There Will Never Be Another 300 Game Winner

After entering this debate with my dad yesterday, I felt I had to put this on the site. Outside of Tom Glavine who will win his 300th game at some point this season, and Randy Johnson who could reach the same mark at some point next season, there will never again be another 300 game winner. None, never, not again. Out to suffer the same fate as the dodo bird, Hideki Irabu, Shinjo, and LA Gears.

It’s just impossible with today’s game. Pitchers hardly ever go past seven innings — even the top ones. Run support is necessary, as is a stable bullpen that can both protect and close out a lead. There are so many external factors that prevent pitchers from getting the win at the end of the day. Back in the days, starters would throw all nine and receive a decision in 95% of their starts. Now, you’re lucky to take a decision in two thirds of your starts.

Take last year for instance, Brandon Webb won the NL Cy Young with a 16-8 record. 16 wins. That’s it. That’s all it took to grab the most prestigious pitching award in the world. Even looking at the American League, the uber-stud Johan Santana won his second Cy, this time with only 19 wins. Considering Santana is BY FAR the best pitcher in baseball, my dad suggested that Santana could reach the barrier. I told him no way. Then we looked it up.

The same guy who has been the most dominant starter in baseball for the past three and a half seasons only has won 80 games in his career. At age 28, Santana is in the middle of his prime, but it’s hard to argue he’ll be nearly as effective 10 years from now — and he’d need to win 20 for the next 10 years to come close.

What about the fate of the National League’s top starter the past three seasons? He just hit the 15-day DL with an arm injury, not an unfamiliar story for Chris Carpenter.

Not convinced? How about this — remember the Oakland A’s and their vaunted Big 3? Well, Mark Mulder (103 wins, 29 y/o) is nowhere to be heard from, and hasn’t been good since he left Oakland. Tim Hudson (119 wins, 31 y/o) hasn’t produced for Atlanta, while Barry Zito (102, 29 y/o) is 0-2 in the first year of his $126 million contract.

OK fine, Roy Halladay, he’s a pretty good pitcher, probably the second best in the American League. Seems like he’s been at it for a while, right? Yeah, guess again, 96 career wins for Doc, and he’s turning 30 this year.

How about Roy Oswalt, probably the second best and one of the most consistent pitchers in the National League? He’s won 20 games twice, which is like, unheard of these days. Yeah, he’s got just 99 wins, and he’s turning 30 this year.

What about some of those emerging youngsters huh? Francisco Liriano could’ve been interesting, but he’s having his entire arm rebuilt. Scott Kazmir hit the DL last year.

Let’s try Pedro Martinez — seems like a blast from the past. I mean Pedro’s had ERA’s skinnier than his stick figure. That badass has won three Cy Young Awards, you know? Well, amidst his injury recovery, the 35 year old pitcher has just 206 career wins. There are questions as to whether or not Pedro will be ready by August. To think he’ll be able to muster 94 more wins is just plain dumb. Even his previous Red Sox cohort Curt Schilling, who completely embodies the grizzled veteran, has just 208 wins — so you can kiss him good bye.

In today’s game, wins are not had easily. For that reason, I am convinced there will never be another 300 game winner with the rules remaining as they are. Chop 50 off that total, I still can’t see any of our current day studs reaching the mark. They’ll pull a growing, require Tommy John, or just simply flame out beforehand. I’d even go as far as to say 225 wins could be the new 300 for this era of pitcher. Even in that case, it’s hard for me to think one of these up and comers will even surpass that total.

Disagree? Let me know why, because I just explained to you why it won’t happen.

Also check out all my baseball predictions for the 2007 season.

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  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Will

    I actually disagree – we will absolutely see another 300 game winner. I just can’t say when.

    Here’s the thing. We’re extremely lucky to have witnessed a slew of excellent pitchers – Maddux, Clemens, and almost certainly Glavine – reach 300. Johnson’s got a chance.

    There just haven’t been that many 300 game winners – 10 since WWII. A bunch of these started their careers in the 60’s and reached 300 in the 80’s, which kind of spoiled us, along with the Maddux crowd.

    “Back in the days, starters would throw all nine and receive a decision in 95% of their starts.”

    This is actually not necessary for 300 game winners – look at Tom Seaver – he started 656 games and received a decision in 516 of them, throwing 231 CGs. Maddux has a similar % of No Decisions, I believe, and he’s thrown less than half the number of CGs.

    It may have some impact, but I don’t think CGs and specialized bullpens are taking away as many wins as you might think. The same thing applies for rotation size.

    I do agree that one of the factors is that pitchers are reaching the majors later. Neikro is the only 300 game winner who started late (mid 20’s), and he’s a special case.

    So do I think it’s harder today? Yes. Impossible? No way.

