16 facts that illustrate Nolan Ryan's impact

January 31st, 2023

A version of this story original ran in December 2021.

There's never been another pitcher quite like .

The flamethrowing right-hander was a statistical marvel, with more strikeouts (5,714) and walks (2,795) than any other pitcher in history, seven no-hitters and 324 wins. He was also a physical anomaly, pitching at a high level into his mid-40s.

Ryan was inducted into the Hall of Fame on his first chance in 1999, chosen on 491 of 497 ballots submitted by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, the fifth-highest percentage (98.79%) after Mariano Rivera (100%), Derek Jeter (99.75%), Ken Griffey Jr. (99.32%) and Tom Seaver (98.84%).

Here are 16 facts and figures that show the immense impact Ryan made during his career.

• Ryan’s AL/NL-record seven no-hitters give him three more than the next closest pitcher, Sandy Koufax, who had four. Only six pitchers have even thrown at least three no-hitters -- Ryan, Koufax, Cy Young, Larry Corcoran, Bob Feller and Justin Verlander.

• Ryan threw his first two no-hitters during the 1973 season. He’s one of six pitchers to throw two no-nos in one season (postseason included), joining Johnny Vander Meer, Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks, Roy Halladay and Max Scherzer.

• In addition to his seven no-hitters, Ryan threw 12 one-hitters, tied with Feller for the most since at least 1901. He also had 18 two-hitters, tied with Walter Johnson for the most in that same span.

• He holds the all-time record (min. 1,000 innings) for the lowest hits-per-nine-innings mark. The righty allowed 3,923 hits in 5,386 innings for a H/9 of 6.56. Ryan led his league in H/9 12 times, six more than any other pitcher.

• Ryan is the only pitcher in AL/NL history with at least 5,000 strikeouts. He’s also the only pitcher with at least 2,000 walks. All told, more than 38% of the plate appearances against him ended without the ball being put into play.

Randy Johnson ranks second all time behind Ryan with 4,875 K’s, having pitched until his age-45 season. Even if Johnson pitched another four years and averaged 200 K’s per season in that span, he still wouldn’t have caught up with Ryan. Meanwhile, Bruce Hurst (No. 152 on the list) is closer in K’s to Bert Blyleven (No. 5 on the list) than Blyleven is to Ryan.

• Ryan led his league in strikeouts 11 times. Only Walter Johnson did it more (12). Ryan and Johnson each finished among the league’s top five in strikeouts 18 times, tied for the most all time. He reached the 200-strikeout plateau in 15 seasons, two more than anyone else. Randy Johnson ranks second with 13. Ryan and the Big Unit had six 300-K seasons apiece, tied for the most. No other pitcher has recorded 300-plus K’s in a season more than three times.

• Ryan posted 383 strikeouts in 1973, which stands as the Modern Era (since 1900) record. The very next year, he compiled 367 K’s, which is the fourth-highest Modern Era total.

• On June 14, 1974, Ryan purportedly threw 235 pitches in a start against the Red Sox. Ryan’s stat line from that game: 13 innings, 19 strikeouts, 10 walks, 58 batters faced, three runs allowed. It marked one of three times in his career (twice during 1974) that Ryan had 19 K’s in an extra-inning game. Ryan made his next start on just three days’ rest and fired six scoreless innings against the Yankees.

• Ryan recorded 19 K’s in an appearance of nine innings or fewer once, on Aug. 12, 1974, against Boston. The performance tied a then-record for strikeouts in an outing of nine innings or fewer. Roger Clemens (twice), Kerry Wood, Randy Johnson and Scherzer would later top it with 20 K’s.

• Ryan pitched in four decades, debuting as a 19-year-old for the Mets in 1966 and playing his last game for the Rangers as a 46-year-old in 1993. He’s the only pitcher in AL/NL history to appear in the Majors as a teenager and in his age-45 season or older.

• On June 11, 1990, at 43 years and 131 days old, Ryan became the oldest pitcher in AL/NL history to toss a no-hitter. Less than a year later, Ryan topped himself at the age of 44 years and 90 days, firing the seventh and final no-no of his career.

• He struck out 200-plus batters in a season five times in his 40s. In AL/NL history, there have been only four other 200-strikeout seasons by pitchers in their 40s -- two by Randy Johnson, one by Clemens and one by Phil Niekro.

• Ryan never led his league in wins or even finished among the top three, but he won 10 or more games 20 times, tied with Greg Maddux for the second most in history behind Don Sutton's 21 seasons. Ryan became the 20th member of the 300-win club in 1990 and finished his career with 324 wins.

• Interestingly, Ryan showed much sharper control in the postseason than he did in the regular season. His career walk rate over 58 2/3 innings during the playoffs was 6.2%, and he had just one wild pitch and didn't hit a single batter in his postseason career. Ryan had a 12.4% walk rate in the regular season, and he ranks second all time in wild pitches (277) and 15th in hit batsmen (158).

• Ryan made such an enormous impact during his time with the Angels, Astros and Rangers that his number -- 30 with the Angels, 34 with the Astros and Rangers -- is retired by all three clubs. Not including Jackie Robinson, whose No. 42 is universally retired across Major League Baseball, Ryan is the only player to have his number retired by as many as three franchises.