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Wild Card: Future of 300
When Tom Glavine earned the 300th win of his career this past Sunday in Chicago, there was a great deal of pontificating going on in the press and on the blogs about whether or not another pitcher would ever reach the 300-win milestone. The YES Network’s Al Leiter, Glavine’s former rotation mate with the Mets and a pitcher who won 162 games over a 19-year-career, is among those who are utterly convinced that Glavine will be the last man to reach the 300-win mark. He’s wrong.
If there’s one thing baseball teaches us, it’s to never say never. Consider Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak. That looked like the most untouchable record in the game until Cal Ripken sailed past it, outdistancing Gehrig’s mark by nearly 25 percent. Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak will fall one day, and one of these years someone is going to hit .400 again. The only records and milestones that seem truly untouchable are the pitching records from the deadball era and 19th century. We won’t see Cy Young’s 511 wins threatened until a new era arrives in which pitchers once again start 50-plus games a year, which could be as close to never as we’ll get. That said, Roger Clemens is just 21 wins behind Grover Cleveland Alexander’s and Christy Mathewson’s third-place total of 373 wins, a mark which Warren Spahn missed by just 10 wins. Greg Maddux, who is three years younger than Clemens, is 33 wins short of Alexander and Mathewson. If two men who spent their entire careers pitching in five-man rotations can threaten to surpass 373 wins, whose to say that there’s not a school kid somewhere who might become the next 400-game winner, particularly as advanced analysis pushes for the return of the four-man rotation?
Most of the bloviating about Glavine being the last 300-game winner has focused on the other men toward the top of the active career wins list. Randy Johnson is just 16 wins away, but two back surgeries in a 12-month span may have just ended his Hall of Fame career. Mike Mussina is 54 wins short and has experienced a considerable decline in effectiveness over the past four seasons. After Moose, things look even bleaker. Of course, that’s an extremely shortsighted way to look at a milestone that has been reached just three times since Nolan Ryan joined the 300-win club in 1990.
When Ryan reached the mark, there was much of the same speculation. At that time the active wins leaders after Ryan were 39-year-old Bert Blyleven (279), 41-year-olds Jerry Reuss, who retired at the end of the 1990 season with 220 wins, and Rick Reuschel (213), 36-year-old Frank Tanana (203), and 35-year-old Jack Morris (191). Looking at that list, the prospects for another 300-game winner seem even more dire then than they are now. In 1990, the best hopes, aside from Blyleven, who seemed to sneak up on every one only to fall short of the mark after missing the entire 1991 season due to injury, were youngsters, specifically Roger Clemens and Dwight Gooden. Clemens was at his peak age of 27 in 1990 and was putting the finishing touches on his third 20-win season when Ryan picked up 300. In fact, the night before Ryan’s milestone win, Clemens picked up the 109th victory of his career. Gooden, who was two years Clemens’ junior, earned his 109th win the night before that. Gooden would win just 85 more games before retiring short of 200. Clemens would go on to win 350 and beyond. As for Maddux and Glavine, both were 24 in 1990, and, though that made them only a year younger than Gooden, Maddux had less than half as many victories, compiling 52 for the Cubs to that point, while Glavine had won just 29 for a Braves team that had never won as many as 70 games in Glavine’s four years with the team.
The lesson here is that the search for the next 300-game winner needn’t begin with the rickety vets atop the active wins list, but should focus instead on the young studs who are both among the best pitchers in the game and who have compiled a good number of wins at a young age. The chart below lists 13 pitchers under the age of 30 (and one slightly over) who are either ahead of or within range of Glavine’s win total at the same age and compares their win totals them to Glavine’s, Maddux’s, Clemens’ and Ryan’s at the same age. I’ve also included the 300-game winners’ age 41 total at the top to illustrate the accelerated paces of Maddux and Clemens and the fact that Ryan’s pace slowed considerably between the ages of 31 and 41 due to the poor support he received while with the Astros. Ryan won 12 or fewer games in seven of his nine seasons in Houston including a mere eight wins in his otherwise Cy Young-worth 1987 season. Just as Hank Aaron told Barry Bonds on Tuesday night, accomplishing any of baseball’s hallowed milestones requires “skill, longevity, and determination." Skill alone is not enough.
Looking at this chart it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect at least one and perhaps two or three of these pitchers to reach 300 wins. First, let’s trim away some of the chaff. Hudson is enjoying a renaissance of sorts this season and is on pace for 18 wins with the Braves, but he’s 22 wins behind Glavine’s pace despite having pitched on strong teams throughout his career. On the surface, Hudson feels like a good comparison to Glavine, but he may be more like Mussina without the strikeouts. Hudson’s former teammate Zito is simply not the elite pitcher he was in his early 20s. Zito is here largely as a result of the 47 games he won by age 24. I have similar doubts about Buehrle, Garland, and Willis, all fine pitchers, but outside of his 2005 season, Garland has been league average throughout his career, while Willis has displayed alarming inconsistency. Of that group, Buehrle seems like the only true contender for a run at 300, though his ugly 2006 season for a good White Sox team put added doubt in many minds.
