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.
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?