After reading Tim Kurkjian’s article about how Tom Glavine may be the last pitcher to reach 300 wins, I decided to take a look at some prominent pitchers in today’s game to see where they stack up against the currently active players who have 300 wins, plus Randy Johnson who is next on the list with 284. I was quite surprised to see how quickly Maddux, Glavine and Clemens started winning in their careers and how long it took Randy Johnson to get moving. Looking at pitchers of different ages and matching them up against how Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, and Johnson did at the same age should give us a pretty good indication of at least how difficult 300 will be for the younger pitchers. Most of the guys I looked at are still early in their careers, but if they keep the pace they are going with now, maybe 300 isn’t completely impossible.
One note: I used end of the year stats for the older guys at their repsective ages, but obviously I cannot do that with the younger guys because this season isn’t over yet. However, none of them will get more than maybe 7 wins this year, so the numbers should still provide a good indication.
The first pitcher is 35-year old Andy Pettitte:
As you can see, the only player he is ahead of is Randy Johnson, which you will see is a common theme throughout. Johnson won many games later in his career at a pace that is unmatched among the other pitchers. Well behind the pace of the others, Pettitte’s biggest hurdle will be whether he wants to continue playing until he is in his 40s, something that doesn’t appear likely.
Next oldest on the list is Tim Hudson (32 years old), who won a good amount of games playing for the Oakland Athletics before he was traded to the Atlanta Braves (where Glavine and Maddux accumulated most of their wins). However, compared to the four others, he doesn’t come close.
I skipped 31 years of age since Kelvim Escobar is the highest with 94, but he has never won more than 14 games in a season, so I don’t expect him to come close to 300 in his career.
There are 3 pitchers to consider at age 30, but as you can see, they are still at least 30 games behind Glavine’s pace:
Mulder has been riddled with injuries the last couple of seasons and if Glavine has taught us anything, it’s that any time on the DL will take away a chance at 300. Roy Halladay has also spent a little time on the DL, but nothing too detrimental. Oswalt leads the list of the three behind Maddux, Clemens and Glavine with 109, a solid number at age 30, but still quite short of the others.
Hudson’s former teammate Barry Zito is the highest on the list for his age, winning 110 games by the age of 29.
Similar to the previous lists, Zito trails Maddux, Clemens and Glavine, but is vastly ahead of Randy Johnson. Zito left the Oakland A’s for the San Francisco Giants this year, signing a 7-year, $126 million contract to move across the bay. Unfortunately for Zito, he is 8-10 this year and seems to be slowing the pace of his previous seasons.
Of the two 29-year old pitchers I looked at, one has dominated the game for the past couple of years and the other has quietly accumulated win over win (as well as a no-hitter). However, despite both of their successes, neither is ahead of Maddux, Clemens or Glavine.
I was very surprised to see that Buehrle was 17 wins ahead of Santana, who has already won two Cy Young awards. Buehrle is the closest to Glavine at his age, only 2 wins behind and the rest of this season to go, so he will probably pass him this year. I doubt he will win 10 more games this year to match Clemens, but at this point it appears that Buehrle is on the right pace. Santana may be too far behind, but I could also see him run off 5 straight 20 win seasons to catch up.
Obviously trying to predict how a 27-year old’s career will finish is rather circumstantial, but I think it’s good to at least see how they are doing on the pace. At 27 years old, C.C. Sabathia has 95 wins, which is the same number of wins that Tom Glavine and Roger Clemens had at that age.
Maddux is 20 wins ahead of that pace and Johnson 74 behind, but Sabathia’s early success in the Majors has him in very good company towards 300. Like Buehrle, Sabathia has additional opportunities this year to increase that win total and he may well be over 100 by October.
At age 26, Carlos Zambrano is ahead of Tom Glavine’s pace and tied with Roger Clemens at 78 wins. He should surely pass Clemens in the next couple of starts, though he will not reach Maddux’s 95. Jake Peavy is 5 wins shy of Glavine’s 73, certainly an obtainable number given another two months of the season.
Zambrano is two wins away from tying his season high and seems to be getting stronger as the season progresses. He is a free agent at the end of the year and the team he ends up with will certainly influence how the rest of his career’s win total improves.
Peavy is having the best season of his career this year and is definitely a front-runner for the National League Cy Young Award. He is dominating all aspects of the game and plays in a pitcher’s park, which should only help his win total in the future.
The youngest player I looked at was Dontrelle Willis, who at age 25 is ahead of Clemens, Glavine and Johnson and is just 10 wins short of Maddux.
Clearly it’s difficult to assume that Willis will continue to win at the pace he has shown in the past (in fact, he is already slowing down), but the possibility of changing teams in the future could help him out. Playing for the Marlins, he misses out on a number of wins because of the lack of talent the team has overall. If he were to be traded to maybe the Mets, you could expect the win totals to improve from this season.
After reviewing the players above and how they compare to the winningest active pitchers, it’s obvious that 300 games is an extremely difficult feat. However, I can’t believe that Glavine will be the last pitcher we see achieve that mark. Pitchers are playing more seasons than ever before and continue to get stronger as time goes on. Oswalt is averaging 15 wins per season and already has 109 wins to his name. Continuing at that pace, he will need to pitch until he is 42 to get to 300. Are you telling me that is impossible? If Peavy averages 16 wins for the next 15 seasons (when he will turn 43), he will finish with 308 wins. Sabathia has averaged almost 14 wins per season so far in his career and will need another 15 years at that pace to reach 300, when he will be 42 (to put that in perspective, Mike Mussina has averaged 14 wins per season over his entire Major League career). Glavine and Maddux are both 41 and neither has indicated he is going to retire after this season.
300 wins will absolutely be extremely difficult for the players I’ve mentioned, but impossible? I am fairly confident that of Dontrelle Willis, Jake Peavy, Carlos Zambrano, C.C. Sabathia, Mark Buehrle, Johan Santana, Barry Zito, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson and Andy Pettitte, one of them could reach 300 wins in his career. Only time (and wins) will tell.