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  • Lally

    What you’re saying is none of the pitchers currently pitching will win 300 games. And you’re probably right.

    But you have to remember: there are 22 pitchers with 300 wins ALL TIME in the game. Add Glavine and Johnson and you have 24. Of those 24, 11 reached this plateau pitching in the 1800s/early 1900s, before the more modern pattern of pitching rotations and bullpen usage were established.

    So that leaves 13 modern era pitchers. What does that mean? It means it’s extremely rare PERIOD that someone reaches 300 wins.

    In this era, we’ve been lucky to catch 4 pitchers (Clemens, Maddux, Glavine and Johnson) who have had that rare combination of talent, durability and longevity to reach the 300 win plateau.

    The 60s/70s were even more stacked with Carlton, Ryan, Sutton, Niekro, Perry and Seaver pitching.

    There’s no guy in his prime now who looks to make it, but remember, after his age 30 season, Randy Johnson only had 71 wins.

  • JB

    CC Sabathia had 81 wins through last year – his 25-year-old season. Maddux had 75 wins through his 25-year-old season, Glavine had 53 wins, Randy Johnson had only 10 wins. Sabathia is ahead of their pace, so he’s definitely got a chance.

    Similarly, Johnson has already racked up 212 wins (and counting) starting with his 30-year-old season in 1994 (including two years of injury – 1996, 2003). Maddux had 183 wins after turning 30. Those two show it’s possible to win 180-200+ games after turning 30. That means Sabathia definitely has a shot, Santana has a legitimate chance, and Halladay isn’t out of the question.

    Obviously, any speculation that far into the future is sketchy, but to try and claim there won’t be another 300-game winner is ridiculously short-sighted.

  • http://matthewjenks.blogspot.com Matt J.

    I totally agree. Gone are the days of 30-game winners as well as the 300 win men. I think one thing you didn’t touch on is the pressure to throw harder and harder, thus screwing up your arm and requiring entire seasons (a la Liriano and Mike Hampton (as an example)) to get them rebuilt/fixed.

  • http://www.sportszillablog.com Zach

    While I agree that it’s unlikely, if someone currently in the game would be considered the front-runner, it would have to be Felix Hernandez. Dude just turned 21 and has ridiculous stuff. The crazy thing is, even if he’s the nominal front-runner I’d still say he has, at best, about a 15% chance of even coming close to 300 wins…because it would either take a 14-year run of 20+ win seasons, or 17-20 years of 15-18 win years.

    But then again, 300 wins is perhaps the most meaningless major milestone a pitcher can reach: it means they were good enough to hang around for a real long time, but is no guarantee of excellence.

  • Derek

    Nice article, and you make some fair points. Currently, it doesn’t look like anyone is too close to hitting the mark. If anyone, I’d say the best bets are probably Mussina (239 wins at age 38) or Pettitte (186 at 35).

    However, I think a more important point is that 300 wins has never been easy. In baseball’s history, only 22 people have done it. Let’s say baseball has only been around for 110 years (it’s a bit longer); that averages only one 300 game winner every 5 years. If we get Glavine and Johnson this season (or next), that’s our quota for 10 years.

    Considering Maddux and Clemens just hit the mark recently, modern baseball doesn’t owe the club much. Without much research on the topic, I’d say that the shorter outings are extending a lot of players’ careers. If Pettitte or Mussina can pitch into their early/mid 40s (not impossible with the smaller starts), they’ll make it too.

  • http://backtobard.blogspot.com Benaiah

    Hey Chicken Little, the sky isn’t falling. People were saying the same thing not that long ago and look at Maddux, Glavine, the Rocket and maybe Johnson knocking down 300’s door. You act like they are last generation, but they basically the same age as Schilling.

    Rather than simply point out who could do it (Dontrelle Willis for one), I will tell you why all of your examples are flawed. Johan has only been a starter for 3 years, which suppresses his win total. The guy is brilliant, but he was 25 when he became a starter, Maddux got53 wins by the time he was that age (and Willis just turned 25 and he has 60). It is like Ryan Howard, he got started late so 500 might be tough for him. Halladay and Oswalt both got late starts and also lost time to injury.

    The NL was very bad last year, and that is why no pitcher had more wins. No team had very many wins, besides the Mets, and their pitching was iffy. This was an aberration, in 2004 Oswalt had 20, in 2005, Willis had 22.

    The big three just aren’t good enough to get to 300. No big deal, it is tough to get there, if it wasn’t then no one would care about it.

    Pedro is arguably the greatest pitcher ever (2000 was the finest pitching season ever), but he also got hurt a lot, it takes superhuman durability to get to 300.

