I’m watching opening day. Wonderful.
I’ve been meaning to write a “here comes 2011” post for weeks now; I guess late is better than never. Most of what I have to say has been said in one place or another.
I’m optimistic about 2011 for the Red Sox, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t worried about the pitching staff. I read a provocative question regarding the Sox staff somewhere this Spring: “Is the Red Sox staff good, or merely deep?” It strikes me as a legitimate question.
#1: Sure, Lester is an ace. No questions there.
#2: Buchholz is the poster child for sabermetric regression. Virtually every advanced metric last year (especially BABIP, xFIP, K/BB. K/9and strand rate) suggests that Buchholz was exceptionally lucky, and that his 2.33 ERA was something of a mirage. He won’t suddenly sink, but don’t be surprised to see an ERA closer to 4.00 than 3.00 this year. That’s good, not great.
#3: Beckett. Sigh. Entering the first year of a 4 year, 60 million dollar extension, one really has to wonder how much Beckett has left in the tank. This spring was not reassuring. When healthy, Beckett has a wicked curve and a nasty fastball. When not, his back injury flattens out both pitches and wrecks his control. Fingers crossed that we get more Dr. Beckett, and less Mr. Hyde.
#4: Lackey. I wasn’t a big fan of this signing last season, and I wasn’t surprised to see Lackey put up mediocre numbers last season. The guy is a horse, and he’g likely going to pitch his 200 innings. But they won’t be great innings–expect another 4.50 ERA.
#5: Dice-k? Wake? Doubrount? Player to be named later? Its hard to guess who will finish the year as the #5. Certainly, Dice “I can’t throw a ******* strike” K will be in line for the job, given his $10 million salary.
The bullpen should be outstanding. Any potential struggles by Papelbon should be absorbed by Bard (who will certainly be the closer after Papelbon departs for the Yankees this offseason). Jenks and Wheeler give nice 7th and 8th inning depth. I am a bit surprised that perennial prospect Michael Bowden didn’t make the team.
Obviously, this offense is ungodly. The Sox boast a potential all-time 1-6 with Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Youkilis, Gonzalez, and Ortiz. I mean, JD Drew isn’t an all-star anymore, but its pretty scary when he’s your #7. The Sox will score runs. And, assuming Youkilis holds up at third (and I think he’ll be ok in terms of zone rating), they can field the ball, too.
The big question for me centers around Josh Beckett. I think that will determine whether the Red Sox win 95 games (and perhaps the division) or 90 games (and perhaps miss the playoffs).
The Yankees figure to be very good. There offense might come down a bit (Jeter, A-Rod, and Posada are all getting older), but I think their gamble on veteran, back-end starters is likely to pay off. I figure the Yanks can win 95 games.
I think the Rays are in trouble. Yes, they have the best starting pitching in the loaded AL East. And, yes, traditionally starting pitching wins in the regular season. But the AL East is a different beast–and all the other teams have very strong lineups (even Baltimore). I’m not sure starting pitching is enough, especially since the Rays bullpen got raped in the off-season. You can’t seriously start Dan Johnson at first base and hope to compete in the AL East. I figure, given their pitching, the Rays will win 90 games.
The AL Central has a few top contenders, and a few real stinkers–so I wouldn’t be surprised if that division put up two 94 game winners. And, since I think all five AL East teams are strong, I would be surprised to see three teams equal the win totals of the top AL East teams last season. In other words, I’m not convinced that the wild card will come out of the East–it certainly could, and probably will, but I don’t think it is the given that it has been lately.
So, here’s to hoping that I’m wrong about the pitching staff. That Buchholz is an ace. That Beckett is still a potential 20 game winner. That the Lackey who lived in LA will finally arrive in Boston. That somebody translates “contract year” into Japanese. Because, otherwise, this great lineup might sit home and watch the playoffs. Again.
Back in April, I wrote a list of Seven Red Sox Story Lines for 2010. Let’s see how they played out.