Then there are the pitchers with sketchy injury histories, such as Beckett and Kazmir, who have just two 30-start seasons between them. That Beckett has made this list despite his history of injuries and is now in the middle of a second (mostly) healthy season as a member of the perennial playoff-contending Boston Red Sox bodes well for his chances to improve in the near future. The same can be said for Santana, who didn’t become a full-time starter until his age-25 season, and has won 67 games in the 3 2/3 seasons since then. On the flip side, Felix Hernandez could be a victim of too much, too soon, having broken into the leagues at 19, like Gooden, and having already broken down once this season with elbow problems.
The most compelling cases are Oswalt, who despite a reputation for fragility has failed to make 30 starts just once in his career, that coming four years ago in 2003, the youngster Bonderman, who has been handled very carefully by a Detroit franchise that has turned itself into a winner just in time for Bonderman to emerge as the team’s ace (if only Justin Verlander, who has half as many wins at the same age, would cooperate), and the three age-26 pitchers, Sabathia, Zambrano, and Peavy. Though trailing the other two, Peavy pitches for a perennial contender in the most extreme pitchers’ park in baseball and, in his best seasons, of which this is one, has been the best pitcher in the league. That said, there’s some concern is that his home park could undermine his win total by inhibiting his run support the same way the Astrodome inhibited Ryan’s run support in the 1980s. The biggest concern about Zambrano, who despite his volatile nature has been a model of season-to-season consistency, is that Dusty Baker’s workload chickens will come home to roost and peck away Big Z’s shoulder the same way they did Mark Prior’s and Kerry Woods’. Which leaves Sabathia, who is not only on the best pace of any of the pitchers on the above chart other than 21-year-old King Felix, but has been handled expertly by the extremely well-run Cleveland Indians franchise and has been exhibiting steady improvement throughout his seven-year career as a result.
Not included on that chart are the top prospects. Whose to say that the Yankees’ Phil Hughes, who is already in the big league rotation at age 21, or the Red Sox’s Clay Buchholz, who could join Boston’s starting five next year at age 23, won’t ride their respective franchises’ ability to put together consistent winners all the way to 300 wins? Or that small-bodied Tim Lincecum won’t follow Oswalt up the career wins list? Or that Andrew Miller doesn’t give the Tigers their third potential 300-game winner? Of course, only a few if any of the pitchers I’ve discussed above will actually reach that milestone, but that’s why it’s considered such an achievement.
If it happened more often, it would lose it’s significance. Tom Glavine doesn’t need to be the last 300-game winner for his 300th win to be viewed as a tremendous achievement. Which is good, because he won’t be.
Labels: Wild Card
posted by SI.com | View comments |
I don't think Oswaly plans on playing that long so you can probably take him off.
I think you failed to mention one by the name of Cole Hamels ,pitches for the Phillies he is basically a rookie and just might make it to 20 wins this year
I don't see why Buehrle's one bad half season questions his ability. He's been one of the best pitchers in the AL this seasons as well. He's the kind of guy who could pitch into his 40s.
About Garland, people feel that he really turned his career around in 2005, and in 2006, he had a deadarm period in the first half. This year his ERA is inflated because of two or three bad starts. Perhaps this is a disturbing trend where he'll be a one-half pitcher, or maybe he'll become dominant.
Buehrle has a much better shot, but Garland isn't out of the question.
wow i didnt know Bonderman had that many wins he's pretty good, but i think both Sabathia and Zambrano will reach it. I like Santana so i hope he does too, i would like to include Jake Peavy but his chronic arm problems although none this season makes me question him, but how about his teammate Young i wonder how his numbers matched up.
Unbreakable records.....how about Pete Rose's 4,256 hits? Think about it, someone comes up at the very young age of 20, has to have 200 hits for 20 years and, at the age of 40 still needs 257 hits to surpass Rose...
Where's Cole Hamels?????
Isn't Roy Halladay and his 108 WINS not good enough to make your list?
the only one with a shot is a *healthy* randy johnson.
thanks to the 5-man rotation, none of today's young pitchers will ever win 300.
250 will become the new benchmark for HOF inclusion...
