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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.

By Dave Sheinin  |  June 3, 2009; 8:08 AM ET
 
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Comments

Tracee: That "Talking Points" link at the top of the Sports Web page takes you to the chat with Ted Leonsis.

Posted by: Juan-John | June 3, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Wow, out of the 101 pitchers on the list showing the top career win leaders among active pitchers, there are only a small number under 30, and Bonderman is the youngest at age 26. the list shows all active pitchers with at least 54 wins. To emphasize Tracee's point about Strasburg, how many wins do we think he will have by age 26? I'm guessing more than 54, even assuming he is with the Nationals!

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | June 3, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Last night I attended the Nats game against the feeble and surprisingly inept SF Giants. I hesitate making predictions regarding the fate of either team at this point in the season, but if last night is any indication of what is to come...well, it looks like the Nats are poised to make one of the most surprising turnarounds in baseball history. And their loyal fans deserve nothing less as they have suffered mightily and tragically over the past several seasons.

There will be some bumps in the road. Tonight, for example, the Nats are facing future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, all 6' 10" of him, a menacing left hander with no conscience and every reason to believe that this game will be his 300th career victory. My guess is that during his visit to the White House today, he will be sprinkled with some of that Obamamagic, and no amount of momentum that the Nats have gathered from last night's remarkable performance will matter. Nats fans will have to be satisfied to watch history in the making. That's OK. One more loss is not going to matter when the season ends and Nat's playoff tickets become as hard to obtain as Senate Republican votes for Sonia Sotomayor.

After tonight's game however, watch out. The Nats will be marching to the beat of destiny's drummer. You'll see.

Posted by: RCoughlan | June 3, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I heard from a reliable source that Moose is coming out of retirement next season to pitch for the O's. A couple of 15-win seasons, and he's enshrined in Cooperstown wearing the orange and black. Odds: 1-1000.

Posted by: glb8p | June 3, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Bows to RCoughlan..I thought I was the only one that believed in the Nats turning it around

Posted by: Ratzoe | June 3, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Sheinin, you don't even have the three best candidates for 300 wins listed. You can't just look at the leaders of active pitchers in wins; you have to factor in wins at a very young age.

Consider these candidates:
- Felix Hernandez: 44 wins, in his 5th professional season, and he's 23. He'll be 1/6th of the way to 300 games before he turns 24. by way of comparison, Johan Santana had 11 wins by the time he turned 24.
- Scott Kazmir: 51 wins, he's 25. And he plays for a team that can win.
- Chad Billingsly: 41 wins, he turns 25 this week and plays for the presumptive NL favorites right now.

a couple lesser possibilities:
- Zack Greinke: 42 wins, 25 yrs old and finally playing for a winner.
- Ervin Santana; 51 wins through 4 seasons and he's 26. Plays for a perennial 100-win team. Struggling this season but was 16-7 last season.

I say we definitely see a 300 game winner in our lifetimes, just not from the list of Sabathia, Johan Santana, or Halladay.

Posted by: tboss | June 3, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey Rizzo, scratch Zimmermann and fly in Basik. History guaranteed!

Posted by: 1stBaseCoach | June 3, 2009 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Johnson, Shmonson. Word is that he is not planning to visit the White House today.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 3, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Game on, Nats.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 3, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Mike Mussina, 40, career 270 wins. Comes out of retirement next year and wins 15 games the next 2 seasons to get to 300.

Odds: 1:1

Posted by: Barno1 | June 3, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

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