1. John Lackey‘s health
Lackey remained healthy all season, unfortunately those sub-par career numbers in Fenway Park weren’t just the result of a small sample size. Although, to be honest, his Home/Road split this year is nearly identical. You’ve got to wonder why Lackey put up the worst WHIP and K/9 of his career this year. Given that its the first year of a questionable contract, I am concerned. Let’s hope that uncharacteristically high BABIP is an aberration (especially on a team built for defense), and that he can knock a run of his 4.50 ERA next year. There is hope here, since his FIP is 3.88.
2. Can Defense Really Win?
OK, was that great defensive team ever on the field together? Ellsbury was out most of the year, as was Cameron. Fangraphs shows the Red Sox’s team defense numbers as mediocre–right in the middle of the league. Of course, the way this team hit for much of the season, they were able to win with offense. The loss of Youkilis (on top of Pedroia) is what really did this team in–they are 3 games over .500 without him.
3. Does This Team Really Have a 4th Starter?
Holy crap they do. Clay Buchholz has been the best starter on the team this year. I’m not sure who the #5 will be next year, but you have to feel good about a rotation of Lester, Buchholz, Beckett, Lackey, and any one else.
4. Can This Team Score Runs?
Here’s the questions I aksed in order:
- Which David Ortiz shows up? One who can hit .250 with 30 home runs or one who can hit .200 with 15 home runs? Or one that hits like Pat Burrell (ewww….)? Answer: The good Ortiz. Eventually. A big question for the Red Sox this off-season will be what to do with Papi. I’ll save that for another post.
- Is Scutaro a one year wonder?Answer: Yes. I wrote in another post that the Red Sox needed last year’s Scutaro–the one who walked 90 times to push his OBP to .379. They didn’t get that guy. Scutaro is back to his career averages this year, which means a .331 OBP.
- Will Cameron have more hits or strikeouts? (Hint: the last time he had more hits than k’s was 2000).Answer: 14 BB, 44 K’s, and only 48 games.
- Can Drew repeat his stellar 2009?
Answer: No. This is one of the worst seasons of Drew’s career–his OPS is below .800. Its too bad he’s slated to earn 15 million plus for one more year.
- Will Ellsbury continue to grow or has he plateau-ed?
Answer: Oh the injustice of it all.
5. Will Josh Reddick Break Through this Season?
I wrote this post after Reddick finished his second straight insane Spring Training. But that seems to be the only place that Reddick shines. Reddick struggled through a terrible season at Pawtucket and has a .630 OPS in 53 PA this season. We did have a few great call-ups this year: Darnell McDonald has a .779 OPS (that’s .011 less than Drew for about 14.5 million fewer dollars), and Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish surprised in flashes. Any of those guys could be a 4th outfielder next season.
6. Adrian Gonzalez (?)
Who would have thought the Padres would be contending for a title this year? Gonzalez should be an MVP candidate, and the Red Sox will likely have to wait and see if the Padres give him the Mauer treatment this off-season.
7. Will Josh Bard Develop Into the Next Papelbon (Literally)?
I thought this was from left field, but I was right! Bard is every bit the stud he was advertised to be, and should be the closer opening day 2011. I don’t know if Paps will be traded or not, but Bard is clearly the future at the back of the Boston pen.
Last year I put up a post on the likelihood of another pitcher winning 300 games. For my research, I looked at the career wins progression of the four last pitchers to reach that milestone–Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and Johnson. The research showed that a pitcher should have 125 wins by the end of the season in which they turn 30. They will also have to average 16.3 wins per season for their career. Here’s how the pitchers on that list look one year later:
CC Sabathia – 149-85 – Age 29. This guy is pretty far ahead of the requisite pace for 300 wins. And, as much as I hate it and his Yankee pin stripes, he’s got the frame to last. As a Red Sox fan, I hope his love of cheeseburgers and chili flies overwhelms him and his digestive system. But I have a feeling he’s a lock for 300, if not 350.
Carlos Zambrano – 108-74 – Age 29. What a difference a year makes. On the plus side, he’s still not 30 and is pretty close to the pace needed to reach 300. On the negative side, he’s a * emotional train wreck and a right-handed pitcher with career control problems. Given the size of his contract, you have to figure that he’ll get another chance to return to the rotation. But this guy doesn’t scream longevity.