I think Halladay should definately be there
I think Oswalt will play that long, and get there (to 300, I mean). I know he said he doesn't plan on playing any longer than his existing contract, but I bet he does. If he does, I think all he needs to do is stay healthy, and he'll reach 300 - and I don't say that lightly. But he's one of those very rare guys that will not only beat you on days when he doesn't have his good stuff, but he'll completely dominate you with or without his good stuff. I don't think he'll ever throw a no-hitter, because he challenges in the strike zone nonstop to all hitters all the time. It's nothing to see the guy go 2 or 3 innings without getting to 3 balls on any hitter - with so aggressive an approach, he likely won't get any no-nos - but he'll get win after win after win as long as he's playing. If Houston didn't have those long stretches where their entire line up just takes the day off, he'd never fail to reach 20 wins - he would have won 22 last year if Houston could have scored at least 2 runs in 7 of his starts. He's clearly the best starter in the bigs, I think.
You might as well put Halladay there, if you are going to put the likes of Zito(who probably is going to suck for the next 7 years).
I think Roy Halladay does not get enough credit by the american media
Halladay is better than Buerle, Zito and Hudson.
How can you not have halladay on the list???? If it weren't for injury plagued seasons (in which he still won over 10 games) halladay would have at least 20 more wins. He still has ace stuff and has a better chance that barry zito.
Halladay should be there (this is my first comment in case you are wondering if I'm the guy that;s been ranting about him). I also think Hamels, Carmona and Liriano should be there.
Why did you mention Phil Hughes and the Red Sox prospect on the bottom of your article? sure they're talented but they have yet to prove anything.
none of these guys will win 300 games.the next 300 game winner probably isnt even born yet
cole hamels anyone??
If it weren't for Kevin Mench in 05 Halladay would have been there because it he were able to finish that season it would have been statistically better than his Cy young year.
Does the person that said 250 is gonna be the new 300 for hof inclusion think that Clemens, Maddux, or Glavine ever played in anything but a five man rotation. Do your research pal!
C.C I think has the best chance because he is not just a power pitcher. He can pitch into his 40's
If Bonderman can get past whatever is going wrong with him right now in this, his first post-postseason season (I'm a little worried he's hurt), and come out on the other side unfazed...write this down...he will break out big-time next year. Before his last four starts have destroyed his numbers, he was dead even with Verlander in most categories, with his W, L, WHIP, K, K/9, etc. virtually identical. The only difference between the two was that Bonderman's ERA was about 0.3 points higher, and his K/BB was right around DOUBLE Verlander's...well above 4. I hope he's just tired right now or something and just needs his second wind. If he stays healthy and continues to blossom into his prime over the next couple years, on this Tigers team, he's got a very, very good shot at 300 someday.
I didn't realize that Glavine, Maddux, and Clemens ever pitched in a 4-man rotation. I'm glad some of these postings cleared that up for me.
I love how you left out Cole Hamels, he is absolutely above and beyond better than Linceum. Guy is a stud, and he's extremely young!
Garland IS out of the question. Two or three bad starts shouldn't inflate one's ERA that much at this point in the season. Garland is what he is...mediocre.
Just how old is Roy Halladay?
And about Rose's record for hits: if Ichiro had played his entire career in MLB, he would be on his way to crushing that record as he is good for greater than 200 hits/year. I think the only untouchable records are Cy Young's 511 wins, and Joe D's 56.
Neither here nor there, but Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak never looked like baseball's most unbreakable record. Neither has 714/755 HR, 60/61/70/73 HR, DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak, Pete Rose's 4,200+ hits...or any other record you can name, unless you preface it with "excluding Cy Young's 511 career wins."
There are only 15 other pitchers who have ever won as many games as he lost in his career. 827 total decisions - 292 more than Clemens, 275 more than Maddux.
Someone will reach 300 again. Someone will break all those other records. No one will touch 511 without medical science taking a huge leap forward.
I think that Sabathia and Peavy will make it, with maybe Buerhle as well making a run at 300, considering that he has been an innings horse for years.
To the poster that said Rose's hit record was unbreakable, keep an eye on Jeter, he is ahead of Rose's pace and he could break it at some point.
I think you're going to see one or more of these guys pitch deep into their 40s, and grind their way to 300 wins. 12 or 13 wins at a time for 25 years. The pitchers pitch fewer innings a year, but sports medicine and legalized steroids will add to their longevity.
Halladay shouldn't be there. He's a great pitcher when he's healthy. The problem is that he's been injury-plagued recently which doesn't bode well for the longevity needed to reach 300.
Who in 1996 would have said Tom Glavine would get 300 wins?
You never know.
In 1988 no one thought Doc Gooden wasn't going to get 300.
They got to stay healthy and be on winning teams and be focused.
