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Friday, May 18, 2012

Who will be the next 300 game winner?

Recently I was listening to a Phillies game on the radio and I heard the announcers talking about how Roy Halladay stands a good shot at winning 300 games and if he does how he'll possibly be the last to do so for a long time. Later Dave Schoenfield of ESPN.com blogged about the statement too.  They were right in acknowledging that he's had great durability and that durability will need to continue as he ages if he's to have any chance.  Pitching for the Phillies right now doesn't hurt either since they've been one of baseball's most consistently good teams in the past half decade.

As much as I'm impressed by him I don't believe Roy Halladay has the best chance of winning 300 games of active pitchers. I do believe the next 300 game winner is active, however.  I've often mentioned to friends that I thought CC Sabathia had a real shot of winning 300 after he signed with the Yankees three years ago and this little exercise will give me the opportunity to compare him side by side with Halladay.

First off, here's a little breakdown of every pitcher who's had a shot of winning 300 games since 1980:

Total Wins Wins before turning 30 Wins after 30 Age at 300th Win Age of Final Win Date of 300th Win
Randy Johnson 303 64 239 45 46 6/4/09
Tom Glavine 305 124 181 41 42 8/5/07
Greg Maddux 355 151 204 38 42 8/7/04
Roger Clemens 354 146 208 40 44 6/13/03
Nolan Ryan 324 122 202 43 46 7/31/90
Tom Seaver 311 146 165 40 41 8/4/85
Don Sutton 324 139 185 41 43 6/18/86
Phil Niekro 318 31 287 46 48 10/6/85
Steve Carlton 329 133 196 38 43 9/23/83
Gaylord Perry 314 58 256 43 44 5/6/82
Tommy John 297 98 199 N/A 46 N/A
Bert Blyleven 287 156 131 N/A 41 N/A
Ferguson Jenkins 284 135 149 N/A 40 N/A


The first thing that stands out is that every 300 game winner has pitched into their 40's and with the exceptions of Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux they've needed to in order to get the milestone.  Another important thing to note is how important it is to be successful in your twenties.  Unless a pitcher can continue pitching until he's 45 he'll need to earn about 120 wins in his twenties to have a realistic shot.  One thing that's not noted in the chart but should be pointed out is that durability is extremely important.  Missing a season can easily set you back enough so that 300 wins is just enough out of reach that a team won't be willing to sign an aging hurler with fading skills.  With that being said here are the best candidates among active pitchers for reaching 300 wins:

Age Wins Wins/Yr Wins before 30 Wins Needed Wins/Yr Until 41*
Jamie Moyer 49 269 14 34 31 N/A
Roy Halladay 35 192 17 99 108 18.0
Tim Hudson 36 183 16 101 117 23.4
CC Sabathia 31 181 17 172 119 11.9
Mark Buehrle 33 164 14 122 136 17.0
Roy Oswalt 34 159 16 111 141 20.1
J. Verlander 29 111 18 111 189 15.8
Dan Haren 31 108 14 101 192 19.2
F. Hernandez 26 88 14 88 212 14.1
Jered Weaver 29 87 16 87 213 17.8
Zack Greinke 28 80 12 80 220 16.9
Cole Hamels 28 79 14 79 221 17.0
Tim Lincecum 28 71 15 71 229 17.6
C. Kershaw 24 50 14 50 250 14.7

*Note: I'm using the age of 41 because the average age of players earning their 300th win in the first table is 41.5

Injury and crappy bullpens have cost Tim Hudson more wins than I care to count.
  • How amazing is Jamie Moyer?  He only earned 34 wins prior to his 30th birthday and now has 269 on his resume.  Sure he's 49 but what a remarkable career.  This may be his final season as he's coming off Tommy John surgery and is not as effective as he was pre-surgery (when he was 47).  
  • Roy Halladay is second on the list with 192 career victories.  If he's to get 300 wins he'll need to average 18 wins a year over the next six seasons.  That's tough but not impossible, especially with the way he's been pitching the last few seasons.
  • Tim Hudson is hurt here thanks to losing half of 2008 and all but seven starts worth of 2009 to injury.  I don't have data available but I willing to bet he led the majors in wins blown by bullpen from 2000-2010.  
  • Mark Buehrle and Roy Oswalt have roughly the same shot in my opinion. Buehrle's been plagued by slipping effectiveness while Oswalt has trouble staying healthy.  The odds are stacked against them.
  • Justin Verlander is a tricky one to put odds on.  He is absolutely the best pitcher in the American League right now and is extremely durable (look at those innings pitched numbers over the past five seasons: 201, 201, 240, 224, 250).  I'd like his odds better if I believed he'll still be pitching when he's 40.
  • Haren is a bit of a late bloomer. He's just now entering his prime and his odds can really improve with a couple more good seasons.
  • Weaver, Lincecum, Greinke, and Hamels are all in the same boat. They're young and have a long way to go.  Six years ago Barry Zito would have been in their age group but he had 102 wins so be careful when making projections.
  • Clayton Kershaw is a really interesting case.  At just 24 years old he's already 16% of the way there.  Last year's Cy Young Award winner is just too far away to project with any certainty.  An injury could derail him but he's so good that if he doesn't lose too much effectiveness it would only be a minor setback.  He's a fun one to watch.

After factoring in age and career wins presented in the table above, it's clear to me CC Sabathia has an excellent chance at reaching 300 wins.  Roy Halladay is the guy closest with a reasonable chance which is probably why he's the one being talked about most. After CC and Hallday, Felix Hernandez has probably a one in three shot since he's still only 26 and may have 100 career victories by the end of this season.  Everyone else is still too young or too far away to take seriously.  When some of these guys reach 200 wins then we can talk.

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