Saturday, July 14, 2012

Are 300 Game Winners a Thing of the Past?

                  Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan: Two 300 Game Winners

There has only been 24 pitchers in baseball history to win 300 games in their careers. A lot of great pitchers haven't won 300 games. Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Pedro Martinez, Bob Feller, Whitey Ford, Catfish Hunter, Bert Blyleven, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, and Juan Marichal came short of 300 wins. Besides skill, it takes longevity and health to attain that many wins. Of the last ten pitchers to reach 300 wins, noly Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux did it before they turned 40. Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson won over 70 games after they turned 40, and Phil Niekro won 121 games after turning 40.

Some pitchers had to pitch past their prime to win 300. Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine are two recent examples. Sometimes, pitchers will fall just short despite their best efforts. Bert Blyleven and Tommy John pitched into their fourties, but fell less than 20 wins shy of 300. Niekro relied on his knuckleball to stay in the big leagues until 48. Don Sutton was known to use emory boards and doctor the ball, and Gaylord Perry liked to throw an occasional spitball.

It may be awhile before there is another 300 game winner. Some people say it will never happen again, but that's been said before. Six of the 24 300 winners pitched in the 19th century, and a seventh, Cy Young, pitched in the 1890's and 1900's. Five more won their 300th game before World War II. After Lefty Grove won his 300th game in 1941, it was 20 years until Warren Spahn became the next member of the 300 win club. Early Wynn got to 300 a couple years later, and it was almost another 20 years until Gaylord Perry became the next to do it. Nolan Ryan won his 300th in 1990, and some experts said that would never happen again. Four pitchers got to 300 wins from 2003 to 2009.

Right now, Jamie Moyer leads active pitchers with 269 wins. That's a loose description of active, and Moyer has been released three seperate times this year. He is also 49 years old. Moyer did set a record this year, becoming the oldest pitcher to ever win a game. Andy Pettitte is next with 243 wins, but is now 40. Pettitte's already retired once, and I doubt he sticks around long enough to get 57 more wins.

Roy Halladay has 192 wins at age 35. Let's say Doc gets to 200 wins by the end of the year, he would still need to pitch another six or seven years(or more) to get to 300. He would half to average 17 wins a year to do it in 6 years. Tim Hudson is at 188 wins at age 36, so the odds are even longer for Hudson than Halladay's.

After Halladay and Hudson, there is CC Sabathia and Mark Buehrle. Sabathia has 185 wins, and Buehrle has 169 wins. Livan Hernandez, Bartolo Colon, Derek Lowe, and Kevin Millwood, are all around that range, but they are barely hanging on. Sabathia and Buehrle are both lefties, and have a chance to pitch another ten years. Sabathia is two years younger than Buehrle, and CC is only 31 years old. Sabathia will have to keep in better shape to pitch long enough. Buehrle is a crafty lefty, and those types of pitcher's tend to have long careers. Recent examples are Moyer, Kenny Rogers, and David Wells. Still, Buehrle is a long ways off.

Justin Verlander has 116 wins at age 29. Let's assume Verlander doubles his win total of nine this year, giving him 125 wins. He would half to average 16 wins a year for the next 11 seasons, or 15 wins per year for the next 12 seasons to win 300. Dan Haren and Jake Peavy are around Verlander's win total, but they are both two years older than Verlander. It's hard to project what a pitcher will do for the next 10 years. There is always the risk of a shoulder injury, or a elbow injury.

Of pitchers younger than 30, I would say Felix Hernandez has the best shot to win 300. He is 26 years old, and has 91 career wins as of right now. If he doubled his win total to 12 this year, he would have 97. He would have well over 100 wins right now, if he didn't pitch for such a shitty team. I would think at some point, that either the Mariners will get good, or that King Felix will get traded/leave as a free agent. Still, King Felix has averaged 14 wins per 162 games. If he averaged that, and pitched until his early 40's, he would have 300.

Right now, I would say that CC Sabathia has the best chance of any active pitcher to win 300 games. Sabathia is a workhorse, and pitches for a perennial contender. He is about to turn 32, and is likely to have 200 wins before his 33rd birthday. CC had 176 wins after his age 30 season, which is more than the last 13 pitchers who won 300 games had. For example, Randy Johnson only had 81 wins after his age 30 season. I said that Sabathia's weight could be a problem, but he doesn't need to pitch into his mid-40's like Johnson did. Sabathia's averaged 17 wins per 162 games, and if he averaged that for another 7 years he would be at 300. CC would be 39 then, and even if he slacked off could hang around another year or two to get to 300 wins.

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