The Last Man to 300?

Will it be Randy Johnson? Given that they said that Glavine would be the last one before him and Maddux would be the last one before him and Clemens would be the last one before him, color me dubious, even if there’s yet another article claiming that the species is about to become extinct. Yes, there’s a bigger gap between Johnson and the next viable candidate than we’ve typically seen when someone is close to 300, and yes, innings pitched and games started are down compared to historical precedent, but I’m simply not prepared to say I won’t see another guy get 300 wins again. Heck, I’m not prepared to say I won’t see someone currently active reach 300.

CC Sabathia and Carlos Zambrano ended their age 27 seasons with 117 and 96 wins, respectively. Johnson had 37 wins through his age 27 season. Roy Halladay ended his age 31 season with 131 wins. Johnson had 99. Roy Oswalt finished his age 30 season with 129 wins, Johnson had 81. Johan Santana finished his age 29 season with 109, Johnson had 68. Granted, all of those guys have far more on the innings odometer than the late-starting Johnson did at similar ages — and granted, Johnson is something of a freak — so maybe he’s not the best example. But Tom Glavine wasn’t babied and he’s certainly not a freak, and his win totals at the same ages — 95, 153, 139, 124 — aren’t orders of magnitude off from where the current crop is now.

This isn’t to say that Sabathia, Zambrano, Halladay, Oswalt or Santana are a lock to win 300. Heck, they may not even be likely to do so. But it’s not impossible to imagine them doing so, even if everyone says so whenever someone hits that particular milestone. It’s really more a matter of good luck than anything else, both in terms of their health and in terms of the talent with which their general managers surround them. Glavine had both kinds of luck in spades. Johnson had a little less of each, but still plenty to spare. There’s no way for us to predict that for any of the guys I mentioned above, and thus no basis for ruling them out either.

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  1. Aarcraft said...

    I have to say I don’t see a lot of hope for Oswalt to hit 300. He continues to say he will retire at the end of his current contract (not sure when that is). Everyone who knows him seems to believe him as well. Also, unless some sort of organizational shift happens, he might not have the talent around him to get to that level. He might have a too many of the three run, seven plus inning losses, like last night, in his future to pull it off.

  2. kranky kritter said...

    Always wise to be dubious of claims something will never happen again.

    Still, the way I always think about it is that you have to win 15 games a year for 20 years. That says a LOT.  It’s hard to win 15 games a year for THREE years in a row.

    Without checking data it sure seems to me like modern SP take longer to reach the pros, make fewer starts per season, and maybe even earn fewer decisions per start made. The only positive trend I can think of when it comes to earning more W’s over the course of a career is that more guys are pitching into their 40s. And I think that trend is going to flatten.

    So I won’t say never, but I think it ‘s a pretty safe guess that it’ll be ever more rare. The baseline will continue to be that you must reach the bigs by age 20-22, stay healthy, pitch at least 20 seasons, and win 15 games per year. That’s a lot of things that all have to go right: early success; constant success (= on good team whole time?); unrelenting good health; longevity, enduring motivation.

    Sabathia seems like the guy with the best shot, as he has won 14.7 games per season beginning at what 21 or 22? All he has to do is keep up the good work without getting hurt and pitch 12+ more years without being on a crappy team with a suspect bullpen or a manager with a quick hook or a team that has trouble scoring runs. Unlikely to be a worry until his next contract.

  3. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Agreed, Kranky, and it’s worth noting that we came of age (or at least I did; not sure how old ya’all are) in a time with an inordinate number of 300 game winners.  When I was a kid there seemed to be new guys hitting that threshhold every year (Perry, Niekro, Carlton, Seaver, etc. etc.)  That was a function of some seriously out-of-kilter pitcher usage in the 60s and 70s, and we’re not likely to see it again.

    But it could happen.  I guess Sabathia is a good as bet as the others, though I can’t say that Santana isn’t the sort who could transform into a wily veteran and fool people forever once he ceases to be a true ace.

  4. Bill said...

    No one did it between 1990 and 2003, and now we will have had four in seven seasons.

    No one else seems to remember this, but we heard the exact same thing over and over again 10-15 years ago. I’m very sure that many articles were written about how we were never going to see a 300-game winner again. Now, I know pitchers pitch even fewer innings now than they did then, but the “never again” thing seems just as silly to me. I think one of the guys you named will do it.

    Lar needs to use his magical archive-searching powers to pull up some of those articles.

  5. BG said...

    I agree that its shortsighted to say that because there aren’t a string of candidates lined up to reach the milestone soon that its never going to happen again.  It will.

    I also agree it will be less frequent for a lot of the reasons already mentioned and the fact that players make so much in their prime now that there’s less of a financial need to stick around in the decline years.  I’d expect to see more players to take the Mussina route than would have 20 years ago.

  6. Jacob Rothberg said...

    My general feeling on it is that it may not be impossible, but it extremely unlikely that 300 wins happens again anytime soon. With that in mind,  I feel that Roy Halladay will be the first slam dunk hall of famer from the new era of lower games and wins totals and he will stand for the new paradigm of what a great pitcher can do in the “bubble-wrap” era.

  7. Ron said...

    Back when I was kid in the ‘70’s, after Aaron hit his 715th, I remember all the so-called experts bemoaning the fact that Reggie Jackson might be the last guy to hit 500 HR’s.

    This was in Schmidt’s second or third year, and Killer was about to retire.

    Yeah, the experts. Glad we have them.

  8. Nate said...

    Shhhhh! Giants fans are pretty clueless and I want to have no trouble getting a ticket to this in SF (fingers/Unit crossed).

  9. Chipmaker said...

    …and they were saying that Ryan was the last of the 300 game winners in 1990, despite that Clemens and Maddux were on the mound at the same time.

    Well, not literally at the same time. Not the same mound anyway. But they were all pitching, and doing it well.

  10. Gerry said...

    I’m old enough to remember them saying that Warren Spahn would be the last 300-game winner. I’m not old enough to remember it, but I bet they were saying the same thing about Lefty Grove in 1941.

  11. kranky kritter said...

    Well Pedro Martinez is IMO a shoo-in for the hall with less than 300 wins. You don’t have to win 300 to get in. By the time Halladay makes it (presuming health), there should be more guys getting in with fewer than 300.

    I don’t know that this will represent a “paradigm shift.” More like a slight recalibration for modern times. What I do think will endure is the basic dynamic in which the farther you are from 300 wins, the more you need to have demonstrated real “holy crap, not this guy” dominance for a solid 5 year period along with winning in the neighborhood of 200+ total games.

    Santana seems to me to already be showing the signs of decline from godlike status to “merely a great pitcher” status. It’s fun to credit great pitchers with wiliness, and I will always credit experience. Seen so many crafty old guys do it on location, stubborness, and one pitch with some movement.

    But not all great power pitchers can make this transition, especially if their money game was always 4-seamer/change-up. What do other folks think of this? Do you think the older guys who have success are more likely to have a splitter or cutter or slider that looks almost like the now 89 mph heater until it isn’t?

    Basically guessing out loud here. Because OTOH I saw both David Cone and Bret Saberhagen get guys out near the end on guts and the stubborn unwillingness to throw an 89 mph fastball down the pipe on a 3-1 count. Not sure what their money routine was, but none of their pitches stood out during their time IN Boston when I was watching.

  12. whitty said...

    Jamie Moyer has 246 wins. His win totals from the last four years, most recent first, are 16, 14, 11, 13. If he can maintain that for another four years, he’ll have exactly 300.

    It’s a big if considering Moyer’s age, but Moyer isn’t your ordinary pitcher.

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