Saturday, August 9, 2014

Nolan Ryan, power pitcher into his 40s. Did he use steroids?

John Kruk said Nolan Ryan was the fastest pitcher he faced.  Faster than Rob Dibble and Dwight Gooden, whom Kruk also named.  But Kruk was emphatic when asked: Nolan he replied multiple times.  This was during the ESPN Sunday night game in Boston between the Yankees and Red Sox Aug. 3, 2014.

Nolan Ryan 383 SO in 1973, age 26
John Rogers collection
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I wasn't sure when Kruk would have faced Ryan so I looked it up: 1986, 1987, 1988.  But here's the thing.  Nolan Ryan was born January 31, 1947 in Refugio, TX.  So in those seasons Ryan was 39, 40, 41.  Those seasons were Kruk's first three in the majors (ages 25, 26, 27), playing for San Diego against Ryan who was in his final three seasons with Houston before switching to the Texas Rangers 1989 through 1993, ages 42 through 46.

Maybe Kruk was overly impressed by Ryan's reputation and attributes more speed than acumen to Ryan's performance.  Kruk's 21 plate appearances against Ryan are here:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/play-index/batter_vs_pitcher.cgi?batter=krukjo01&pitcher=ryanno01

Two singles and one home run in 18 at bats, plus three walks; OPS .619.

Here is the most viewed post on this blog:

Nolan Ryan: more on possible steroid use.  Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How come no one challenges Nolan Ryan? He played long enough to have used steroids. His longevity is suspicious. Jose Canseco has admitted using steriods during his MVP season of 1988. Ryan played from 1966 through 1993 (age 46). Ryan and Canseco were even teammates in Texas for 22 games in 1992 and for 60 games in 1993. Ryan's final seasons leading the league in strike outs were at the ages of 40, 41, 42, 43. His previous age as league strike out leader was 32. Ryan went seven years without being strike out king until he recovered the touch in 1987 at age 40. Ryan pitched a record seven no hitters at these ages: 26, 26, 27, 28, 34, 43, 44. This anecdotal evidence is completely ignored. Did Nolan Ryan use banned and/or illegal stuff to enhance his performance? I have no idea but I find it odd that the steroid zealots have such narrow vision.
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Among the comments to that post were two possible explanations for Ryan's unique success in his baseball old age:
- Ryan perfected his changeup around 1987, age 40;
- Ryan's control improved a lot.

The problem with the control theory is that Ryan's control improved in 1979 at age 32.  Why did his SO improve at age 40?  The changeup?  That must have been one whale of a changeup.

Every season Ryan led a league in strike outs (SO) he also led in SO per nine innings pitched (SO9).  In 1991 at age 44 Ryan led in SO9 but not in SO (203).  Since he pitched in both leagues, one with a DH, one without, it makes sense to look at his SO9 compared to the league average.  His first season of 1966 is omitted because he pitched only three innings.  Numbers with only one decimal place were copied from baseball-reference.com so the result may be slightly less accurate than it could be but should not reduce the overall understanding.  Data for graph below is in this link; also below the graph.


AgePct DifYearLeagueRyanDifLTeam
2153.45%19685.88.93.1NMets
2255.00%196969.33.3NMets
2344.07%19705.98.52.6NMets
2450.00%19715.48.12.7NMets
2589.09%19725.510.44.9AAngels
26107.84%19735.110.65.5AAngels
27102.04%19744.99.95AAngels
2873.47%19754.98.53.6AAngels
29121.28%19764.710.45.7AAngels
30106.00%1977510.35.3AAngels
31122.22%19784.5105.5AAngels
32100.00%19794.594.5AAngels
3350.98%19805.17.72.6NAstros
3473.47%19814.98.53.6NAstros
3566.04%19825.38.83.5NAstros
3652.73%19835.58.42.9NAstros
3773.21%19845.69.74.1NAstros
3847.27%19855.58.12.6NAstros
3963.33%198669.83.8NAstros
4091.67%1987611.55.5NAstros
4163.16%19885.79.33.6NAstros
42105.45%19895.511.35.8ARangers
4378.95%19905.710.24.5ARangers
4485.96%19915.710.64.9ARangers
4566.67%19925.493.6ARangers
466.90%19935.86.20.4ARangers

Nolan Ryan, Tom House and steroids.  Monday, August 11, 2014

1 comment:

Kenneth Matinale said...

http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/newsstand/discussion/matinale_nolan_ryan_power_pitcher_into_his_40s_did_he_use_steroids

10. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4768448)
If Ryan had arrived today, how would his career have gone? He must have had many games where he would have had early exits due to game or inning pitch counts today.

11. Ron J2 Posted: August 11, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4768457)
#10 He'd have probably ended up in the bullpen and we'd never have known about his incredible endurance.