Mark Buehrle – 144-105 – Age 31. His numbers suggest he should have more wins. 6 games in 2009 in which he went six or more innings, allowed 2 or fewer runs, and took either a loss or a no-decision. In 2008, that happened 7 times. In 2007, 4 times. So, basically, playing for an inconsistent White Sox offense is costing Buehrle 5 wins a season. Ouch.
Jake Peavy – 102-74 – Age 29 – Once again, what a difference a year makes. When I wrote up my research last season, Peavy was on the DL with a minor injury. I ended up writing: “I think we all know what has to happen for Peavy to have a shot at this: get the hell out of San Diego.” Well, he got out of San Diego right before they got good and he didn’t really upgrade; the White Sox play in a more competitive division and have a craptastic offense. And this Peavy isn’t necessarily that Peavy, the guy who from 2004 to 2008 notched a 2.95 ERA and put 1010 K’s against 292 BB’s in only 968.2 innings. That guy should have had a way better record than 92-68 (his career record with the Padres from 2002 until 2009). The good news for baseball fans is that Peavy might return to that kind of form. This season, his April was terrible–an .861 opposing OPS and a 20-22 BB-K ratio, translating into a 7.85 ERA. May was just an unlucky month, his incredible 5-40 BB-K ratio and his .279 opposing OBP somehow (7 HR’s) into a 5.09 ERA. But June was kind to Peavy–a realistic 8-29 BB-K ratio and stellar opponent splits of .194-.245-.279. Just as hope emerged, however, Peavy detached a lat muscle (seriously?) and will miss the rest of the year. As talented as he is, I’m starting to wonder if a long career isn’t in the stars for Peavy. Two lost seasons to injury, and probably 25 lost wins to a lousy Padres team are likely to keep him from every sniffing 250 wins, let alone 300.
Johan Santana 130 – 65 – Age 31 – Santana is two years older than Sabathia, Zambrano, or Peavy, and that makes any chance at 300 much more unlikely. To put it in perspective, presuming he will pitch for another 11 years, he would have to win more games over the second half of his career than he did over the first half. And as any ESPN color man will rush to tell you, his fastball isn’t what it once was. Think Pedro Martinez in his 30’s. Santana was never as high as Pedro, but he also probably won’t far as fall. Why? Because he’s a lefty with an excellent off-speed pitch. Jamie Moyer and Tom Glavine are two reasons not to completely remove him from the 300 win club. Lefties can last forever.
Roy Halladay 159 – 84 – Age 33 – HOW THE HELL IS THIS GUY 11-8 THIS SEASON? Seriously, his ERA is 2.28. I’m not really a big Phillie fan unless my friend Dan is around, but the Phillies are putting a pretty big dent into Halladay’s pursuit of 300. When you’re 33 years old and behind the pace, every win counts. Looking through the game log, Halladay should be 15-4. My research last year pointed to Randy Johnson as an outlier to the expected 300 wins pace. Johnson only had 75 wins by the age of 30, yet went on to win over 300. I think Halladay could have a similar trajectory–but come on Phillies, do your part.
Josh Beckett 107 – 69 – Age 30 – At 30, Beckett is about 18 wins behind the pace, probably not a good side for a guy that struggles to start 33 games a year. I still think Beckett has an outside shot at this because he plays for Boston (and you can see this just by looking at his W-L record next to his ERA, no need for fancy stats, the Sox score runs). This year Beckett has missed a number of starts and has catalogued all of 3 decisions by July 28th. Not good.
Here’s two new additions to my list:
Justin Verlander 77 – 49 – Age 27 – Ok, its really early in his career to put him in this discussion. But I think this guy has “horse” written all over him. And while his 2008 was a 11-17 disaster, that season stands out as an aberration in an otherwise strong career. He’s 12-6 through 21 this year (on pace for around 18-9). While it is early in his career, he’s ahead of the requisite 300 win pace by a pretty wide margin.
