Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 21, 2005
BASEBALL: 269

For what it's worth, Tom Glavine's 269th career win yesterday pushes him ahead of Jim Palmer on the all-time list.

UPDATE: Let's update this chart through July 20:

PitcherThru 35At 36-37Thru 37At 38Thru 38After
Maddux2573228916305*8
Carlton249362851530029
Clemens2332726020280*55
Seaver24519264927338
Grove223342571427129
Spahn203432462126796
Sutton23028258826658
Glavine2242725111262*7
Wynn201342351424951
Perry198332311524668
Ryan205262311024183
R.Johnson1604020024224*32
Mussina211*9*220--*220--
Martinez*193--*193--*193--
Niekro1313216316179139

* - And counting

Pedro, of course, is still just 33.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:59 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Glavine continues to keep his slim 300-win hopes afloat, although at some point he's going to have to start pitching consistently better if he wants to keep getting handed the ball after his guaranteed money runs out.

Interestingly, all of the pitchers with at least a theoretical shot at 300 are currently pitching in New York, although I don't really expect any of them to get there. Randy Johnson would need to remain effective until an age that defies any ability to put probabilities to it, Mussina needs a run of 17-18 win seasons until his early 40's, and Pedro needs six or seven years of 30+ starts a year, or else to rip off 20 win seasons for the duration of his Mets deal and then stagger to the finish line (neither of which seems real likely).

Posted by: Jerry at July 21, 2005 10:38 AM

This season hasn't been kind to Johnson's chances. Although if he really wanted to, we might be ready to start talking about Clemens getting to 400.

Pedro will make it if he stays healthy and durable, and not if he doesn't. Glavine will, I suspect, only make it if he returns to Atlanta.

Posted by: The Crank at July 21, 2005 10:42 AM

Johnson is continuing to pick up wins at a pretty good clip, and could even win 20 this year if he gets on a roll. But I'd agree that he no longer looks like someone who might, like Ryan, remain highly effective into his mid 40s, which is what it would take.

Posted by: Jerry at July 21, 2005 11:04 AM

I had no idea that Mussina had over 200 wins.

Posted by: John Cole at July 21, 2005 7:52 PM

What really sticks out to me is Neikro's numbers. That guy pitched with some truly horrid teams in Atlanta. I mean putrid. Yes, it was another time, but one can only imagine the win totals he'd have had were he to have pitched on some other teams in the 70s/80s which is why I never feel bad about the annual Braves October swoon, because I'll take 13 consecutive division titles and "only" one world series title any day....I lived through the perennial 100+ loss seasons throughout my childhood while I was learning about baseball.

Posted by: RW at July 21, 2005 9:47 PM

Should say "are" Neikro's numbers. I may be southern and thus graded on a curve but believe me when I say that I successfully completed 4 english/lit courses in college. :)

Posted by: RW at July 21, 2005 9:49 PM

Niekro's career ERA+ is 115, which translates to an expected winning % of .569. If he had gotten the same number of decisions with a .569 WP, he would have gone 337-255, a full 19 games better than his real record. It's silly that it took four or five ballots for the BBWAA to put him in the Hall.

(The same method makes Blyleven a 313 game winner, btw.)

Posted by: Chris at July 22, 2005 10:35 AM

I didn't realize that Mussina had so many wins either. It's another case in point why milestones alone are so usless in gauging worth in the Hall. I consider Mussina to be another Don Sutton. A really good pitcher, someone you are glad to have on your staff, maybe even a 2 on a good team, a 1 on a bad team, but not a HOFer.

There is so much more than just throwing to be a great pitcher. Tom Seaver is arrogant, and loves to put other pitchers down that he knew he was so much better than, which means he does a lot of putting down. Which is why Pedro Martinez is an immortal and Mussina is not, no matter any amount of run discrepancy (and they both had some good teams, and some not so good).

Pedro sets up hitters, but also keeps his defense ready. Mussina sits there on a hot day, and makes Steve Trachsel look like he's working fast. It's a small thing, but then look back on the great pitchers you've seen. They all kept the guys behind them ready. Koufax, Seaver, Gibson, Clemens. Maddux and Mussina have similar kinds of stuff in a way, but MAddux moves it along. Makes it easier for the umps also. That's the difference between throwing and pitching.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 22, 2005 11:53 AM

I'd agree that Mussina is about the same as Sutton - on his best day, bordering on greatness, but usually just very good. I think that is enough for the Hall when it's sustained over 320 wins, as Sutton did, and if Mussina lasts that long, I'll have no problem with him getting in, either.

