Best fastball ever: Not Ryan

Nolan Ryan's much-celebrated heater was plenty fast, but it was not among the top 10 of all time.

Originally Published: June 15, 2004
By Rob Neyer | ESPN Insider
When you co-author a book -- as I recently did, with Bill James -- you've got a choice: You can jackhammer any differences in opinion, or you can leave them alone and let the readers decide for themselves who to believe.

Nolan Ryan
AP Photo/Kevork DjansezianNolan Ryan threw hard, even if it wasn't always over the plate.
In The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, Bill and I went the latter route. Case in point ... On page 24, I present my list of the 10 best fastballs ever thrown by starting pitchers, and my list does not include Nolan Ryan. In a separate article, just a few pages later, Bill presents the 10 best fastballs for every five-year period in major league history, beginning in 1880. And right there on pages 30 and 31, Bill lists Nolan Ryan's fastball as the best fastball from 1970 through 1974 ... and 1975 through 1979, and 1980 through 1984. So that's 15 years when Ryan's fastball was supposedly the best in the business, and only Walter Johnson (1905-1919) and Bob Feller (1935-1949) are similarly honored.

And my list? I've got Johnson No. 1 all-time (among starters), and Feller No. 9. But no Ryan. Instead, he made the "Others" list, along roughly a dozen other notables.