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.