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Is CC Sabathia or Felix Hernandez the Next 300-Game Winner?

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Is CC Sabathia or Felix Hernandez the Next 300-Game Winner?
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The experts agree, there is a great chance Randy Johnson is the last 300 game winner: the bullpens, the lack of 20 game winners, it all points in that direction.

But does it really? A little analysis of history and current top pitchers indicate something else.

I am sure we will see a 300-win man again. Definitely. Not for another 10 to 15 years, and maybe even longer, but why shouldn’t CC Sabathia or Felix Hernandez get there.

Andy Pettitte and Pedro Martinez could both get there if they decide to try, and they stay healthy. At their current age (37), Randy Johnson had 200 wins! Would you have predicted 300 for him back in 2001?

The key factor to winning many games is pitching for a long time, with a healthy win/loss ratio. Obviously you have to be a good pitcher too, but without longevity there is no way.

Of the 24 pitchers with 300 or more wins, there are 14 that are from “another time, ”Early Wynn being the border case, as he played from 39 to 63.

There are ten 300 game winners from the latter part of the 20th century. Only one reached 300 games before the season he turned 40, Greg Maddux.

The age they reached 300 games are (give or take, I have only looked at year of birth and 300 win, not actual date)

 Greg Maddux   38
 Steve Carlton   39
 Tom Seaver   41
 Don Sutton   41
 Roger Clemens   41
 Tom Glavine   41
 Nolan Ryan   43
 Gaylord Perry   44
 Randy Johnson   45
 Phil Niekro   46

 

Niekro reached the 200 mark at the ripe age of 40!

In the 1887 season Booby Mathews was 35 but could win just  3 games. He retired with 297 wins to his name. Maybe he would have had a better shot at it today, and probably a stronger impetus knowing that there was something called the 300-win club.

Were these pitchers way ahead of the stars of today at similar ages? I have looked at some current aces and estimated their chances of breaking the 300-mark based on their age and performance so far, as well as compared them to some members of the 300 club.

The selected pitchers are Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia, Mark Buerhle, Adam Wainwright, Zack Grienke, Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez.

The calculations for projected career wins are pretty simple: (current wins) + (wins per season for the rest of their career times seasons left in career), straight forward. It is just that we don't have number of seasons and wins per season.

But we can make some qualified guesses for wins, and see where that gets us. Instead of guessing how many seasons they have left, we can calculate for how long they will have to pitch.

We can test two possible scenarios: one, they continue at their current pace of wins per season (w/s) or two, they repeat the wins they had in 2009 (w09). I have calculated at what age they would reach 300 games (300@) for both scenarios.

As you can see Grienke will have to pick up the pace, but considering the obstacles he has had to face off the field so far, last season's 16 wins, and the probability that he eventually will end up with a club that gives run support, he should be able to turn it up a notch.

If last season is the mark for CC and King Felix, they will even beat Maddux to the 300 line. That might be very difficult, but even with their current lifetime w/s-ratio, they have a very good shot at making 300.

Name  Age W S W/S  300@ W09 300@ W/S42
Sabathia   28 136 9 15 39 19 37 12
Hernandez   23 58 4 15 40 19 36 13
Pettitte   37 229 15 15 42 14 42 14
Buehrle   30 135 10 14 42 13 43 14
Wainwright  27 46 3 15 44 19 40 17
Verlander   26 65 5 13 44 19 38 15
Lincecum  25 40 3 13 45 15 42 15
Grienke  25 50 4,5 11 48 16 41 15

 

I have also calculated how many games they would have to win per season in order to reach 300 by age 42. This is shown in the last column (w/s42). As you can see, not exactly staggering amounts of wins for any of them. Probably hardest for Pettitte, Buerhle and Wainwright.

CC would need 14 seasons with an average of 12 wins to reach 300 wins by age 42. If he stays with the Yankees (and yes, healthy and all that), that should not be out of reach.

Pettitte may be able to reach the mark, at 42, but he has to go through five more seasons, and seeing that he isn't even sure if he will play one more, it becomes highly unlikely.

Is it possible to maintain the winning pace? This is where it becomes interesting to compare with some of the current members of the 300 club. I have chosen five members as the yardstick: Gaylord Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnston.

How do they compare? All of them except Wainwright are ahead of Johnston and Perry at similar ages. Wainwright is exactly on par with them. Thus, he "merely" has to emulate the career of the Big Unit and he is in. 

Felix is ahead of everybody, the old guys and his compatriots. The only one that can match him is CC. CC is on par with Tom Seaver, who reached 300 at age 41. Mark Buerhle follows the path of Tom Glavine.

Lincecum, Grienke and Verlander are in the middle of the pack, i.e., there is no reason whatsoever to say for sure that they will NOT be members, provided they: stay healthy, have the urge to play, and are on decent teams. 

A final litmus test I made was comparing production over the years. Is it safe to assume that our guys (the young guys that we get to follow) can maintain production?

For the years that we have stats for both groups, the average wins per group are very similar (the exception being the age 27 when Carlton had 27 wins):

 

Age22       10       12
Age23       13       12
Age24       13       11
Age25       14       15
Age26       16       16
Age27       16       21
Age28       15       14

 

Based on this I think is a good approximation to think that our boys will have the same development in production as the seniors.

So I projected everyone with having the same numbers of wins as the average for the members for the remainder of their careers.

That would give us "break ages" comparable to the ones already calculated, with CC and Felix just before 40, the others at around 42, and Wainwright at Niekro's age, around 46/47.

Obviously there are many hurdles to climb for anyone to get into the 300 win club and many things have to click. But my point is that is meaningless to talk about it as inconceivable that there ever would be another member.

If none of the group I have looked at, there will come a stud that will blow us away. There are also four other current pitchers that are close to my selections: Johan Santana, Roy Halladay, Josh Beckett or Javier Vasquez, that all have 300 within reach.

Personally, I am hoping to see Felix and CC get there.

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