Every player, upon reaching the big leagues, strives to be the best.
Whether it's hitting home runs or striking out batters, every player wants to be remembered as one of the greatest to ever play the game. As a player accumulates statistics, he builds himself a legacy.
There are three statistical milestones that far surpass any other.
500 home runs. 3,000 hits. 300 wins.
Over the last several decades, the difficulty of joining each club has drastically changed. Due to the steroid era, the 500 home run club has become substantially easier to join, with the likes of Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield, and Sammy Sosa doing so.
The 3,000-hit club has added ten members in just the last two decades, but it seems to be leveling off now.
Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are the only active players I can say for certainty will reach 3,000 hits, as Ken Griffey, Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, and Gary Sheffield would need incredible late-career surges.
And 300 wins?
It's quickly becoming a rarity.
San Francisco Giants' lefty Randy Johnson became the 24th pitcher in baseball history with 300 wins earlier today. Johnson threw six fantastic innings, allowing just two hits and an unearned run.
Johnson became just the second active pitcher to do so (although Tom Glavine was just released by the Braves), and only the fifth pitcher to be active in the last 20 years (Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine are the others).
The next closest active pitcher is Philadelphia's own ageless Jamie Moyer, who sits at 250 wins. Given that he currently sports a 4-5 mark with a 6.71 ERA in 2009, and will turn 47 during the offseason, Moyer is a long shot.
It's reasonable to assume he will finish this season with 12 or so wins, which would give him 258 in his career. From there, he would need to average 14 wins over his next three seasons, all while pushing 50 years of age.
I don't want to say it's impossible—after all, who would have predicted 15 years ago that Moyer would be better now than back then—but it's highly unlikely.
I might have said Pedro Martinez several years back. Following the 2005 season in which he won 15 games, posted a 2.82 ERA, and led the National League in WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio, it seemed plausible.
Martinez was just 34 years old and still on top of his game. Although he only had 197 wins, it seemed reasonable to assume Pedro could make a late-career run at 300 wins. It would have required six or so seasons of 16 wins.
However, Pedro broke down much earlier in his career, probably due to his small, 5'11” frame. He has averaged just 16 starts and less than six wins per season since 2006, and as it currently stands, does not have a major league team.
Longtime Braves' pitcher John Smoltz looked to have a decent shot as well following the 1999 season, in which he won 11 games and posted a solid 3.19 ERA. However, after missing the 2000 season due to Tommy John surgery, Smoltz switched to closer for the next four seasons.
Although this was a role in which he excelled—saving 154 games in four seasons, including three straight seasons of 40-plus saves—it's safe to say that this experiment as a closer cost Smoltz his shot at 300 wins.
After returning to the rotation in 2005, Smoltz showed no ill effects as a starter, making two All-Star teams in his next three seasons. He posted 14 wins in '05, a league-leading 16 in '06, and 14 in '07.
That is an average of about 15 wins per season.
If you give Smoltz credit for 15 wins per season during the four years in which he was a closer, those extra 60 wins would give him 270 for his career.
While he still might not have reached 300—especially considering he is currently rehabbing with the Boston Red Sox and has yet to pitch a game in the '09 season—Smoltz definitely would be in the running for 300 wins.
But at age 42 with 210 wins and still inactive for the '09 season, Smoltz has no chance to win 300 games.
Mike Mussina would have had a pretty legitimate shot to win 300 games. He won a career-high 20 games last season to put him at 270, but he abruptly retired at the age of 40.
Even if Mussina had remained active, he still would have needed two seasons of 15 wins, years in which he would have been 40 and 41 years old.
Currently, the Yankees' Andy Pettitte (220 wins) is the only other active pitcher with so much as 160 wins. He would need five more seasons of 16 wins to reach 300, a milestone that seems too far-fetched given Pettitte's age (turning 37 in two weeks) and his career average of just 15 wins per season.
Bill James' 2009 Baseball Handbook ranks the pitchers most likely to reach the 300-win plateau. Heading into this season, Randy Johnson was No. 1 at an 86 percent, followed by Mussina, who retired during the offseason, and Moyer, who was listed at 25 percent.
The next pitcher on the list is the Mets' ace Johan Santana, a hard-throwing lefty who leads the National League in wins so far this season. Santana is at the top of his game, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, and he only has a 24 percent chance to reach 300 wins.
Santana is 29 years old with just 116 wins and would need over 10 more seasons of his current pace of 17 wins per season.
Other elite pitchers who have an outside shot in the future include Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, and CC Sabathia.
Bill James described it best in his book when he stated, “It's a marathon, winning 300, and those guys are at about the 10-mile mark.”
Odds are one of those guys will win 300 games... right?
With five-man rotations, starting pitchers only get to pitch a little more than once per week. And now that relief pitchers and closers have the opportunity to give away games, starters don't get the wins they used to fifty years ago.
I don't want to say no one will reach it.
Someone down the road could come along and do it. I think the greater likelihood is a pitcher like Jamie Moyer who sticks around forever and finally wins his 300th, than a dominating pitcher like Maddux or Clemens who wins 20 every year in his prime.
What I will say though, is to enjoy this milestone that Johnson just reached, because it could be a very LONG time until we as baseball fans get to see this again.
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