posted on Apr, 27 2006 @ 09:31 PM
My good buddy Kwyjibo,
My bad for not clarifying what I meant. It's been a Periclean Age for GREAT pitchers, just as those other periods were for GREAT 1B and 3B players.
We also have, due to expansion, a lot of wretchedly bad pitchers. And, of course, steroids/HGH and tiny ballparks have made a lot of pitchers look
worse than they are.
But it's a fact that, as shown by those Adjusted ERA stats I put up, we are blessed to be watching four of the greatest pitchers ever--and I mean four
of the very top pitchers ever--right now. I'm sure you agree, after the info I put up. Don't you? The Cy Young Awards agree, especially if you take
the award Zito so fraudulently and laughably won, and give it to Pedro, who had a historically great year that year.
Schilling is a very fine pitcher, as long as he's legit. I have real doubts about that, but not nearly enough circumstantial evidence to say
otherwise. And NOW, with the year it looks like he's in the process of having, if he keeps it up, I think this will put him in the Hall--if he never
throws another pitch after this season.
Koufax, as I said, is approximately the seventh greatest lefty in the history of baseball. That's certainly not nothing. He was a great pitcher--one
of the 20 greatest of all time, probably. But the morons at ESPN rated him as the #1 pitcher ever, and that's a very bad joke showing no concept of
home-park advantages, career values, baseball history, etc. It's like rating Abba as one of the Top 10 groups of all time, simply because they were
As for Ryan, I think we tend to overrate him because: (1) he had an excellent "decline phase," looking much better than most pitchers do after their
35th birthdays; and (2) everyone loves a strikeout machine. But just as a guy who draws lots of walks tends to be underrated offensively (see
especially Max Bishop, the leadoff hitter on the Lefty Grove A's teams, who is the only person other than Ted Williams with a HIGHER career on-base
percentage than Ruth), pitchers who strikeout lots of batters tend to be forgiven for lots of walks. James rated Ryan at #24 in 2000, but would
certainly rate him lower now, moving at least Pedro and Big Unit ahead of him.
I think #26 is too generous, and I'm willing to bet Hootie will agree with me. But the guy did last a long time and get a lot of K's in big
situations that needed K's (mostly because he'd walked the bases full), and he lasted an unbelievable amount of years for someone who threw so hard.
I've never ranked my Top 20 or Top 30 righties, but I imagine Ryan would at least make my Top 30, and if he made my Top 20, he'd probably be right
around my #30 overall pitcher.
But I'm telling you, despite the extremely low batting averages his opponents had, his opponents' on-base percentages were anything but low,
and that's what counts in most pitcher/hitter confrontations. Walk a couple of guys, get them bunted over, and ONE hit = 2 runs. A wild pitch = 1
I used to marvel at Ryan. I ALWAYS loved watching him pitch, just as I loved watching Dave Kingman hit the kind of HR's, naturally, that the
best of the modern-day steroid freaks hit by cheating and breaking federal law. But Kingman was a guy who hit 1 HR every 15 AB's, and basically did
nothing else, not even take unintentional walks. The one good thing was he never grounded into double plays, because he always struck out or hit
Ryan was a MUCH better pitcher than Kingman was a player, don't get me wrong, but his teams paid enormous prices for all those walks, and THAT is why
his career W-L record is what it is. It's not a matter of his having had bad luck for 27 consecutive years--though he WAS perhaps the unluckiest
pitcher ever in 1987.
And you are right, of course, that there's no need to differentiate righties from lefties. I did the lefties to show, first, how I rank the seven men
who are clearly the best southpaws of all time, along with the man who's probably #8 (and seek input about who else might be #8); and second, to show
how Koufax stacks up against our four modern superstar pitchers--which is to say, very poorly.
The same is true, in spades, of Nolan Ryan. But, as I'm sure you would remind me, my own comments apply there:
The fact Ryan doesn't come close to matching the skills of Pedro, Clemens, Maddux and Randy Johnson--four of the very greatest pitchers ever--does not
mean he was not a very good pitcher, or, as a huge number of people believe--even a great one.
What kept him from greatness, in my opinion, was ALL those absurdly prolific walks. He was, in a sense, the inverse of Roberto Clemente. Give
Clemente 1,000 more walks--which he could have had, easily, and probably more--and his career value soars. He probably moves from the #7 to #12 RF of
all time, to the #4 RF of all time, passing everyone up to and including the great Mel Ott, and trails only Ruth, Aaron and Frank Robinson.
But Clemente was too manly to take walks. And Ryan couldn't control his "hummer" well enough to avoid allowing 962 more walks than any other
pitcher who ever lived.
That's a great deal to overcome. It says a great deal about how excellent a pitcher Ryan was that he could overcome such an enormous handicap and
become one of the 30 to 40 greatest pitchers ever. I do not believe that Lefty Grove, Roger Clemens or anyone else could have walked 2,795 batters
and been nearly as good a pitcher as Ryan was. But the hard truth is this: If you walk THAT many men, there is a glass ceiling that going to limit
severely how good you can be. I am amazed Ryan was as good as he was, given that obscene number.