    Here are the factors needed to get to 300: a headstart (gotta be pitching when you are young), a good offense behind you (Blyleven would have made it otherwise), can’t ever get injured, and you have to play a really long time. The reason none of the aforementioned players will make it, is because they didn’t meet all of this qualities (Schilling fails nearly all of them). Likewise, it is impossible to guess which players will still be around in ten years, racking up wins like Glavine and Maddux are.

    The reason all people who might make it are in their 40’s is because only people still in the league when they are 40 have a chance. It is self selection. Guys like Phil Hughes (young and playing in front of the Yankee offense) and King Felix (just a stud and really young) have that possibility, but so many things have to go right for it to happen that no one can predict it with any certainty.

    Besides which, Wins are an absurd statistic so who cares.

  • Bryan

    How can you say NEVER about anything in sports? You must not be very old. Anyway, I’d say Dontrelle Willis, Carlos Zambrano, and Jake Peavy have a shot. It’ll happen again someday. Even Clemens missed some time in his age 30 and 31 seasons.

    Carlos Zambrano 26, 65 wins
    Dontrelle Willis 24, 60 wins
    Jake Peavy 25, 58 wins

  • http://backtobard.blogspot.com Benaiah

    Other people who have a chance: C.C. Sabathia (26 with 82 Wins), Carlos Zambrano (26 with 65 Wins), Jake Peavy (26 with 58 Wins), Brett Myers (26 with 54 Wins) and Jon Garland (27 with 82 Wins). Probably none of them will make it, but any of them might. Here is someone who might make it in the next five years: Mike Mussina (38 with 239 wins).

  • Andy B

    What about Zambrano? 64 wins at age 25? 15 more seasons at 15.7 per. He’s got a Clemens-esque build and could easily pitch that long. Of course, he won’t be able to do it if he stays with the Cubs…..

    Doesn’t seem like that long ago, we were having this discussion after Ryan, Carlton & Niekro hit the 300 club. Since then, we’ve had Clemens & Maddux with Glavine & Unit on the doorstep. It’s not many, but someone will get there.

  • Duncan

    You’re right, of course (it’s been completely obvious for a few years now) but you didn’t even list the real reason why: the five-man rotation. When 30 starts a year is considered a lot, today’s starters are lucky to get 300 decisions, let alone wins.

  • Gibbs

    Why is it that this article, in one form or another, gets published every couple of years? It will happen again, just like it’s always happened in the past. Get a clue, asshole.

  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Will

    Duncan – that’s not a good argument – starters who were in four man rotations didn’t get many more than 35 starts a year. Starters today who stay healthy over an entire season can expect a similar amount.

    Warren Spahn started more than 35 games in a season 10 times (but never started more than 39 in any season). Greg Maddux started more than 35 games 9 times.

    You might lose a start or two, but overall, it’s not that big a factor. Not something health and a good offense (win/loss%) can’t overcome easily.

  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Will

    I don’t like plugging my own blog, but I included some of the stats I cite in these comments in something I wrote almost a year ago my response to a Ken Rosenthal article

  • http://backtobard.blogspot.com Benaiah

    This is the obvious drawback to comment moderation, nothing for an hour, then boom 12 new comments. At any rate, I think you have been righteously proven wrong and consider yourself chastised. Kidding. I think everyone loves talking and arguing baseball, so when you put something out there then everyone comes barreling in to disagree.

  • http://www.larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I guess Zambrano and CC are guys who have decent shots, but then I have to say injury or bad luck will do its part on them before long. Seems like CC is always hitting the DL. But of all guys around, they could come close.

    And the Unit may have put together an awesome run during his 30s, but he also won 24 and 21 games during that span, which I can’t see any of these guys doing, and he’s pitching til he’s 43, which I also can’t see any of these guys doing.

  • http://backtobard.blogspot.com Benaiah

    Larry, that is the point. It is hard to get to 300, you have to pitch for a really long time. Probably none of these guys will do it. But they all might, and eventually, just by looking at the odds, someone will. Somewhere out there, either in the majors, the minors, college or little leagues, there is a player whose arm will make him very rich as he pitches 20+ years at a high level.

    Johnson was really wild when he came up and was 27(!) before he had a ten win season and yet he still has a shot at 300. That just goes to show you that even Santana might make it.

  • HeyZeus

    We are all leaving out one huge factor in all of this. Look at the teams these guys played for. 90’s Braves were the powerhouse NL team, they had the batters behind them to win games, they also had multiple quality pitchers, Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux 2/3 are gonna hit 300 and Smoltz is the only guy with what 30+ saves and 20+ wins. Its a dual effort, you need a quality team all around, run support and great starters. Hernandez has huge potential, but he won’t get the wins from his team, same goes for Peavy. Verlander has a shot if the Tigers can keep it up, but I think D-train has the best shot of the youngins, Florida is up and coming, they’ve got great young players to grow around and win together.
    The key to 300 is a quality team, not just a skilled pitch set.

