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.