November 01, 2013

Nolan Ryan wasn't always Nolan Ryan

Before the world's greatest batter-walker was eased out of his position with the Texas Rangers, alltime strikeout, and walks, leader Nolan Ryan repeatedly bitched, in various ways, about how "coddled" today's pitchers' arms are.

Well, I have a word or two in response.

First, Nolan, you were kind of a freak in being lucky to avoid major injury, like the need for
Tommy John surgery.

Second, you didn't always dodge some degree of injury, and you weren't always the horse you claimed to be.

The facts?

Only once, after the age of 30, did Ryan throw 250 innings, and that was right on the button.

He had no other post-30 year that even broke 240 innings, unlike Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals this year, and more on that in a moment.

Ryan only had 28 starts in 1975, at age 28; 21 starts in 1981, at age 34; and 29 starts in 1983, at age 36; and 30 starts in 1984 and 1986, at ages 37 and 39. Yes, that's getting later into his career, but, it's still worth of comment. In all those years, he was under 200 innings.

(Sidebar: All those walks give Nolan a career ERA+ of just 112 and WHIP of 1.247, just barely inside my baselines of 110 or better and 1.25 or lower. Nolan's career durability and total strikeouts help his cause, but ... he's not the greatest pitcher of the last 30 years, contra his Hall of Fame vote numbers.)

Plus, back to Adam Wainwright, and other modern pitchers, here.

Ryan, beyond his 1969 Mets year, was never on a team that played more than one round of postseason, World Series included.

Waino? Exactly 300 innings this year. Curt Schilling? 297 for Arizona in 2001. Randy Johnson? 291 that same year.

Because of the expanded postseason, beyond the contract and other value of young pitchers, managers simply have to be more careful these days. A manager pitching his ace more than 250 innings in the regular season is undercutting his team. Even 240 is pushing it.

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