a sub-1.000 WHIP wasn’t there. 

Am I going to hold it against Ryan that he didn’t do something truly great from a starters standpoint (referring to sub-1.000 WHIP)? 

Well, a little.  But that wouldn’t solely prevent him from greatness. 

However, Ryan’s career WHIP is currently ranked 260th all time. 

WHIP may not be as great an indicator as “opponent OBP.”  But come on, its pretty darn close!  And I don’t have the career numbers in the form of a leader-board for a pitchers “opponents OBP” anyway. 

Nolan Ryan struck out a lot of batters.

Nolan Ryan allowed many hitters to reach base as well though.  And defense wasn’t an issue.  It wasn’t an issue in regards to ERA or ERA+ either. 

It’s funny how so many associate Ryan with being “The greatest of all time.” 
So many believe this because of the absurd number of career strikeouts that he has.

But Ryan won 0 Cy Youngs.  So his legacy had built over time, it seems.  Because if the writers believed, at the time, that he was so great, wouldn’t they have thought, at least once, that he was the best in the league (I think Stark said this too)? 

Cy’s aren’t everything, for voting is a subjective and sometimes flawed process in regards to MVP’s and “The Hall.” 

Ryan may have thrown 7 no hitters.  But his greatness is overrated. 

Yet, Ryan should of course be proud that he was a great baseball player.  Because that isn’t exactly an easy task.

So applaud his greatness, then downplay it while keeping a positive frame of mind.

Anyone need a starter?

Odalis Perez is available again.

Odalis Perez you say?


Perez is not a good pitcher.  But he is what one might call a “serviceable at times” back-end starter. 

A team with Serious playoff aspirations would probably like to stay away from him other than for depth.  But a fringe-type playoff team could use Perez’s arm.  Or a team like the Mets who could just throw him in there and hope they have five spots in the rotation that equal out to getting the job done. 

If Perez stays in the NL, and signs a similar deal to the one he had in place with the Nats, then he could a very small piece to whatever the puzzle’s design ends up being.