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.
Ok, so I opened last post saying how I prefer stories to predictions. And I offered some stories. But that doesn’t mean I am immune to the case of prediction-itis so contagious this time of year. I’ll keep it short, at least.
NL East: Phillies
Great pitching and a deep line-up. I don’t think their potential bullpen struggles will keep them from winning an improved division. 95 wins (+2 over last year).
NL Central: Cards
Albert Pujols might produce more runs than the Pirates. A strong rotation and capable bullpen should translate into 90 wins (-1 from last season) in a rather weak-pitching division.
NL West: Giants
Most of the experts are picking the Rockies–and I do like Jiminez and that rotation. But, if Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria can be better than terrible (and I think they can/will), then I believe the Giants offense will be improved enough to win 95 games. They can pitch. Well. 91 Wins (+3 over last season).
NL Wildcard: Braves
So I’m leaving the Rockies out of the playoffs. The Braves had a lot of issues last season, and still managed to win 86 games. This off-season, they added some nice pieces to give Bobby Cox one last run at a second ring. If everyone stays healthy, I like their chances [note: I acknowledge that as a super-tremendous “if”] to win 91 games (+5) and win the wild card.
AL East: Rays
Yes. You read that properly. I think the Rays will be motivated this season (i.e., many contract years) and that their young pitchers will produce (well, I’m not sure about Wade Davis, but the other four should be good). A deep starting pitching staff and dynamic offense will put up somewhere around 95 wins (+12 over last season).
AL Central: White Sox
Hey did anyone else notice that this team got Jake Peavy? As in, the Jake Peavy? The really dominant guy who pitched in the middle of nowhere for half a decade? Yeah, they got that guy. 90 wins (+11 over last season).
AL West: Um… Angels or Mariners? Maybe the Rangers? Oakl… nevermind, the A’s Stink
Ok, I know I have to pick one. But this is an ugly division. Even the Rangers could win–although I don’t think they can survive the heat (literally, it just wears them down). I really like the Mariners, but Cliff Lee’s early injury has me concerned. Ultimately, I think the Mariners make for a good story, but the Angles have the better, more experienced, and more consistent roster. Even without Lackey, they find a way to win 89 games (-8 games).
AL Wild Card: Red Sox
I think the new rotation will hold up, and that the bullpen will be stronger than many realize. The offense is not as light as people think. The real issue here, of course, is that I am leaving the Yankees out of the playoffs. I’ll make a case that this is not merely wishful thinking. The Yankees keep getting older. Last year no one thought the Yankees’ pitching staff could survive 162 games. I know they added Vasquez, but he comes with AL question marks (and comes from one of the lightest hitting divisions in baseball last season). Just because Pettitte and Burnett made it through a complete season last year doesn’t make it more likely that they will this year. Very few people in the professional media are willing to bet against the Yanks. I am. Injuries hurt their rotation. Red Sox 93 wins (-2). Yankees 92 (-11) wins. The AL Beast should provide one hell of a show.
So I suppose I should write a quick something about who will beat who in that other season after the real season. Hmm. AL: Red Sox beat White Sox. Rays beat Angels. Red Sox beat Rays (Rays have more quality starters for the regular season, Red Sox have more horses built for the playoffs). NL: Giants beat the Braves. Phillies beat the Cards. Giants beat the Phillies [blue plate upset special].
World Series: Red Sox Beat the Giants
Now that would be a nice story.
Lunch break is over–off to grade some papers (while I listen to some baseball). Apologies to Cubs fans.