Unless something goes horribly wrong, 5-time Cy Young award winner Randy Johnson will win his 300th game during the 2009 Major League Baseball season.
The newly-signed San Francisco Giant is five wins away from joining the exclusive 23-member club. After making 30 starts during the 2008 season, he is a virtual lock to reach the magic number, barring an early season injury.
Jamie Moyer, 46, is the oldest active player in the MLB and also the next closest to 300 wins, with 246 victories through 22 seasons. Moyer is considered by critics to have no chance at the elusive number due to his advanced age and finesse pitching style.
Moyer has made a living as a methodical pitcher with a deadly circle change when paired with an able fastball and curve. Over the years, he has relied more on guile and approach than natural stuff.
The Big Unit, as Johnson is nicknamed, is a power pitcher who wins games using a devastating slider and overpowering fastball. Through his 21 seasons, Johnson stands at second place on the career strikeout list behind Nolan Ryan. Despite declining physical condition and velocity, 6'10" Johnson is still an overwhelming presence.
By baseball analysts, Johnson is widely considered the only 300 game winner for the foreseeable future.
Jamie Moyer will reach 300 wins.
Jamie Moyer’s career did not begin like Randy Johnson’s. To say that Moyer’s early career was tumultuous would be an understatement.
He pitched inconsistently and spent long stints in Triple-A. He badly injured his shoulder in 1991 and missed most of the year. He was so horrible he bounced around teams six times and switched leagues twice between 1986 and 1996. In 1996 though, he settled in with the Seattle Mariners.
Upon joining Seattle in 1997, Moyer hit his stride. Was he trusting his stuff more? Locating better? Why it happened, no one can be exactly sure. Still, Moyer posted a career high in wins and quickly became the staff’s number three starter.
In 1999, after compiling double digit wins in consecutive years, Moyer was looked upon by the Seattle faithful to replace the staff’s departed ace.
That ace? None other than Randy Johnson.
Moyer rewarded the team with double digit wins and an above .500 record in six of his eight seasons. Seattle writer Art Thiel dazzled at Moyer’s consistency:
“With neither fastball nor flamboyance, Moyer has silently strung together seasons of 17-5, 15-9, 14-8 and 13-10 while the Mariners search futilely for somebody to be Randy Johnson. In those four years, Johnson, the game's pre-eminent pitcher, has only 15 more wins than Moyer.”
In 2006, Moyer signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and continued his solid, yet unspectacular pitching, again grabbing double digit victories in consecutive years.
Over the past four seasons, parts with the Mariners and the rest with the Phillies, Moyer has been a beacon of consistency not seen in many of today’s eminent starters.
Over that time, Moyer has won a total of 54 games, six more than Johnson. He’s won more than 300 game winners Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux in the same period, too. He has nine less wins than CC Sabathia and 12 less wins than Johan Santana, a stunning comparison considering Sabathia and Santana are usually in a class amongst themselves. His highest win total for a season during that time was last season’s 16 wins.
Moyer has an uncanny ability to win with his underwhelming stuff, compiling a .571 win percentage throughout his 22 year career. He simply finds a way to win.
Moyer’s older than the hills and he has shown absolutely no sign of slowing down. Keeping up this pace is honestly not out of the question.
This offseason, Moyer inked a 2-year, $13 million extension with the Phillies, taking him through his age 48 season.
While nothing is written in stone with a player in his mid-forties, Moyer has been incredibly durable. He spent time on the disabled list in 1991 for a shoulder injury and again in 2000 after a batted ball injured his kneecap.
Other than those two occasions, Moyer has proved to stay healthy and avoid common injuries seen in older pitchers such as shoulder fatigue and elbow tendintis. Many actually compare Moyer’s career to Tommy John, another pitcher who worked into his late 40’s but famously broke down.
Over the past eight seasons, Moyer has started at least 30 games in each of them.
One reason is that Moyer’s slow, easy windup presents no significant wear and tear on his lean body other than the natural discomfort associated with doing an unnatural motion. He has complained of shoulder soreness before, but of nothing substantial. It appears as though Moyer’s soft-tossing has helped to lengthen his career much like a knuckleball pitcher. Charlie Hough and Phil Niekro both pitched well into their late 40’s. Niekro made it to 48 and is the oldest pitcher to win 16 games in a season. Moyer has his number.
Say, optimistically, that Moyer collects 30 wins during his next two years with the Phillies. That would leave him 24 wins away, or another two-year extension from reaching the 300 club.
Moyer has the drive to make it to that number.
“I'm sure if you ask Jamie, he'll say that he will play out a few more contracts," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said after Moyer signed his latest two-year deal. "If his stuff does go backward, he'll try to figure it out and how to pitch through it."
That’s the great thing about Moyer; his tools and career have been so unpredictable that he’s had no choice but to adapt. And he’s made all the necessary changes to win.
I firmly believe that Moyer has the right tools to reach 300 wins. He has a knack for winning games. He has a good offense behind him. He is injury free. He has a non-violent windup that doesn’t create problems for his body. And, perhaps most important, he is as consistent as any of today’s top starters.
I hope to see number 50 reach 300 wins at 50 years old. It’d look real nice.