Andy Pettitte 240 – 137 – Age 38 – I hate this guy. No, I’ve never met him in person. But he’s not just a Yankee, he’s kind of the Yankee. Or, at the very least, a benefit of the Yankee effect. Cause, you see, he’s really not that good a pitcher. But if you pitch innings for the Yanks, you are going to win tons of games. This is probably the best season of his career–it will be interesting to see how he pitches when he returns from the DL. I’ve already noted that lefties can last forever, and so there’s not really a reason why Pettitte can’t pitch another six seasons (yuck), or until he’s 44. Even if he didn’t win another game this season, he would only have to win 10 games a year. Pitching for the Yankees, he should have 10 wins by the All-Star break.
[And, in the interest of objectivity, transparency, or self-reflection, I understand that the only difference between my assessment of Beckett and my disdain of Pettitte is the uniform they wear.]
Guys that have enough wins to mention but no shot of reaching 300:
Barry Zito 141 – 112 – Age 32 He’s a lefty. He’s won 141 games by age 32 (remember that 300 pace suggests winning 125 by age 30). But all the sabermetric or sophisticated statistical evaluations I’ve read this summer suggest that his 2010 success is largely a mirage. At his core, he’s still that 4.56 ERA guy whose pitched for the Giants the past 3 years. One other thing in his favor– he just doesn’t get hurt. And he tosses so slowly that we might be talking a future Jamie Moyer.
John Garland 126 -109 – Age 30. I can’t believe I am looking at John Garland’s baseball reference page. But, somehow, this guy is on pace for 300 games. Seriously. He is. Will he continue on this pace? Every fiber of my being says “no.” But, in terms of the list above, only Sabathia is technically more likely to reach 300. How? Well Garland was one of the few pitchers of this generation who was rushed to the majors (he started 13 games at 20 years old). And, unlike Buerhle, he got out of Chicago before they started to stink. Wait, Jesus Christ, I’ve almost talked myself into thinking he belongs in this discussion. I’m going to stop right now.
A Guy who is probably too young to talk about but still worth noting:
Felix Hernandez 65 – 48 – Age 24 – Too bad he’s wasting a great season on a terrible team. But he might be a mini-Sabathia. If this guy goes to the Yankees, I’ll be pretty pissed.
I started this project last season because I was sick of hearing that no one would ever win 300 games again. Sabathia’s career thus far suggests that’s ludicrous, I’d be more surprised if he didn’t win 300 games. Last season, however, there were a few other pitchers who had a strong change to join the club with Sabathia. Just one year later both Zambrano and Peavy feel like impossible long shots. Halladay’s strong performance in Philadelphia suggests he might be the next Randy Johnson, a late-blooming 300 game winner.
Julia’s Rants has a piece up today urging Theo et al. to complete an extension with Josh Beckett before the season starts. Yesterday (Tuesday), the Sporting News reported that the Sox were close to a 4 year contract extension with Beckett that mirrored the 16.5 million dollars per season given to John Lackey. It is likely that Beckett will get his extension with Boston. There’s not really any marque free agent pitcher on the market next season other than Beckett. There’s Tim Hudson, Brandon Webb, and Cliff Lee (at least for now), but they all come with injury concerns larger than Beckett’s. In addition to Julia, there’s talk across Red Sox Nation that this is a good deal, and that I should be happy. But, to draw on Malcolm Gladwell, something doesn’t feel right about this one to me–my blink sense is tingling.
Last season, I compared Beckett to Jekyll and Hyde for his weird statistical breakdown–Beckett has very few mediocre outings. He’s either brilliant (most of the time) or absolutely terrible (about 5 outings a year). Were you to cut four starts out of last season, Beckett’s ERA drops almost a full run (from 3.86 to 2.99).