I'm givin phil hughes and joba chamberlain 2:1 odds they reach 300, hughes maybe 400
Pitchers should not get credit for wins. Wins are a comment on the quality of the team a pitcher was on, not on the quality of the pitcher as an individual performer. So, I'm not impressed by Glavine's 300 wins as a fan of Glavine. I'm impressed by his career WHIP & ERA & strikeouts. the 300 wins is impressive because it says alot about the Braves (and Mets) teams he was on since those teams scored the runs that earned him the wins.
all a pitcher can do is prevent runs from being scored by the other team. but the pitcher's team still needs to score a run (at least) to win the game. Unless the pitcher drives in that run, there's no reason to credit the win to him and expect it to say something about his individual skills.
there are examples of pitchers with high win totals for a season that gave up tons of runs per game. (Jason Marquis in 06 had an ERA of 6, but 14 wins) Even though they 'won' the game it's simply because the OFFENSE scored tons of runs to offset the tons of runs given up. (Think about it -- would you want a pitcher on your team that gave up 5 runs per game and had 15 wins or 1 run per game and had 7 wins? I'd take the pitcher who only gave up 1 run per game. and then i'd find a bunch of guys that could drive in runs.)
All of the pitchers mentioned in this article have other stats that more clearly illustrate their greatness as individual athletes. Assigning a 'win' is misleading and pointless. there are other, lesser known pitchers who were good at pitching that don't get discussed because they had the misfortune of being on poor or mediocre teams. Even this article points out that Nolan Ryan might have had more wins during his years on the Astros.
pitchers should only be evaluated on how easily they get batters out. the stats we should look at for pitchers are earned runs allowed per start, WHIP, strikeouts and others along those lines. a pitcher can pitch a no hitter and still lose -- why is that fair? why should he get a loss when his team failed to get him a run?
one last way to look at it:
in football, does the DEFENSE get a win credit? no. the QB does (and the coach does). In basketball, the TEAM gets the credit. not the center. in hockey, there's a similar problem -- the goalie gets the win when all he does is prevent scoring by the other team. Yes it's important, but if you don't score a goal or a run, you don't win.
I'm not trying to dismiss this article or the achievement of 300 wins. I just think analysts need to look at more accurate ways to discuss individual talent particularly when they are voting for the Hall of Fame, since the Hall celebrates an individual's performance over their career, regardless of what their team did. If a guy is on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for 20 years and they are in last place all 20 years, but he manages to post really low WHIP and ERA and strikes out tons of guys, will his mediocre win total keep him out of the hall? I would hope not.
what about andy pettitte? 194 wins at age 35 is a possibility...
Halladay turned 30 in may for the wanting to know
"Garland IS out of the question. Two or three bad starts shouldn't inflate one's ERA that much at this point in the season. Garland is what he is...mediocre."
Without the 3 bad starts I'm referring to, his ERA is 3.24, in U.S. Cellular Field. Do some research before posting something that absurd.
Oswalt, although the best starter in the MLBG this century in my opinion, probably wont play long enough, and started to late (23), to make it to 300. Sabbathia probably has the best shot since I can see him pitching into his 40s. He is, I think, overrated, I maybe he won't be able to get the same production from now on. I think anyone younger tan 25 should not be included yet becuase you never know what may happen. Halladay just started too late, and was to up and down early on to get there. He is almost 31, and needs 192 more wins. That would be amazing. I hope it does happen to someone, but it probably wont happen to anyone of these guys.
This blog is a lot of nothing. There's not a single decent arguement made for anyone getting to 300. If you don't have 150 wins by the time you're 30, you're not going to make it unless you're playing for 100 win a year teams. The Braves won what? 1050 games over 10 years?
And putting folks who are 21 years old on the list is frankly ridiculous.
"Garland IS out of the question. Two or three bad starts shouldn't inflate one's ERA that much at this point in the season. Garland is what he is...mediocre."
His ERA is 3.24 without them.
The Most Unbreakable Record In Baseball: Career Strikeouts. Nobody will even reach 5,000, much less the 5,700+ it would take to become the new career leader. And why is that, you ask? Because hitters are stronger and faster now, the baseball livelier, and pitchers don't throw 160 pitches in a game anymore.....and I doubt anyone will ever do that again.
I do not see what the big deal is about 300 wins. It is just glorifying mediocrity. A pitcher starts 30 games a year, averages
15 wins and 20 years later he is
a baseball god?!?!
If winning 15 games a year in MLB is so easy you go do it! Blyleven for the hall!
I want to say C.C. has a good shot at it, but Captain Cheeseburger may eat his way out of contention.
It's pretty idiotic to leave Roy Halladay off the list, he has 108 wins and is 30. He's having a below average season and still has 13 wins. And since he got back to the majors after his blowups when he was young his record is something like 97-35
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