Thursday, January 3, 2019
Will Anyone Ever Win 300 Again?
"The Win" may be as dead as Cy Young, but there's still something about milestones and nice round numbers. With some rare exceptions, 300 pitching victories is pretty much a lock for the Hall of Fame and baseball immortality. The Winningest pitcher of All-Time? Cy Young of course, who won 511 games in 22 Seasons. He won 30 or more games in 5 seasons, and 20+ games in 16 of his 22 seasons. His career average over a season was 20 wins, 30 complete games and 3 shutouts.
It was a different era of baseball in the 1890s and early 1900s when Cy Young played, and yet there were a handful of pitchers that blossomed in the 1990s to put up relatively incredible numbers. Greg Maddux is the winningest pitcher to debut since 1980, with 355 wins. That's good for 8th All-Time, quite impressive given the fact that he pitched in a 5 man rotation instead of 2 or 3 like Cy Young did for much of his prime (Cy Young even got to pitch from just 50 feet away instead of 60'6" for his first few seasons.). Roger Clemens may be controversial, but the fact that he pitched 24 major league seasons and had 354 victories. Tom Glavine had some big seasons on some great Atlanta teams, and picked up his 300th victory as a New York Met. Randy Johnson was a late bloomer in terms of pitching wins - his first 20 win season came as a 33 year old, and he rattled of 4 straight Cy Young winning seasons from the ages of 35 thru 38. He finished with 303 career Wins, though he was known more for his strikeouts, finishing 2nd All-Time behind Nolan Ryan.
The Washington / Minnesota Twins franchise has had some great pitchers. The pitcher with the 2nd most wins All-Time is Walter Johnson, who won 417 games, the only other pitcher to win over 400 games. "The Big Train," doesn't really get the same kind of love that he used to- technically he's the franchise leader in essentially every major pitching category, but the Twins seem content to ignore the stats that came before the move to Minnesota. 300 Game Winner Steve Carlton joined the Twins in 1987 to try to bolster a very thin rotation. He won just one game, taking his career total to 328, and he retired before winning another. Bert Blyleven didn't win 300 games, and that may be in part attributed for years pitching for some less than good teams. He did have roughly league average run support, and won 15 1-0 games in his career (Only Walter Johnson won more), but he had 20 no-decisions in his seasons with Pittsburgh. He also had 60 career shutouts, which is good for 9th all-time. Another long time Twin who finished just shy of the magic number 300 is Jim Kaat, who retired with 283 victories. Kaat was known for sterling defense, winning 16 Gold Gloves. He was shifted from the rotation to the bullpen at the end of his career, limiting his opportunities to accumulate wins. The trade-off was winning a World Series out of the bullpen in 1982 for the Cardinals.
The active leaders in victories? Bartolo Colon, who may or may still be active, with 247. CC Sabathia has 246, and an average season for him should vault him ahead in the leaderboard. A 10 win season would pass Colon, Bob Gibson, Jack Morris, and tie him with fellow Yankee Andy Pettitte. Felix Hernandez has 168 career wins and is still just 32 years old. He's not the same pitcher he was in his 20s, but a renaissance is not out of the realm of possibility. Cardinals great Adam Wainwright sits at 148 wins. These 4 have more than likely missed the window to make a run at 300.
So who's left with the best chance to get to 300? Boston has some intriguing possibilities. David Price is 32 and has 143 victories, Rick Porcello is 29 and has 135, Chris Sale is also 29 and has 103 victories. Former Red Sox Ace Jon Lester has 177 victories, and is entering his age 35 season. Could one of them be the next 300 game winner?
My guess? Justin Verlander has 207 victories and is 35 years old. He's pitching for a very good team that will likely win a lot of games in the next several seasons. Will he pitch until he's 40, 41, 42? His 2nd gear since joining the Astros makes me think he's got it in him. A wild card might be Verlander's teammate Gerrit Cole is 27 and has 74 career wins. He's on a great team and has a lot of innings left to pitch in his career. Zack Greinke is sitting at 187 wins right now and is 34 years old. Clayton Kershaw has 153 wins and is still just 30. Injuries have popped up in recent years, but he seems to have been adjusting to diminished velocity.
What do you think? One of these guys? Scherzer? Kluber? Trevor Bauer? A younger guy like Julio Teheran, Chris Archer, or Walker Buehler? 300 Games is 15 wins a year for 20 seasons - can anyone do that again?
For myself, the most posts I made in a year was my "rookie" campaign - I had 322 posts that year. since then, I've had under 200 a year, but I think I'm capable of being a 300 post winner again in 2019.