The List: The Next 300-Game Winner
On the day Randy Johnson turned 28 years old - Sept. 10, 1991 - he owned exactly 43 big league wins, fewer at that exact moment than either Chris Bosio or Jose Guzman, to name two contemporaries of the same birth year, fewer even than Allan Anderson or Greg Swindell, who were (and still are) younger.
But as we all know by now, Johnson figured something out as a veteran pitcher. He has won 256 games since his 28th birthday, putting him on the precipice of joining baseball's exclusive 300-win club (membership: 23). And tonight at Nationals Park, the San Francisco Giants' 45-year-old lefty makes his first try for win No. 300.
Had anyone been laying odds, in September 1991, as to the likelihood of any then-active pitchers winning 300 games, Johnson's name probably would not have been on the board at all. Even as recently as 2007, when he was sitting on 280 wins at age 43 and sidelined with a troublesome back, his chances appeared slim.
But those are some of the exact reasons why it seems foolish for anyone to assume Johnson will be the last 300 game winner--a claim that seems to be made anytime another pitcher joins that club (and there have been three, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens and Tom Glavine, this decade). The outlier, such as Johnson, doesn't reveal himself until deep into his career.
There will be another 300-game winner, just perhaps no time soon. Here is the leaderboard for career wins among active pitchers. As you can see, there is no one younger than 36 with more than 200 wins -- Andy Pettitte has 220 a few weeks shy of his 37th birthday, but doesn't seem inclined to pitch long enough to get anywhere near 300 -- and no one younger than 34 with more than 150.
But somewhere in the ranks of the 30 big-league rosters there surely lurks a 28-year-old late-comer (Dan Haren? Daisuke Matsuzaka?), who, like Johnson himself, goes on a major win-binge in his 30s and gives himself a chance at 300. Or, some 20-year-old phenom (yes, you know who we're talking about) who is that rare creature: a No. 1 overall pick who fulfills his destiny.
Heck, maybe he'll even win 400.
But even more than sheer ability, it is durablity and longevity that determine whether someone has it in them to make a run at 300.
With that in mind, here is a look at the five likeliest candidates to follow Johnson as the next member of the 300-win club:
5. Stephen Strasburg. Age: 20. Wins: 0. OK, we admit this is a bit tongue-in-cheek. But even if he's only half as good as the hype (and if he stays healthy), he has a chance to be an all-timer. And here's something we also want to stress: If Strasburg is at all concerned about things such as legacy and history, he would not want to throw away a full year of his youth pitching in some godforsaken independent league, or in Japan, over a few million dollars in signing bonuses. Odds: 40-1.
4. Mark Buehrle. Age: 30. Wins: 128. He got an early jump, winning his 50th game as a 24-year-old and his 100th at age 28. He has also been extraordinarily durable: 30-plus starts and 200-plus innings for eight straight years. But the downside is the mileage: He'll be at around 2,000 innings by this year's all-star break. And he needs to get back to winning 16-to-19 games a year, as he did early in his career. Odds: 18-1.
3. CC Sabathia. Age: 28. Wins: 122. He might be No. 1 on this list if we didn't have so many concerns about how his body will hold up as he ages. Twelve years of averaging a modest 15 wins per year would do it. But can he pitch effectively in his late 30s or early 40s? Probably not at 300 pounds. You also have to wonder about the mileage at this point: over 1,750 innings (regular and postseason combined). At the same age, Johnson had roughly 1,000 fewer innings. Odds: 12-1.
2. Roy Halladay. Age: 32. Wins: 140. He's someone to keep an eye on. The math is easy: If he averages 20 wins a year for eight more years, he gets there at age 40. Of course, that's impossible, but how about 10 seasons of 16 wins? Halladay is a horse, averaging 210 innings pitched over the last seven seasons, and has the look of someone who can pitch at a very high level forever. Odds: 9-1.
1. Johan Santana. Age: 30. Wins: 116. He has everything you'd look for in a candidate: A workhorse mentality, a history of staying healthy (five straight seasons of 15-plus wins and 210-plus innings) and relatively low mileage, owing to his spending the first part of his career as a reliever. He could have 130 wins before he turns 31 next March, which would mean he'd need 10 more years of averaging 17 wins per season to get there. Odds: 7-1.
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