Greg Maddux recently won his 298th game, and quickly approaches becoming the 22nd member of the prestigious 300 Win Club. Many people have discussed the possibility that Maddux might be the last with the move away from 4 member rotations and the increase in using the bullpen to close out games. It is harder for a pitcher to win 20 games in a season, and to win 300 a pitcher must win 20 games for 15 years, or at least 15 games for 20 years.
Roger Clemens was the last pitcher to enter the club, and after him and Maddux, the list of active pitchers close to them is few. Tom Glavine comes closest (with 251 wins as of the beginning of the 2004 season.) Some say he might reach the milestone, but Glavine will be 38 in 2004 and needs 49 wins to get there. He has 7 so far this season. Others mention Mike Mussina as he has had a spectacular career and now pitches for the Yankees. He has a shot with 199 wins starting off this year, and he will only be 36 in 2004. Both average 15 wins a year over their careers, but can they keep pitching and hold off injuries to make it to 300?
I have created a chart that looks at two different scenarios for a number of pitchers. First, I included pitchers who had over 100 wins and stood a decent chance given their careers of possibly making 300. I averaged out their wins per year (by dividing their total wins by the number of years they had been in the major leagues.) Then I prorated those numbers out for 20 seasons, and also prorated how many wins they might have by age 40, when most pitchers retire or drop off in win total. Obviously some pitchers are already over the age of 40, i.e. Randy Johnson, David Wells, Jamie Moyer and Kenny Rogers. These were not included in the second column.
I also added a few younger pitchers who had already racked up an impressive amount of wins. It is always difficult to figure what will happen in a career. You never know when arm troubles, or other factors will either end a career or change a pitchers style. But if they remain on their current pace, some of them have a shot. Anyway, here's the table:
Age is age of the pitcher as of 2004
Yrs is the number of yeras the pitcher has been in the major leagues
Win Total is the number of wins as of the start of the 2004 season
Avg per Yr is just that
Proj. Wins is the number of wins projected over 20 years
Proj. Wins till 40 is the number of wins the pitcher might be expected to win if they pitch until 40 years old
You'll note that I have been generous for those pitchers over 40. Can Randy Johnson pitch for another 4 years at the same level as he is now? Can Jamie Moyer? I doubt it. And how about Mussina? Can he pitch for another 7 years? Perhaps. But even if he does, he will come very close to not making it. He'll have to continue averaging 15 wins a season to do it, and I'm not sure he can.
By this table, the pitchers with the best chance to make it are Mussina, Pettitte, Hudson, Zito and Mulder. But again, they will have to remain on pace and that is not easy to do. Glavine comes close, and so does Russ Ortiz if he keeps it up. But the table shows that most of these pitchers will not make it. After all, some of the best pitchers ever could not win 300 games. Look at some of the win totals:
Bert Blyleven - 287
Robin Roberts - 286
Ferguson Jenkins - 284
Bob Feller - 266
Jim Palmer - 268
Carl Hubbell - 253
Bob Gibson - 251
Juan Marichal - 243
Whitey Ford - 236
Catfish Hunter - 224
Orel Hershiser - 204
Dwight Gooden - 194
Fernando Valenzuela - 173
Sandy Koufax - 165
Dizzy Dean - 150
Wars, injuries and simply losing it all contributed to these pitchers never reaching the magical number of 300 wins. If they could not, what makes us think those pitching today can do any better? I think Glavine might come close, especially if he keeps up with his resurgence this year. And Pettitte stands a great chance, though his injury this year will lower his pace. But I do not see too many more pitchers reaching this milestone any time soon. After Maddux reaches 300, the doors to the club should stay shut for a good while, and maybe that's a good thing so that the club remains special. After all, look at the 500 Home Run club. It's starting to get crowded. That is all.