Mike Francesca: "Nolan Ryan Was Not a Great Pitcher!"

Perry ArnoldSenior Analyst IMarch 25, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - 1990s:  Nolan Ryan #34 of the Texas Rangers pitches during a circa 1990s game at Arlington Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Ryan pitched for the Rangers from 1989-93.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Yesterday on his call in show on WFAN and the YES Network, sports guru, Mike Francesca repeatedly said that Nolan Ryan was not a "great pitcher."

He called Ryan a "freak" and a "freak of nature" referring to how hard he could throw and how he continued to be able to throw that hard into his 40s.

Francesca said that when Ryan could get his curveball over he was just "unhittable," but that he never knew when he was going to be able to control his pitches.

He also said that Ryan was usually wild, was unable to find the plate, and that he, Francesca, would not rely on Ryan in a big game.

Francesca continuously berated callers who disputed his analysis of Ryan and said that anyone who thought that Ryan was as good as Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, or Curt Shilling, was crazy.

Francesca talked over and over again about how he had watched Ryan when he came to be in the big leagues (1966) and how long it took Ryan to find the strike zone.

Francesca wanted to harp on his lack of control and how he would have taken any number of other pitchers over Ryan in a big game situation.

Nolan Ryan pitched in the major leagues for 27 years—TWENTY-SEVEN YEARS.  He pitched until he was 45 years old.

Ryan almost always played on very bad teams. 

In his 27 years, his teams had winning records in only 14 years, many of those 14 years just barely over .500 and many years his teams were truly horrendous.

Ryan was 324-292 in his career. 

He pitched 5386 innings. 

He compiled an historic high of 5714 strikeouts, but also walked 2795. 

His career ERA was 3.19 compared to an average league ERA over his career of 3.56.

It goes without saying that he is in the Hall of Fame.

If you throw out his first year, when he only pitched three innings and his last year when he only threw 66.3 innings at age 45, there were seven years when his ERA was below the league average.

In three of those years he was within two points of the average on ERA+.

He finished his career with an ERA+ of 111.

And you have to continue to remember that he played on some really bad teams, teams that could not field, could not hit, and could not play.

He had 17 years when his ERA was below 3.50 and eight of those years he was below 3.00. 

In 1991 when he pitched at age 43, he had an ERA of 2.91.

That same year, age 43 mind you, he had 203 strike-outs and gave up only 72 walks.

He finished his career with 2919 more strike-outs than walks.

In 1989 when he was pitching at age 41 for a Texas Ranger team that finished four games over .500, Ryan had 301 strike-outs and only 98 walks.

He had six years when he had more than 300 strike-outs. After 1977, he never had a year in which he gave up more than 140 walks.

So he pitched the last sixteen years of his career without giving up more than 140 walks per season. In 12 of those 16 years he gave up fewer than 100 walks per season.

Francesca is crazy to say that Ryan was wild.

So for Francesca to say that Ryan was not a great pitcher is just stupid.

A great debate could rage on for a long time about whether part of a truly great team, Nolan Ryan would have been a pitcher you would choose over Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, or Curt Shilling. But in game seven in a league championship series or a World Series, I would take any of those guys.

Ryan never got the chance to perform in those situations. To just disqualify him as a choice in a big game situation as Francesca did, is mindless.

Nolan Ryan was one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. For anyone to say that he was not great is incredibly stupid and Francesca really needs to rethink his position on this.