With the ongoing emphasis on pitch counts, innings and extra days of rest, it’s likely that we’ll never see a pitcher with the dominant longevity of Nolan Ryan.
After flashes of brilliance with the Mets from 1966 through 1971, Ryan’s Hall of Fame career didn’t truly take off until he joined the California Angels in 1972.
The right-hander erupted that season, registering a 2.28 ERA over 39 starts and led the league with nine shutouts, 329 strikeouts, 157 walks and 18 wild pitches. However, as was the case throughout his entire career, Ryan’s wildness was offset by his overall lack of hit-ability. That season, his 5.3 H/9 (166 hits in 284 innings) was the best mark among all pitchers.
Although it was undocumented, Ryan also paced the circuit in overall old-man strength—as a 25-year-old. But in all seriousness; when debating the best plus-plus fastball-curveball combinations in baseball history, the conversation should start and end with Ryan.
Ryan's fastball received its own nickname, “The Ryan Express,” and was nearly impossible to barrel due to exceptional late life, not to mention the fact that it routinely scraped triple digits. Equally impressive was his curveball—an absolute hammer of the 12-to-6, downer variety.
Over his historic 27-year career, Ryan, now 65, posted a 324-292 record, 3.19 ERA, 9.5 K/9 (5,714 K), 4.7 BB/9 (2,795 BB) and 6.6 H/9 in 5,386 innings.
He is the all-time career leader in strikeouts (5,714), fewest hits allowed per nine innings (6.6), no-hitters (7), walks allowed (2,795) and wild pitches (277).
But as we look toward the minor leagues, are there any pitching prospects with the potential to be the next Nolan Ryan? Well, considering that he played for 27 seasons and holds so many prestigious records, it’s extremely doubtful.
However, there are several pitching prospects worth noting who, like Ryan, post high strikeout and walks rates but allow few hits.