LA Angels: Who is the greatest starting pitcher in franchise history?

Nolan Ryan, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images)
Nolan Ryan, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Robert Riger/Getty Images) /
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CIRCA 1978: Frank Tanana #24 of the California Angels pitching during a game from his 1978 season with the California Angels. Frank Tanana played 21 seasons ,with 6 different teams and was a 3-time All-Star. (Photo by: 1978 SPX/Diamond Images via Getty Images) /

4) Frank Tanana

Frank Tanana pitched in Anaheim from 1973 to 1980, forming a 1-2 punch with Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan that sparked the famous saying, “Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin.”

A three-time All-Star during his eight seasons with the Angels, Tanana reached his peak early in his career, becoming one of the most dominant starters in the game between 1975 and 1978. He was worth 21.8 wins above replacement (WAR) in that timeframe, good for sixth best among starting pitchers, his name as a young twenty-something listed among legends such as Tom Seaver, Bert Blyleven, and Jim Palmer.

Only 21 years old in ’75, he led the league in strikeouts with 269, on his way to a 16-9 record and 2.62 ERA. The following season, he was even better, his ERA lowering to 2.43, as he led the league in limiting walks and hits (measured via WHIP). The southpaw finished 4th and 3rd in Cy Young voting in ’75 and ’76, respectively.

Then in 1977, he had another stand-out season, winning the ERA title with a 15-9 record and 2.54 earned run average.

Unfortunately, injuries would slow Tanana after his incredible start to his career. After three consecutive All-Star appearances, he started only 17 games in 1979. And he was never quite the same in the years that followed, finishing 11-12 with a 4.15 ERA in his final season with the Angels.

While you wish the story ended better, Tanana’s first five seasons with the Angels put him among the greatest starters in franchise history. You didn’t want to catch the Halos when they had Ryan and Tanana lined up against you in the mid-seventies.