MLB's Dying Breed: Why We May Never See 300 Wins, 60 Home Runs Ever Again
Three-hundred wins by a pitcher makes you a virtual lock for the Hall of Fame (unless you are Roger Clemens, with the steroids issue clouding your career). It's a feat that is extremely rare already in baseball—of the thousands of pitchers that have thrown a major league pitch, only 24 pitchers have reached the milestone.
Having a player hit 60 home runs in a season is, if possible, even less likely than seeing a 300-game winning pitcher. In the history of baseball, we have only seen 60 homers accomplished eight times. This includes six between 1998 and 2001, which is, in my opinion, the height of steroids era in baseball.
So with the players that accomplished the feat at that time (Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds) all seeming unlikely to be Hall of Famers anytime soon due to the outlook on steroid use, we stand with two players who have done it—Babe Ruth and Roger Maris.
The last 300-game winner we had was Randy Johnson, who accumulated 303 wins in 22 seasons. An abnormally long career combined with great talent made the "Big Unit" one of the best left-handed pitchers of all time.
There is a small chance that we may never see another 300-game winner, or at least not for a long time.
The five-man rotation is one of the biggest reasons why it seems unlikely. Instead starting 40 games per season, common throughout much of the 20th century, pitchers now get around 30-35 starts a year. Losing out on a possible 10 starts a year over just 15 years is 150 games.
There is also the fact that there is not a current player that seems like they are a "lock" to even get close. There isn't a single active pitcher (unless Jamie Moyer gets another chance and Andy Pettitte comes back from retirement) that has 200 wins for their career. The closest player to 200 is Tim Wakefield, who, at 44, has picked up 193 wins in his great career.
The great Roy Halladay has 169 wins, but at age 34 there is no chance that he reaches 300. Even if he pitches another ten years, he would have to average 13.1 wins per season to reach the mark. Livan Hernandez (166 wins, age 36), Tim Hudson (165, 35) and Kevin Millwood (159, 36) also have no chance.
The closest logical possibility to reach 300 wins is CC Sabathia, who is 30 years old and has already picked up 157 wins. If he pitches another 10 years, which is plausible if not probable, he would have to average 14.3 wins per year to reach 300 wins.
While he has managed to remain healthy so far, his large size and already hefty career workload (2,133 innings pitched) make it unlikely for him to sustain his career success for another decade.
The current pitcher I feel that has a legit shot to reach the mark is Felix Hernandez, who at the ripe young age of 25 has already picked up 72 career wins, thanks to a very early start to his major league career.
"King Felix" has as much physical talent as any pitcher in recent memory and has stayed healthy enough to log at least 30 starts every year since 2006. A high workload at a young age and natural decline could see him suffer a great deal when he gets to his late 30's, so he needs to accomplish a ton over the next 10 years.
Will we ever see another 60-homer season?
Averaging 15 wins over the next 10 years will put him at 222 wins at the age of 35, still far from the mark. He will likely have to average about 18 wins a year over the next decade, which would give him 252, to have a chance at accomplishing the feat.
Arguably the best young pitcher in baseball, even with a very early start to his career, is not likely to reach 300 wins. I feel that if he doesn't reach it, it could be a long time before we see another pitcher do so, if we ever do.
Now, on to the long ball. Throughout the '90s and the early part of the last decade, the homer totals around the league were way up compared to other parts of the league's history. Those numbers have since dropped to normal levels, and it has shown with individual hitters as well.
Since 2005, a player has reached 50 homers only six times, and only once since 2008.
In 2008 and 2009, in fact, the American League didn't have a player hit 40 homers during the season. The closest guy during this time to hitting 60 homers was Ryan Howard, when he hit 58 homers back in 2006.
The 60-home run mark has now gone back to the mythical level that it was prior to the "Steroid Era," with 50 being a number that only the best power hitters reach (Jose Bautista, no pressure on you man). One of the greatest hitters of all time, Albert Pujols, has never reached 50 homers in a season.
Will we ever see a 300 game winner again?
There are a few players that standout to me as possible 60-homer guys, but it would obviously require a very successful season. Guys with enough pure power to reach the number are Adam Dunn, Howard, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and of course Pujols, with a few others in the mix as well.
As stated earlier, Pujols has never crossed the 50-homer mark, making 60 seem very unlikely. It's even more unlikely for Cabrera, who hasn't even passed the 40-homer mark.
Howard has been banged up in recent years and has lost a bit of his power, making me feel that he won't reach 50 again. Fielder is still young and has enough power to put up huge numbers (he hit 50 homers in 2007 and 46 in 2009), but he needs to get into better shape and get back to his usual averages after a 38 point dip from 2009 (.299) to 2010 (.261).
Dunn simply doesn't make enough contact to ever have a great chance, and Bautista is unlikely to repeat his 2010 performance.
So that begs the question, is there a guy in baseball who has a legit chance at hitting 60 homers? To do so requires a guy with great power, a high enough contact rate, luck, and pitchers willing to throw to him. The intentional walk took on a whole new role during the height of Bonds power surge.
Mike Stanton of the Marlins, at 22, has as much raw power as anyone in baseball, but also profiles as a .250 hitter. It could happen with that average, but it just makes it more unlikely to me. Could the phenom Bryce Harper do it? The kid already has enough pressure on him.
The way I see it, both feats are unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever again. So much luck, longevity, and team play goes into winning 300 games, and so much has to go right to hit 60 home runs, that it makes them milestones that may never be reached again.
If we get a chance to see either, I just hope that we enjoy it as baseball fans and throw out any team hate or suspicion of unfairness out of the window.
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