Cumulatively, there’s nothing in his statistics to outright poo-poo a long-term deal or justify 16.5 million a season. Over the past four years, Beckett has compiled a 65 and 34 record (.657 %), 4.05 ERA, and 8.2 k/9. He has 75 quality starts and an ERA+ of 116. Besides the winning percentage, all of these numbers are good–not great. And, if you believe in neutralization, then you might point out that his neutralized record during his four years in Boston would only be 46-40 (instead of the 65-34 he has actually complied). So, while his neutralized ERA is lower, sabermetrics indicate that he has benefited from the Red Sox more than the Red Sox have benefited from him… But I’m not sure that this is what makes me hesitate toward the idea of locking Beckett up for four years. He’ll still, of course, be a Red Sox and continue to benefit from our increased defense and offensive production.As many note, there are durability questions surrounding Beckett that have followed him throughout his career. But unlike with the Marlins, Beckett has been able to reach two major milestones in 3 of his 4 years with the Red Sox–30 starts and 200 innings pitched
When I think about this extension, I am haunted by the ghosts of Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt, Kevin Brown, Mike Hampton, and Mark Mulder [*question to Cub fans: one more mediocre season and we might put Carlos Zambrano and his 100 million dollar contract on this list?] All guys who signed large contracts somewhere around their 30th birthday. All got paid significant money to not pitch by the end of their contracts (ok, so Zito is still pitching, but will he be in another 6 years?). Perhaps I am paranoid, but I feel that Beckett is a prime candidate to end up on this list. Certainly, one has to wonder, given those terrible outings, if Beckett is the kind of pitcher who will be able to adjust his game as he ages and loses a few mph.
Sometimes, I honestly hope I am wrong about stuff. This is one of those times. I hope Beckett signs the extension and wins 70 games over those four years. Last year, I did argue that he was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball if you overlook his few aberrant starts every season. I guess my fear is that those aberrant starts will begin appearing with more regularity as he ages.
On a side note, here’s a great article from 2008 theorizing that slight kinesthetic differences explain Zito’s rapid decline. The distance from Cy Young to bum seems to be a few centimeters side to side.
Josh Beckett has always been something of a mystery to me, for the simple fact that he is the best pitcher I know of who regularly has terrible days. Its as if once every other month he is committed to destroying his ERA. But I think the strange case of Dr. Beckett and his alter ego show how misleading the ERA statistic can be.
Take this season–Beckett comes into today’s (gulp) game against the Yankees with a pedestrian 3.38 ERA. Perhaps pedestrian is a bit harsh, given that he pitches in the offensively loaded AL East. But here’s the thing–if we want to measure effectiveness on a game-by-game basis of giving his team the best chance to win, then I will argue that Beckett is the best pitcher in the American League. But to make that argument, I would have to abandon a cumulative stat like ERA. Why? Because of Beckett’s propensity toward the absolute stinker game. Here goes…
This season, Beckett has a total of 6 non-quality starts in 24 starts. That’s a very strong 75% quality start rate. Further in his favor, in 7 games this season, Beckett has held the opposition scoreless (and all but one of those games were at least 7 innings). Here’s a breakdown of Beckett’s starts by ERA in 2009:
- ERA Sub 2.00: 10
- ERA 2.01-3.50: 3
- ERA 3.51-4.50: 5
- ERA 4.51-6.00: 1
- ERA 6.00-8.99: 1
- ERA 9.00+: 4
Can anyone else tell me of a pitcher who is so [usually] hit or [occasionally] miss? I haven’t seen it. Against that cumulative ERA of 3.38, Beckett has an ERA of 2.10 if we cut out those four off days. Put another way, almost half of Beckett’s ER allowed in 2009 (28 of 61) have come in 1/6 of his starts (4 of 24). Its weird.
