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Seaver, Ryan and Palmer

Seaver, Ryan and Palmer

January 15, 2007

Comparing three all-time greats

Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer all pitched around the same time with great success and all three have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Yet they had very different pitching styles.  Here’s a quick review based on the Fangraphs graphics (a blogger’s best friend):

First off, take a look at their strikeout rates.  Ryan, of course, was the greatest strikeout pitcher of all time. Seaver was also excellent but Palmer wasn’t even an average strikeout pitcher for most of his career:


You might also notice that Seaver and Palmer followed typical “aging” patterns.  For instance, Seaver lost a lot of of zip when he turned 35, his second season with the Reds.  Ryan, however, remained an elite strikeout pitcher his entire career.  Next, here’s a graph of their respective walk rates.  This graph may be a bit hard to read, but it shows that Ryan was a wild dude while Seaver had extraordinary control.  Palmer was better than average:


Different aging patterns.  Ryan’s control improved as he aged; Seaver’s deteriorated until he renewed his control at age 40.  Palmer’s pattern looks pretty random.  Here are their home run rates.  All three had home run rates significantly below average.  That would be expected with Ryan and Seaver because strikeout pitchers give up less hits in general.  However, Palmer’s HR rate was also very low until he turned 35—a key to his success.


A little later, I’ll graph two other important aspects of their success: Batting Average on Balls in Play, and runner left on base.

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