Note: I realize there are a lot of articles already dealing with this subject. With my article, I hope to approach from a statistical vantage and make a more in-depth look at younger players who will reach the milestone in the next decade or two, rather than the more immediate future, and make an educated guess as to future members. With that, away we go.
As of late, there has been much doom and gloom in the area of prospective 300 game winners. Randy Johnson will be the last, many writers have said (although many more have pointed out how frequently that claim has been made).
This is not a “will it happen again” article-I fully believe that it will happen again. The only questions are when, and who?
Joe Posnanski posted on his blog on May 20th with a look at the chances of achieving 300 wins. His findings were interesting: most 300 games winners only made it after significant late surges, and most early favorites flamed out well short.
In fact, early success is the least obvious indicator; between ages 18 and 24, the twenty-four 300 game winners average 32 victories, compared to 77 from twenty-five to twenty-nine, 86 from thirty to thirty-four, 79 from thirty-five to thirty-nine, and 53 from forty to forty-eight. He then examined active leaders by age.
This seemed like an excellent place to start my analysis on who is the next likely 300 game winner.
Before I start, though, I feel it is important to address something.
While some may say the next 300 game winner isn’t playing yet, I believe he is. I have a theory on where this idea came from, and why it may not be true, but the data is necessary first. So, onward:
My analysis is mostly based on two stats: wins (obviously), and ERA+. I feel these two stats, in conjunction, provide a good, cursory idea of where the next 300 game winner will be.
All credit to mlb.com, Baseball Reference, and Joe Posnanski for the numbers, by the way. Also, the average 300 game winner’s career ERA+ is 125. (Except this number; that one, I figured out)
I also got a rough average of what each pitcher would need to win per season to reach 300, assuming they play until they’re 43 (it seemed like a good enough number). That number is in parenthesis, and is, in general, severely rounded for connivance's sake, like using a numerical belt sander.
The average at that age for 300 game winners since WWII is bolded. So, on to the contenders.
Dontrelle Willis leads all 26 year-olds with 69 wins. This puts him well above the average (which may be a bad thing). However, his career ERA+ is only 105 (or 5% better than league average). That, coupled with his recent troubles, make him an unlikely candidate. (about 13 wins a year) 61
CC Sabathia leads all 27 year-olds with 122 wins. His 121 ERA+ plus puts him even with Don Drysdale, and one below Bob Feller and Eddie Plank (all Hall of Famers)*.
With his move to the Yankees, he should get offensive help, and Rivera should hold his leads for a little while, at least.** He probably has one of the better shots, especially with his (so far) lack of injuries. (about 10 and a half wins) 78
*On a side note, he is also one below Babe Ruth. So Babe Ruth was sort of like if CC Sabathia decided to save the Yankees’ Mark Teixiera money and play Hall of Fame caliber first base. Babe Ruth was just incredible.
**Also, Rivera leads in career ERA+.
Carlos Zambrano is also 27, and has 100 wins and a 127 ERA+. However, if he does retire in five years, as he says he will, there is no way he will make it. (about 12 wins a year)
Jon Garland leads all 28 year olds with 110 wins. His ERA+, though, is a meager 103.
Only three 300 game winners have ranked under 110 in ERA+, those being Don Sutton, Early Wynn, and Pud Galvin. I’m going to have to pass. (about 18 wins, a year; I’d say, at this point, it’s more likely the Sahara would freeze over) 93
Jake Peavy is also 28, and has 91 wins. He is ERA+ is 119. (average-13)
Dan Haren is also 28, has 69 wins, and a 121 ERA+. (average-14 and a half) Giving Haren Garland ‘s (or even Peavy’s) wins might make Haren a good candidate. Unfortunately, this is Baseball, not Burger King, and we cannot have it our way. Moving on...
Mark Buehrle, at 29, has a 123 ERA+ and 128 wins. He has aged better than most.
If someone came from the future in the time machine right this instant and told me Buehrle would reach 300 wins by pitching until he’s 45 or 46, it wouldn’t shock me. The Buehrle thing, that is; the time-machine might creep me out. I’d say he’s a good outside chance. (11.5 win average)* 109
*Since I know you’re wondering now: 45 year-old Future Mark would need to average 10 wins, and 46 year-old Mark would have to average about 9 and a half. And I’m not quite sure why he seems that way-maybe his endurance? Inning-eaters, or guys with said reputation, strike me that way. Pun intended.
