Saturday, October 15, 2011

#100 Nolan Ryan

The first 100 cards are done! Here's the stats:

Head shots:  15%
Candid shots: 15%
Action Shots:  45%
Posed shots: 25%

Mustaches: 40%
Beards: 5%
Glasses: 3%

The most popular page view? A tie between Steve Yeager (for some unknown reason), and Pete Rose.

Now on to our star . . .

Card thoughts: This card looks like a painting. But this how you always saw Ryan: fierce, never smiling.

The player: One of the better all-time pitchers, but not really one of the best, Ryan owes a lot of his fame to his longevity: The guy struck out over 300 batters when he was 42! But his career was pretty inconsistent, except for the strikeouts (12-time league leader, 6 times over 300, 5,714 for his career, a record unlikely to be broken) the base on balls (8-time league leader, 2,795 for his career, also a record), and the wild pitches (6-time league leader, 2nd all-time with 277). However, he also holds the record for least amount of hits given up all-time and the record most no-hitters lifetime, with 7.

Ryan broke in at a young age in the Mets bullpen, where he had lightning stuff, but was too erratic at that age to make much of a mark in the rotation. After some decent years with way too few strikeouts with way too many walks, the Mets gave up on him in 1972 and traded him with a package of young players to the Angels for future manager and aging infielder Jim Fregosi. For a bunch of bad Angels teams, Ryan tried his best. Although his record barely was over .500, his ERAs were good, and he was striking out players at a phenomenal rate. He struck out over 300 batters 5 out of the first 6 years he was with the Angels, culminating in an amazing 383 strikeouts in 332 2/3 innings in 1974, another record.

Weary of the losing atmosphere in California which had cost him so many wins, Ryan signed as a free agent with the Astros in 1980. He would spend the next 8 years there and he became more of a pitcher with the Astros than a thrower. He led the league in ERA twice, including a 2.76 mark in 1987, despite an 8-16 record. He also cut down on his walks, while his strikeout rate remained high: He led in strikeouts in 1987 and 1988.

At 41, many people thought Ryan was done, but after he signed with the Rangers in 1989, he managed to lead the league in strikeouts two more times, and win in double digits three more times . . and get in a famous fight, where he put Robin Ventura in a headlock and pounded him after he charged the mound. Ryan retired in 1993 and managed to win over 300 games, despite a .526 winning percentage, mostly attributed to being a part of many bad teams. He did pitch in the World Series once (with the Mets in 1969) and the division series 5 times with the Angels and the Astros, where he pitched well. Ryan is now the principal (and very visible) owner of the Rangers, having previously owned the Astros AAA affiliate the Round Rock Express.

Rear guard: This is the first of what will be many miscut cards in the 100 series; only miscut on the back, though. The 1985 season was a fairly weak one in the Ryan oevure. Although he pitched over 200 innings, he had a poor 10-12 record, first time he'd been below .500 since 1978. He also sported the highest ERA he'd had since 1971.

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