Friday, June 5, 2009

Never Say Never Again

Based on the crowd at Nationals Park yesterday, nobody in Washington knew that there was a future-Hall of Famer winning his 300th game, which is exactly what Randy Johnson did last night. Now that this milestone has been accomplished by the Big Unit, the question has been pondered if he will be the last 300-game winner ever in baseball. Tim Kurkjian was saying the other day that no one will reach it among the current starters.

However, I think there is an opportunity for a few players to reach the 300 milestone among the active pitchers. Now all of the pitchers in the 200-range; Jamie Moyer, Andy Pettitte, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez; won't get there since Martinez can't find work, Smoltz lost wins when he was a closer, Pettitte probably won't pitch long enough and Moyer would need to pitch until 60 to reach 300. Here, though is a list of pitchers who have an opportunity to reach the milestone.

Roy Halladay

Currently, Halladay has 140 career wins, including the 9 he has this season. He turned 32 a few weeks ago. After winning 18 games over 4 years, he won 19 followed by 22 during his Cy Young season. He's averaged a shade over 14 wins a season since, mainly due to injuries in 2004 and 2005. However, the one thing Halladay has going for him is the fact that he is probably the most durable pitcher in terms of going long into games. He has 40 complete games this decade, more than any other pitcher. He also continues to pitch at a high level based on his 9-1 start with a 2.77 ERA. Halladay should reach the 150 win mark at the end of this season, and can reach 200 by 2012 if he keeps up this level which would leave about 100 wins to go at age 35. It then is up to how many years he continues to pitch, but if he pitches well to 40 and can stay in the big leagues until about 43, when the other 300-game winners pitched to in recent years, he will make it. I give his chances of reaching it at around 50%.

Tim Hudson

Honestly, the only reason I mention him is that he's only 33 and at 146 wins. However, he's hurt all year and has only had one 15+ win season since 2003. Hudson would be lucky if he ends with 200 wins, much less 300. 0%

Roy Oswalt

He's probably the most interesting case due to his talent and the fact that his team's performance is very indicative of his success. He's won 131 games through his career and will turn 32 later this year. Oswalt's strengths include the fact he has won more than 14 games all but once in his career and that he doesn't get hurt that often. However, this season has not been kind to Roy as he's only won 2 games in 12 starts and the Astros seem like they will be bad for a long time and his stats could go down because of it, unless he's traded (though Drayton McLane has never wanted to trade him). Honestly, Oswalt will pass 250 wins, but I think he falls short of 300 because he will stay in Houston too long and that will lower his win total. I give him a 10% chance.

CC Sabathia

If there's one active player is most likely to get there, it's CC. He has benefited from winning 10+ every year since his first year at age 20. Now he's 28 and currently has 122 wins. I'm almost certain that Sabathia will reach 150 at the end of next season. He also gets to have the Yankee offense scoring for him, though New Yankee Stadium will hurt his stats. He also is another pitcher who has stayed healthy despite his physique and tends to pitch a lot of innings as well, always a positive in getting wins. I also think he is able to get to 300 at many age 40 or even 39 so I do think he will get there and his chances to me are at 70%.

Johan Santana

What is true is that Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, based on his level of dominance in the American League and it's translated in the NL. However, the Mets have done an awful job giving him run support and his defense failed him a couple games this year. Add the seven wins he lost last year due to the Mets bullpen, and I think he will have a tough time. He's 31 with 116 wins lifetime. I don't think Santana makes it, but it won't matter since Santana can make it to Cooperstown without it. I give him a 15% chance.

Carlos Zambrano

Tonight, Zambrano won his 100 victory and will get his own paragraph because of that. He just turned 28 on Monday and has never really been hurt all that much thus far. He's never had less than 13 wins since he became a full-time starter in 2003. What hurts Zambrano is that he doesn't really pitch long in games and has yet to win more than 18 games and that only occurred once. He seems like he will fall short and something tells me that he won't play in twelve years, unlike some of the others who I mentioned, so that only gives him an 8% chance.
Updated 3:21 PM ET: That something it appears was Carlos Zambrano himself, who said that he plans to retire after his contract expires in either 2012 or 2013 (option). In that case, his 8% turns into 0%, though you never know how serious someone is about retirement.

The Best of the Rest

Livan Hernandez is listed at 34 with over 150 wins, but I'm sure he's older. Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland are at good ages to pitch a lot more, but they aren't aces who will average 15+ a year for 6 years at least to get in the discussion. Josh Beckett has only had 3 season with 15+ wins and postseason success doesn't always translate to gaudy regular season numbers (see Schilling, Curt). Brandon Webb is too old to be at under 100 wins since he's 30 and only Randy Johnson was at that stage at 30 and Webb ain't no Randy Johnson. Finally, Jake Peavy has yet to string along a bunch of consistent seasons, going from 19 wins and a Cy Young in 2007 to 10 in 2008. As for pitchers like Zack Greinke, far too young to really know what's coming.

So while it certainly hard to think that anyone will win 300 again, there are a few pitchers out there that if they stay healthy, continue to put up 15+ win seasons and pitch for long time can reach this milestone. In other words, we will see another scene like Randy Johnson's yesterday; well actually, we'll see a scene of people actually caring about a milestone being set.

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