Roy Oswalt leads 30 year-olds with 131 wins and a 136 ERA+, which makes him a surprising 20th all time (tied with Randy Johnson and Bruce Sutter). He seems to be struggling, though, and his team even more so. If he turns it around, though, I’d say he has a decent chance. If he AND his team turn it around, AND he stays healthy, look out. However, I don’t see more than two of those things happening in his career. (average of 12 wins) 127
Out of all 30 year-olds, though, I’d say Johan Santana has the best chance, though. His 146 ERA+ ranks him 6th all-time, and he has 116 wins. If the Mets ever get it together, he could become a favorite. (average-13 wins)
Brandon Webb is another 30 year-old contender, although he is more of an outside shot, with 87 wins. His 142 ERA+ puts him 12th all-time, though. (average-15 wins*)
*Okay, he seemed likely until this.
The incredible Roy Halladay has 141 wins (with ten already this year), putting him in first for the age of 31. His 133 ERA+ adds to his case, making him another solid pitcher to bet on. Like Buehrle, he seems like he could pitch a while. Additionally, since turning 30, he has been magnificent, which is key in winning 300 games. (average-12 wins) 143
Tim Hudson, 32, leads his age with 146 wins. his 126 average helps his cause. While he has lost most of this to Tommy John surgery, this may actually help him by prolonging his career.* (It’s incredible what pitching with part of your foot in your arm will do). Like Buehrle, an outside favorite. (average-13 wins) 160
*With that, let’s see how he would have to do if he held up like “Future Mark”:
Future Tim, 45-11 wins; Future Tim, 46-10 wins
Livan Hernandez tops all 33 year-olds with 152 wins. However, his 97 ERA+ shows that, over his career, he has been 3% WORSE than league average. Additionally, I had a hard time believing he was 33 with how badly he’s faded. I can’t decide who is the bigger long shot, Garland of Hernandez. If Garland is the Sahara freezing, I guess Livan is me getting abducted by aliens. (average-13 and a half) 176
After that, the odds get worse. A quicker rundown of age group leaders:
34: Matt Morris, 121 W, 107 ERA+ (also, he’s retired, making him the only reason Hernandez and Garland aren’t already the least likely on this list) 195
35: Bartolo Colon, 153 W, 112 ERA+ 211
36: Andy Pettitte, 221 W, 116 ERA+ (I suppose you could make a case for him, but he’d have to average 10 wins per year until he’s 43; I’d say unlikely, but he’s on par, at least) 228
37: Pedro Martinez, 219 W, 154 ERA+, which puts him 2nd all-time 243
Needless to say, I don’t think these four will make it.
Just a bit more.
There may be some problems with these numbers (mostly since the stats are midseason for active players), but this is only intended as a rough idea. As a side note, most of these players can probably expect their ERA+ to drop as they age.
Some may have a slight increase, but that is very rare. (Randy Johnson and Jamie Moyer (to a degree) are exceptions.) Additionally, inning-eaters (such as Sabathia, Halladay, Webb, Buehrle, and Hernandez*) may help their case by depending less on their bullpens, and saving a few possible blown saves.
*Since I did it for Buehrle and Hudson, a quick look at 45 and 46 averages for the workhorses:
Sabathia: 45-just over 9 wins; 46-just under 9 wins
Halladay: 45-10 and a half wins ;46-10 wins
Webb: 45-13 and a half wins ;46- 12 and a half
Hernandez: 45-11 and a half ;46-10 and a half
As a side note, it may seem odd I found the average of wins until age 43. There are two reasons for this. Medicine is one advantage current pitchers have. They can pitch longer into their careers. However, there is one better reason: winning 300 games almost requires pitching into your 40’s. Since WWII, only Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux reached 300 wins before turning 40 (both were 38). So, pitching into your 40’s is almost a necessity.
On another side note, I think I see why many people don’t think there will be another 300 game winner: the active win leaders are such long shots. Moyer has 250 wins, but it’s unlikely he will pitch long enough to reach the milestone. Same with John Smoltz (210 wins) and Tim Wakefield (185 wins). Martinez seems all but done with his contract demands, and Pettitte doesn’t look like he’ll be able to stave off retirement for much more. Colon and Hernandez are the only others between 150 and 300 wins. I say there’s a future 300 game winner out there somewhere. Their odds just aren’t overwhelming obvious yet.
It’s also possible there could be another candidate that we haven’t considered. Randy Johnson and Phil Niekro didn’t look likely at all until their 30’s or later. Anything is possible, I suppose; Barry Zito may learn the knuckleball and begin to dominate hitters; Andy Pettitte could pitch until he’s 46 like Jamie Moyer. Conversely, Santana could blow out his arm. Baseball is unpredictable. This is just based on what data we have now. So, with that, I’d say Sabathia, Halladay, and Santana are favorites, and Oswalt, Buehrle, and Hudson all have a chance.