Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A superb left-handed batter recently achieved something that many predict will never be done again. Tom Glavine, who is batting .244 this year, won his 300th game last night in his 21st big-league season. Roughly ten years ago, it was said that no one might win 300 games again. Now, after Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Glavine have reached 300 wins, the claim is being repeated once more.

However, it's puzzling to say that no one will win 300 games ever again. Virtually nothing has changed about pitching since Maddux, Clemens and Glavine began their careers over 20 years ago. The five-man rotation makes victories harder to come by for pitchers, and we may never see another 30-game winner, but the trio of Clemens, Maddux and Glavine all pitched in 3-man rotations. As long as excellent pitchers keep coming about, we will see 300-game winners.

The most likely candidate is Randy Johnson and while he is from the crop of great '80s pitchers (just look at his hair), the 43-year old Johnson didn't become a succesful starter until the age of 26. By the age of 26, Clemens had 78 wins, Maddux 75, Glavine 53 and Johnson 10. The aging Johnson is hardly a lock to reach 300, given his age (43), distance from 300 (16) and injuries (back).

After Johnson, the durable Andy Pettitte is a good candidate, having started at least 30 games in 10 of his 12 seasons, and won 10 games in 11 of them. He's 35 years old and has just 193 wins, but if he pitches for another 7-8 years, he could reach 300.

The best prospects are the crop of great pitchers from the turn of the century. Tim Hudson has 131 wins at 31, Barry Zito 110 at 29 and the burly Mark Buehrle has 106 and 28. My heart also wants me to mention Roy Halladay, who has an unimpressive 106 wins at the age of 30, but it's worth noting that his first decent season came at the age of 25. In the four full seasons that Halladay has played, he has averaged 17 wins. Halladay is not only as durable as any pitcher, he's also a winner: his winning percentage of .669 ranks 13th all-time.

On the other hand, the best pitchers, the ones that are most likely to win, aren't always the winningest. The most dominant pitcher that I have ever seen is Pedro Martinez, whose career sits in jeopardy at the age of 35. The three-time Cy Young winner has a career ERA of 2.81, easily the best among active pitchers (next is Maddux's 3.10).

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