Houston Astros: Top 10 Starting Pitchers in Franchise History

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2nd Best All-Time Astros Starter

Jul 27, 2014; Cooperstown, NY, USA; Hall of Fame player

Nolan Ryan

responds to being introduced during the class of 2014 national baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony at National Baseball Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Nolan Ryan by Thomas O’Banion

Nolan Ryan holds a special place in the hearts of Astros fans. The fireballer from nearby Alvin had some excellent seasons in a Houston uniform, and his longevity and dominance on the mound put him squarely at the top of the list as one of the franchise’s best pitchers.

Ryan signed with the Astros in 1980, after spending 12 full seasons in MLB, four with the New York Mets and eight with the California Angels. With his contract, Ryan became the first player in Major League history to sign a million dollar contract. And Ryan certainly held up his end of the bargain, helping lead Houston to the team’s first NL West division title and first playoff berth in 1980. He helped take Houston back to the playoffs in 1981, and again in 1986.

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In his nine seasons in an Astros uniform, “The Ryan Express” posted a 106-94 record with a 3.13 ERA/1.21 WHIP/2.87 FIP. The flame-throwing Texan pitched 200+ innings in five seasons, 38 complete games, and 13 shutouts. On September 26, 1981, he pitched his fifth career no-hitter, and in 1983, set the record for strikeouts, which he continued to build on. His 25.4 WAR is good for fourth all-time among Astros pitchers.

Ryan’s other remarkable feats in a Houston uniform include setting the franchise record for strikeouts with 1866, over 1854.2 innings, which led to a phenomenal 9.1 Ks/9 innings. He also had a 2.34 K to BB ratio. In 1981, Ryan set the franchise record for lowest ERA in a season with a sterling 1.69. Surprisingly, despite his dominance and durability, Ryan’s highest win total in a season was 16.

Unfortunately, Houston and Ryan could not come to a contract agreement following the 1988 season, and Ryan left for Arlington to finish out his career. Nevertheless, the living legend is still a fan favorite in the Bayou City and his tenure in Houston helped the team finally find the postseason. The Astros retired the Hall of Famer’s #34 in 1996.

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