  • http://backtobard.blogspot.com Benaiah

    To be fair, no one knows what team Felix or Peavy will be playing for in a few years or how good any team will be. Besides, sometimes pitchers just get lucky or unlucky with run support. I agree with you that run support is just as important to getting wins, but I think it is impossible to guess with much accuracy who will have support.

  • http://www.larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    As good as Peavy is, he’s never won more than 15 games, gets hurt constantly, and hardly lasts deep into ballgames because of his high pitch counts. He’s the prototype of a guy I DON’T think will ever get a lot of wins for his career because of these factors.

    Still, don’t confuse what I’m writing with the fact I believe Peavy is one of the most dominant pitchers in today’s game. Because he certainly is. It’s just those aforementioned factors that will keep him from reaching a lot of career wins.

  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Will

    HeyZeus – I agree – run support has a big effect on pitcher wins (see Blyleven…), and I mentioned that it easily overcomes any drawbacks caused by rotation size and other problems suggested as preventing future 300 game winners.

    One interesting argument you COULD try to advance for fewer 300 game winners – in this era of free agency and increased player movement, could it be possible that a pitcher could find himself on less consistent teams?

    I.e., if Barry Zito signs away seven years of his life to the Giants and they give him 2 runs a game and they tank, he won’t win many games even if he does have a great ERA.

    But I don’t know that it would make a difference. If anything, increasing player autonomy should mean that, not only will players be able to escape from poor team situations, but since free agent star pitchers are going to teams with more funds, and theoretically, more money to spend in giving that pitcher a good supporting cast, they might get more run support.

    Then again, we do know that money doesn’t necessarily correlate to victories past a certain point.

    I’m not sure, actually. It’s not something I’ve given much thought or research to.

    I do disagree with your point about 300 game winners, but I have to say, I love to talk about the subject.

  • http://deadon.wordpress.com Will

    (Sorry, that last sentence was directed at the author of this post, not the author of the comment I was responding to)

  • Brian

    I agree with your statement, but not for any of the reasons listed. Kids pick a sport and specialize in it too young nowadays. By the time anyone talented enough to reach this milestone breaks into the league, they will already have too many innings on their arm to have any chance at the kind of longevity necessary to reach it. Barring some sort of new breakthrough in sports medicine that significantly reduces the wear and tear on a pitcher’s arm (or perhaps an ambidextrous freak of nature), I do not see 300 wins happening ever again.

  • Lally


    With your responses to everyone’s comments, it sounds more and more like you’re asserting that no pitcher in the game today (save Glavine and RJ) will reach 300 wins. Not that there will never be a 300 game winner again.

    If that’s your argument, I’d agree with you.

    Like it’s been said by everyone, 300 win pitchers are rare no matter what era they pitch in.

  • http://www.larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    I definitely don’t see any of today’s pitchers doing it, but it’s larger than that. I think all the over-arching factors that have changed the game will make it impossible. 5 man rotations, conservative pitch counts, complex bullpens.

    I get irritated every time an analyst says “___ will be a 20 game winner this year.”

    Actually, no he won’t. Pitchers don’t simply win 20 games any more. Those days are over, and so are the 300 game winner days.

    But as you point out Lally, and some of the other comments do, it’s much more of a rarity than say 500 home runs any way. Until the rules of the game change, you definitely won’t be seeing any 300 game winners in the future.

  • JB

    Larry Brown wrote: “Pitchers don’t simply win 20 games any more. Those days are over,”

    That’s a bunch of crap.

    20-Game winners since the strike (total, both leagues)

    Was there some seismic shift in baseball strategry or starting pitcher usage between 2005 and 2006? Or was 2006 just an odd year?

  • steve

    I’m not saying he’ll get there, but I’m always amazed that everyone always forgets about Mark Buehrle in this argument? He’s going for his 100th win this Saturday and should be at around 115 at the end of this year (he just turned 28). He needs to average 15 wins until he is 40, very possible. He is like a left handed Maddux, wins on “smarts” and “location”. Who knows what wil happen, but Buehrle belongs in the discussion.

  • http://www.larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Mark Buehrle has the youth, but I can’t put someone up there who’s been bombed the past two seasons.

  • Thomas

    You’re assuming pitchers can’t pitch past 38 or 40… At the rate he’s going, Jamie Moyer will get to 300 wins in about 6 years… Someone will get there, I’d put my money on C.C. or Dontrelle.

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  • luckyyucko

    pure crap. writer should be fired.

  • luckyyucko