I’ve been sitting on this post for quite awhile, and I know the moment has somewhat passed. Still, I want to reject this commonplace notion that we will never again see a 300 game winner. While we likely won’t see one soon, the claims that we will never again witness a 300th win are ridiculous..
First, I thought it would be interesting to see how many wins the last four pitchers to reach 300 had accumulated by the end of the season in which they turned 29. Also included below is their average wins per season.
- Clemens: 152 – 17
- Maddox: 150 – 16
- Glavine: 124 – 15
- Johnson: 75 – 17
Johnson’s status as a late-bloomer makes him special but not unique–remember that the great Warren Spahn had only 86 wins when he turned 29; Spahn won 363 games. Two things to take away from this: on average, this last crop had 125.25 wins when they finished the season of their 29th year and averaged 16.3 wins over the course of their careers.
I did some more hunting around Baseball Reference to compare the contemporary crop of elite pitchers to these numbers. For those not yet 29, I projected out how many wins they are likely to accumulate according to their 162 game averages. For those over 29, I reported what they had at that age. Average win totals are based on 162 game expectations as well. Here’s what I got:
- CC Sabathia: 122 wins at age 28, averages 16 per season, on pace for 149 wins. Sabathia, playing for the underwhelming Tribe for much of his career, has averaged 16 wins a season. He will win many more games if he stays in the pinstripes. While I think he is overrated, he could be a Bronx win machine for many years. The question is not if he’ll reach 300, but whether he’ll reach 350.
- Carlos Zambrano: 99 wins at age 28, averages 15 per season, on pace for 126 wins. Admittedly, this one surprised me. I expected to see other names here. The Cubs have been competitive throughout much of Zambrano’s career–and although their ownership is in flux, I don’t see them completely falling apart as a franchise. Plus, the NL Central is not exactly a payroll murderer’s row. The question with Zambrano is likely whether he can control himself as well as he controls his fastball.
- Mark Buehrle: 122 wins at age 29 (-4 off the pace), averages 15 wins per season. Ok, this might seem to support my opposition if Buehrle is third on the list. But he is a big lefty, plays in a strong baseball city, and has been nothing short of a horse his entire career. Given his control, I could see him losing some velocity but still be able to clip the corners well into his 40s.
- Jake Peavy: 92 wins at age 28, on pace for 116 (-10 off the pace), averages 15 wins per season. I think we all know what has to happen for Peavy to have a shot at this: get the hell out of San Diego.
- Johan Santana: 109 wins at age 29 (-17), averages 15 wins per season. You might have expected to see this name sooner, but Santana spent the majority of his first three seasons coming out of the bullpen. Since becoming a starter, his wins per season is 17.2. Although the Mets offense is costing him wins this season, and although the NL East is an extremely competitive division, the Mets figure to be a top salary franchise for his tenure there.
- Roy Halladay: 95 wins at 29 (-31), 141 wins today, averages 17 wins per season. That 17 wins a season is incredible since, like Santana, Halladay spent the first few seasons of his career as a spot starter. Even this far down the list, playing in Toronto (as of today) in the brutal AL East, I think Halladay is the second most likely candidate, after Sabathia, to top 300. He reminds me most of Randy Johnson–a late bloomer who, once developed, couldn’t be stopped. The big difference is health–while Johnson has had back issues, he has never missed a single start due to his throwing arm. Halladay cannot make the same claim; the pursuit of 300 is equal parts talent, team, and stamina. As with Peavy, a change in location would likely help his win totals.
I think you can see why most of the ESPN commentators screw this one up–the two most dominant pitchers in recent memory (Santana and Halladay) aren’t necessarily the two most likely to challenge the 300 win plateau. But please, stop the sky-is-falling madness talk that no one in the majors is on pace to win 300 games.
To be a homer, here’s one more:
- Josh Beckett: 95 wins at age 29 (-31), averages 16 wins per season. My sole reason for considering Beckett is that he will likely spend the next decade playing for Boston. They will win a lot of games. If he can stay healthy, then, like Sabathia, he’s got a chance to win those “off” games (well maybe not Beckett’s “off” games–but that is another post). Beckett couldn’t stay healthy in his youth, and no doubt this will be a big concern moving forward. If he doesn’t completely break down, then he will be in an environment conducive to winning.
So, who did I miss?