And lest anyone think this year is an anomaly, you will find a similar split in all of this previous seasons with the Red Sox. What separates his Cy Young season in 2007 from his 5+ ERA season is merely keeping it together on the off days:
- ERA Sub 2.00: 8
- ERA 2.01-3.50: 11
- ERA 3.51-4.50: 2
- ERA 4.51-6.00: 1
- ERA 6.00-8.99: 2
- ERA 9.00+: 4
- ERA Sub 2.00: 7
- ERA 2.01-3.50: 6
- ERA 3.51-4.50: 6
- ERA 4.51-6.00: 2
- ERA 6.00-8.99: 4
- ERA 9.00+: 7
- ERA Sub 2.00: 13
- ERA 2.01-3.50: 9
- ERA 3.51-4.50: 4
- ERA 4.51-6.00: 5
- ERA 6.00-8.99: 1
- ERA 9.00+: 2
- ERA Sub 2.00: 9
- ERA 2.00-3.50: 7
- ERA 3.51-4.50: 4
- ERA 4.51-6.00: 1
- ERA 6.00-8.99: 4
- ERA 9.00+: 5
I think the pattern is clear: Beckett is consistently (occasionally) inconsistent. I’ll have to look at a few other pitchers for comparison, but I challenge anyone to find me another pitcher who has as many incredibly dominant days and yet absolutely craptastic days as Josh Beckett. With the Yanks in town and the Rangers and Rays on our heels, here’s hoping for the good Doctor today.
The next week will be a trial by fire for this Red Sox team as they face the Rays and Yankees six times. With the exception of Wakefield, the Red Sox find themselves at full strength. I will be paying close attention to the pitching match-ups the next six days, since, if you remember, I was most concerned about our lack of a legitimate 3rd starter heading into the trade deadline. Wakefield might be one of the best fourth starters of all-time (no exaggeration) given his consistent ability to deliver 6+ innings. You can plug him in near the end of the rotation and know that your bullpen will actually get some rest. That is invaluable over a 162 game season. But what you can’t count on him for is giving you quality innings. That isn’t too valuable in the hyper-shortened post season. Wakefield’s post season ERA with the Red Sox sits just south of 8.00. Let’s not forget that the most important start of Wake’s post-season career is the one he didn’t make.
Thus the question: will a legitimate third starter emerge on this team? I am hoping the quasi-playoff atmosphere of the next week will give some indication. Buchholz is probably the favorite–but his first-strike-percentage has been up and down. I think this is the key for him (as it is for any pitcher, but especially for the young Buchholz who acknowledges some psychological misgivings on the mound): throw those strikes. Anywho, here’s the Sox pitching match-ups for the next week.
Red Sox vs. Rays
- Lester vs. Garza: I expect a great match-up, these guys are probably even. I’ll say pick’em odds on this one. Lester’s ERA is inflated due to a few early poor starts. Garza has been nothing short of electric against the Sox (he reminds me of Dave Stewart–a pitcher who plays his best against the best).
- Penny vs. Price: These guys both struggle, so, while I’m close to another pick’em, I’ll give Tampa Bay and Price a small advantage. Price has a tendency to overthrow his fastball and loses control. Penny has a tendency to leave fastballs (a bit, um, underthrown) over the heart of the plate. The Rays all-or-nothing, strike-out-or-homer strategy means Penny is just the guy they like to see; Price’s control struggles make him an ideal target for the Red Sox’s general plate discipline. As if you can’t tell, I am suggesting you bet the over on this one.
Red Sox vs. Yankees
- Smoltz vs. Chamberlain: I read an interesting Sabermetric evaluation of Smoltz’s number the other day, suggesting that his FIP numbers (fielding independent pitching) were right on his career averages. In other words, that he has been the victim of statistical improbability rather than poor performance and that, in turn, Red Sox fans have room for optimism. To that I say “bunk.” Guys get old and leave pitches in bad places (funny thing: a commentator left such a remark on the forums, suggesting that the statistical evidence might fail to account for contextual factors, and the gallery near booed him from the stage. I like it when empiricist utterly disregard rhetorical factors. I makes me feel like my job really matters). Yankees and Chamberlain
- Beckett and Burnett: In the battle of ex-Marlins, I am going with “big” brother. Red Sox and Beckett
- Buchholz and Sabathia: Duh. Yankees and Sabathia
- Lester and Pettitte: While Pettitte has been solid this season, Lester’s June and July have been fantastic (8 QS in 10 GS). Lester and the Red Sox
Again, an interesting week. I think the Sox will be satisfied if they come out of the road trip 3-3. To do that, they really need to split the series with the Rays. Here’s hoping Lester brings some of his magic tonight.
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?