Nolan Ryan Records - Angels

Nolan Ryan, pitching for the Angels. Picture source: LA Public Library Image Archive

Fans of baseball and baseball board games have expressed particular interest in how Ultimate Baseball The Game player cards are rated… how they compare with, say, Strat-o-matic player cards. While UBTG’s focus is on lifetime composite cards of the all-time best baseball players, Strat-o-matic baseball cards tend to be based on particular seasons. Season-based player cards tend to distort a player’s “true talent”: that is, a Barry Bonds card from 2001 (73 HR) will tend to give Bonds too much power. If you are trying to simulate that particular season, then perhaps this can work OK, but UBTG prefers a single, dream-team-style, lifetime composite player card which plays true-to-life, regardless of era, season, or team.

Since UBTG features the greatest players of all time, the question arises: Where does UBTG rank particular players? Who are UBTG’s top all-time picks? Where does UBTG rank, for example, someone like Lou Gehrig, or Willie Mays? Or Negro league stars like Pop Lloyd, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell? How about the best pitchers in baseball history? Which player cards come in our game box, and which ones didn’t “make the cut”? Those of you who have purchased our Official 2010-2012 UBTG Player Register can see exactly where we’ve ranked each player (we ranked over 4,000 players from across the annals of American major league baseball), but the lists on our site show you in alphabetical order which players are our top picks that come in the game box.

One of the questions we have been asked a number of times is: Why is Nolan Ryan not in our game box set?

Nolan Ryan Records - Astros

How do we evaluate Nolan Ryan records?¬†Shouldn’t he be considered among the best pitchers in baseball history? We put this question to UBTG co-founder, Paul Gillespie, a baseball historian who authors “From Deep Right Field”, a unique blog on baseball legends.

Here’s Paul’s response to the Nolan Ryan question:

We do get questions about Nolan Ryan’s rating. The Ryan Express truly is a great representative of what makes baseball “America’s Game”. As a long-time season ticket holder for Texas Rangers games, I saw him pitch a number of games live. I also got to see him live in an Astros uniform. He was something to behold! Ryan is considered an icon among Texans, but is thought of in superstar terms by most other fans, too.

As great as Ryan was, however, he didn’t quite make UBTG’s game box “cut”. In the game box, we include our top 40 picks of the best pitchers of all time. Since we include Negro leaguers, All Nations teams stars, and pre-1900 stars, all rated alongside more recent stars, we include several players that are left out of many player lists. So some players naturally will end up being pushed to a lower rank than they might be on some other lists.

UBTG Player Register

Official 2010-2012 UBTG Player Register

True, Ryan is indeed the all-time Strikeout King. He’s in the top three for career Ks per 9 innings with a minimum of 2,000 innings pitched. He also leads starting pitchers in the category of batting average allowed. And he is, of course, the all-time leader in career no-hitters with 7 (a record not likely to be broken any time soon). He does do noteworthy work when it comes to his share of his team’s wins, which is a key ingredient in ranking him on composite all-time lists. UBTG gives Ryan the game’s highest possible K rating. If you put him on the mound in UBTG, you will most assuredly rack up the Ks!

At the same time, Ryan’s winning percentage is just above median for a great pitcher (barely above .500), and his WHIP is not as scintillating as it might be. Also, neither his ERA nor adjusted ERA is near the top of the exclusive lists. Ryan also is the career leader in walks allowed. These stats are among those that weigh heavily when establishing our player card ratings. In Ultimate Baseball The Game’s Player Register (2010-2012), Ryan is one of 104 starting pitchers divided among 77 ratings places (some of our pitchers are tied). In essence, Ryan is generally the same rating as 14 pitchers ranked in that group. In “Total Baseball: 8th Edition”, the category of “Total Player Wins-Pitchers” places Nolan Ryan in the 71st spot–a similar ranking. We at UBTG consider this ranking to be quite high, but not high enough to make our top 40 game box cut. Ryan is featured in our Player Card Expansion Set #4, which should be available for purchase soon (stay tuned!).

Was Ryan exciting to watch? No question. Does he belong in our Hall of Fame? Without a doubt! He is one of the greatest ever. Let’s allow him to earn his fine ranking–and not over-elevate his status because of his spectacular “K rating”. Nolan Ryan records–ample testimony for one of the best pitchers in baseball history.

By Paul Gillespie

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Who are your favorite players of all time, and why? Which UBTG rankings do you agree with… disagree with… and why? Chime in on our easy-to-use Disqus forum below!

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