Top 30? I think that's a stretch.
He was the Best Strikeout pitcher of all time, no question.
But the best pitcher?
You can get outs in other ways. And perhaps, more effectively. That 112 ERA+ really jumps out at me. That says - "a decent number 2, a good number 3 guy"...
Pitchers with a superior ERA+ - which, remember, is a measure of how good you were at preventing earned runs from scoring, compared to the league average:--
THat's just a sampling. But would you consider any of the above guys in the top 30 all-time? But they were better than Nolan at getting outs and preventing runs from scoring, which is about all the job of a pitcher is.
Nolan is tied for 271st all-time in ERA+. I know its not the end all or be all of statistics, but it does have value because it captures whether the pitcher can prevent runs from scoring. Nolan simply wasnt very good at that. The dude could throw like a BEAST, but his command wasnt great, and as a result, he gave up runs even when he wasnt giving up hits.
Hypothetical - pitch him in his prime in the AL east the past 10 to 15 years. Would he be any good against those disciplined moneyball lineups? Taking walks, moving station to station? I dont know. We might not give a crap about him if that had happened.
I appreciate the fervor of the pro-Ryan responses - but simply saying "The guy was awesome" doesn't really tell me anything other than that you are subject to the hype of the Ryan Express, and goo goo gah gah over the strikeouts. Let's take a dispassionate look, shall we?