Posted by: Jerry at July 22, 2005 1:59 PM

This clearly brings in the issues of other guys who will in the next few years retire with huge stats earned primarily by the ability to stay around and be productive for 18+ years. What used to be a relative rarity will become commonplace. Look at the discussion regarding Palmeiro with his 3,000/500 (probably 600 by next year). Only 2 or 3 other guys have done it but does it make him a HOFer? Same thing with Mussina. Do you want to put a guy in who was really a 14-18 win guy no matter who he played for. Does the fact that he will have done it for an inordinately long period justify fame worthy status?

I think it is a tougher question than the "know what a HOFer looks like" sort of response that almost seems natural in these cases. Baseball is THE most stat driven sport and it has never really done anything to counter that notion (expanding from 154 games to 162 would be an example).

Mussina and Palmeiro are nearly the same guy playing different positions. Good players (probably each was in the Top 10 at their positon at some sustained point during their careers) who were consistenly productive for long periods of time. Does that get you into the Hall versus being great? If Pedro retired right now wouldn't he go in? Will the likes of Palmeiro, Mussina and some others of that ilk get in after 20 year careers?

Posted by: jim at July 22, 2005 4:11 PM

Something further to keep in mind about Neikro was that a lot of hits would've been outs on other major league clubs. His ERA took an upswing when many bloops fell in front of guys like Biff Pocaroba and Jeff Burroughs and ground balls that made it by guys like Pepe Frias and Jerry Royster. I've seen the research that shows how pitcher's ERAs have tumbled when Mark Cameron plays centerfield (look at the Mariners staff now vs. two years ago) or just look at what happened to Maddux, Glavine, Burkett, Neagle, etc., once they left Andruw Jones in centerfield. Sure, some are older and others have had success elsewhere (Jason Schmidt springs to mind) but there is more than coincidence that pitchers' ERAs tumble when they come to the Braves.

Heck, look at John Thomson @ Texas versus Atlanta.

Posted by: RW at July 22, 2005 4:50 PM

Gentlemen, let's keep in mind that Mussina racked up a lot of those wins pitching on Orioles teams that weren't exactly World Series contenders.

Although, I still remember that 2/3 inning 8ER performance he gave my fantasy team about 5 years ago quite vividly. Not that I'm ***BITTER**** or anything. :)

Posted by: RW at July 22, 2005 4:54 PM

I don't think that Mussina has pitched for bad teams, on average, over the course of his career - three or four really bad Baltimore teams, but good Orioles teams before that, and good Yankees ones since. That does probably flatten out the arc of his career, though, since the bad teams came in what ought to have been his peak.

I really think he has been, in his prime, at a level that is comparable to many HOF pitchers (Hunter, Drysdale, Jenkins, etc), and that his lack of 20-win seasons is just part of pitching in the 5-man rotation all his life (even Maddux has only won 20 once). I don't think Moose belongs in the Hall if he doesn't reach the longevity marks, but if he does, he's hardly going to water down the quality of the pitchers who are in.

Posted by: Jerry at July 22, 2005 7:04 PM

It's really tough, IMO, to compare pitchers today against those of yesteryear.

Now, there's rarely such a thing as a complete game. Back then, they (the vast majority of them) didn't have to face a DH.
Most of them didn't have to pitch to steroid laden freaks. Heck, most of them didn't have to pitch to anyone weighing over 185 pounds!
Most of them didn't have to pitch @ Camden Yards, Coors Field (and now Philly and Cincinnatti, two parks that are absolute jokes).
Most of them pitched before the mound was lowered in '69.

I'm not taking anything away from anyone, now or then, just saying that it's tough to compare. Much like the NBA - where Wilt was pretty much the only seven-footer during his time whereas nowadays every team has at least one, plus a 6'8" skywalker - athletes have simply evolved physically.

All I'm saying is that over the last 13 years you could pretty much pencil Musina in for 17 wins, 220 innings, 180-200Ks and an ERA in the mid 3's in the AL (all that barring injury). Those aren't Pedro-type numbers and he's not going to challenge Clemens' seven Cy Youngs, but those numbers aren't too shabby.

I don't think he's HOF material yet and won't be unless he goes on for longer than expected. If he wins 17 games each season for the next five years he'll be 40 years old and stand at 296 wins. I don't know if he has a 25 win season in him or not, so it could be iffy. Then again, he's the #2 in NY and that means that he's facing each team's #2, as well, which makes his chances better.

Posted by: RW at July 22, 2005 10:44 PM

Maddux actually won 20 twice (back to back years) and won 19 five times.

Jenkins is an interesting parallel and sort of a great example of the overall topic of this debate. While he won 20 seven times after the age of 32 when he went 25-12 (pitching only a few more times than an average starter would these days but throwing a CG nearly every time; 29 out of 41) over the next eight years he went 110-106 pitching for decent if not terrific teams. He is sort of the opposite of Mussina in a way. Brilliant young but clearly average after 32. Perhaps throwing 300 innings every year ate up the potential for being great in his waning years. However back then most guys didn't have terrific twilights (look at the nosedive Brooks Robinson's career took after 34 and Catfish was 23-24 his last 3 years and only made it to 33) which is the jist of this thread.

It would seem that Mussina needs half a dozen or so really solid years to get in as one of the new breed of HOFers. Guys just aren't gonig to win 20 games 5 years in a row anymore given 33-35 starts and yanked after 7 almost as a matter of routine.

Posted by: jim at July 23, 2005 11:19 AM

My Jenkins comment is confusing. "He won 20 seven times HOWEVER after the age of 32..."

Posted by: jim at July 23, 2005 6:38 PM

I think the problem with milestones isn't atheletes getting bigger, or faster or anything like that (since defenses also learn to counter the offenses), but players are staying better longer.

Guys like Cobb, Wagner and a bit further along, Ted got the milestones because they were not only good OK great), but they stayed in great shape all year 'round, when most of the other players then did not. It not only makes you faster, stronger and less tired, but of course it does keep you going longer.

Ruth is of course, as he always was, different. Mantle is the closest to the Bambino I can think of. A physical marvel who did extraordinary things, without taking care of himself. Remember, his last great yar was at 32, and he retired at 36. Today, his last great year would probably have been around 39, and he would have hung around another 3- years or so.

So milestones to me always show an ability to hang around. Mays' last great year was what? 1966? He retired 5 years later. Would he have been less great had he retired with the 534 home runs and 2540 hits? No, he would still be Willie Mays.

The players who quit when at top (Koufax), or while on a slide, but not yeat at bottom (DiMaggio) are of course remembered, and are in the Hall. Let's assume Carlos Baerga retired when he signed with the Mets. He owuld not be remembered as an all time great. You should not be enshrined simply for hanigng around and padding numbers. It's an extension of how the game is played today. You get paid a lot of money, you don't need a job in the off season (which was always true of many of the greats--Cobb, Wagner, Williams, Mays, Aaron), you work out now (they all do), they get a lot of intervention from professionals today (Cobb would likely have never been allowed to sign, and Ted would have been on Ritalin--but Mickey would have been given help tp cope with the early death of his father and uncle, and alcoholism, plus all the rehab).

So we either have to learn to look at the numbers differently, or bite the bullet and put a Palmeiro and McGriff, even a Sheffield, in the Hall because they attain numbers they would not have reached 50 years ago, while realizing Stan Musial today would. That's the real sign of a superstar. How would they do in all the different conditions of play?

Ruth would have still been greata, maybe greater, since he would either have become an all time pitcher (likely, who today would allow a great lefty to leave the mound?), Mantle would have become probably the greatest ever--think Honus Wagner with even more speed--a great dead ball player, as he would not have swung as hard, or imagine him today? Or Mays, same thing.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 25, 2005 10:19 AM

I think with position players it may be a bit easier to apply the test of knowing or seeing greatness versus great numbers achieved over time than it is to with pitchers. Certainly being a starting pitcher today is more demanding, on average, than 50 years ago (DH, bigger guys, better hitters up and down the line-up, middle infielders with big power, smaller ballparks, etc.). What kind of pitcher would Mussina have been pitching in the 50s, 60s, early 70s? I'd venture to say (all things and all stuff being equal) that he would have been a multiple 20 game winner and would probably fit into the Jenkins, Hunter, etc. slot.

Because of the offense unleashed these days I think we take for granted guys who go .285/40/110. Back in the 70s that was superstar material. Hardly anyone did that. Guys like Jim Rice are probably going to be passed over in favor of guys like Palmeiro which is a shame. I am not saying that Rice deserves to be in the Hall; his career was too short, he had down years for no real reason and worked to become an average outfielder. But for a time he was clearly the best and most feared hitter in baseball. That level of greatness should seem to be a more Hall-worthy credential than putting up good numbers for 20 years. I do think it is really hard to parse though.

Posted by: jim at July 25, 2005 1:52 PM
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