August 6, 2007
BASEBALL: 300 For Glavine
Well, thankfully the chase for the capper in Tom Glavine's pursuit of 300 wins didn't take too long....I'm not feeling too good about Pedro Feliciano right now, though, let alone Mota...the further Wagner's ERA goes below 1.50, the more overdue he is for a meltdown; just glad it wasn't last night...Hey, was Glavine's family at the game? You could tell his wife knew they were on national TV, they showed a clip of her at the Milwaukee game earlier in the week and she wasn't nearly as glamorously made up...I can't remember the last time I saw the home plate ump knocked out of a game - you could tell he wanted to finish a big historic game like this...Alfonso Soriano's injury looked like a Keith Hernandez or Kirk Gibson hamstring pull, one of those ones where he suddenly looks like a leg has been taken out by a sniper...I know Luis Castillo used to be extremely fast and can still steal some bases (two last night alone including a steal of third), but he looks more like Ramon Castro than Jose Reyes running the bases...Kerry Wood's return doubled the drama - alternating between the high heater and that off-the-table slider, he made Reyes look like a rookie seeing his first big-league breaking ball. Wood coming out of the bullpen is a scary sight. He also looks like he's lost a lot of weight - I don't know that that will help him, but with that slingshot motion of his, it's not likely to detract from his velocity...Rickey Henderson keeps looking like he's about to take a lead from the first base coaching box; one of these days we'll look up after a pitch and he'll be standing next to Alomar...when Lou had them walk the bases loaded the second time to pitch to Green, I think he was telling us something.
As a corrective to the idiocy of Joe Morgan and John Miller (to be fair, Miller's not usually an idiot; Morgan, however, is the Cal Ripken of idiots), it still amazes me to hear people say that Glavine will be the last 300 game winner. Let's review:
1. There are two active pitchers with 340 victories.
2. If you look at the decades when each 300-game winner won the most games, you will see that five decades produced no 300-game winners (1870s, 1920s, 1940s, 1960s, 1980s), and only three decades produced more than two - the 1880s, the 1970s, and the 1990s. 300-game winners have almost always been rare, but the evidence that they are a dying breed is entirely conjectural.
3. Randy Johnson has 284 wins and struck out over 11 men per 9 innings this year. Yes, there's an excellent chance he will never pitch again, but how improbable is it that he could come back and have one more good year next season? I'll run the charts again after the season, but it's still too early to count out a whole bunch of pitchers - Pedro, Mussina, Pettitte, Santana, Zito, Oswalt, Hudson, Halladay, Buehrle, Sabathia...individually the odds are poor for any of them, but 300 has always been an exceptional accomplishment; the odds that one of them will make it isn't that improbable. I'd bet on Santana first - he's behind the pace but he's healthy and gaining ground quickly - and on Pedro, who if he makes a recovery could still have a second act on guile and skill and who needs 94 wins to go. And even if nobody is now active, there's always the next generation of young pitchers, and the next.
I think before Clemens and Maddux started to become inevitable, people had declared the 300 game winner dead, also, as the Jack Morris/Ron Guidry/Dave Stieb generation of starters didn't produce anyone who got close. There seem to be a smaller than average number of guys between, say, 32 and 39 with a lot of wins, which is why people are saying it again, but the number of potential candidates in their late 20s is fairly large.
People seem to be under the impression that Glavine pitched in another era. He pitched his entire career in a 5-man rotation, just like everyone else today. He also has 56 career complete games, so again, it's not like he pitched when staretrs almost always went 9 (and an argument can be made that the era of the specialized bullpen helps starters). The only reason Glavine stands out is that he had only one DL stint, so he missed few starts. But I'm with you - it's waaay premature to state that he's going to be the last 300-game winner.
My thoughts exactly. The exaggeration of Buster Olney last night is just typical ESPN dramatics. 300 wins is a tough milestone, that is why it is special. But in this day and age of players taking care of their bodies, lower pitch counts and the modern bullpen it is very likely we will see another 300 winner in the next twenty years. I did not look at the numbers, but if Santana was to go to the Yankees, Red Sox's or any other top level team, he could easily put together a six year streak of 15-18 win seasons, that would put him close to 200 wins at age 34. it is not hard to imagine him getting 100 more wins over the last 7-8 years of his career. I think in order to do it he needs one or two more 20+ win seasons but again, I could see him being within sight of it at 40 and then he would probably keep pitching to make the milestone.
Most people declaring the end of the 300 game winner is looking at only one side of the coin. Yes, the five man rotation reduces the number of chances a season to record a win. However, that is counter balanced by the great improvements in sports medicine. How many guys pitched into career ending injuries before the introduction of MRI's? The greatly increased salaries allow players to work on their conditioning instead of taking off season jobs. Obviously, the salaries also lead players to continue playing longer in some cases.
You would think you need to get an early start to reach 300, but I read somewhere that hasn't historically been the case. Quite a few got a late start on their career (Spahn due to WW II is a notable example). The theory that author made was excessive innings before age 25 leads to an early breakdown (Dwight Gooden, Catfish Hunter, etc).
People seem to underrate Hudson. Besides the poor season last year he has been a consistant winner throughout his career, and seems to be on his way to another 20 wins this season. As long as he stays stays pitching for playoff caliber teams he could definitely make it.
Isn't it amazing that Joe Morgan, who has a reasonable case for being dubbed the smartest player in the history of the game, keeps reaching new heights of idiocy in the broadcast booth?
Thanks everybody for your observations. I initially accepted Olney's premise, since there was nobody around to provide counterpoint views (unlike ESPN because they do try to have lots of theoretical arguments such as the Wilbon/Kornheiser debates). In any event, I'll be happy to salute Glavine's marvelous career and will look forward to his HOF initiation.
Perhaps what is more unlikely than 300 wins is the record put up by Eckersly and then followed by John Schmoltz of being a great starter and a top reliever. I guess we won't know how likely (Papelbon perhaps) until it happens again.
As for Joe Morgan, sometimes I think he just wants to be cantankerous. He may actually have a little of the "old guy" way of expressing himself along the lines of "in my day, we walked uphill in snow that was up to our necks and we never complained etc.". He is certainly capable of bringing his own issues into his commentary, and for those of us that watch baseball to escape political arguments (not that I run from them otherwise), he can be tiresome. I wish he'd take one of Miller's easy going pills and try to remember that baseball is supposed to be fun.
Sorry, but there was no pitcher who won his 300th game in the 50s or 70s if I remember correctly, & between Lefty Grove in '41 & the guys in the '80s & later, about 40 years that is, there were only two, Wynn & Spahn.
In the '50s there were two types of contradictory comments. (1) The draft (armed services, that is ) will make 300 wins rare (right during that 40 year period) & (2) those of commenters who engaged in the fallacy of extrapolation: (Whitey Ford has 232 wins at 38 & four more years at 17 gets him there!)
The same was true of 3000 hit guys.
Only one guy made it between the years 1942-1971
Almost 30 years & the same arguments were made as to who would & who wouldn't. I was sure in '64 that Mantle would make 3000; I was sure in the late '80s that Molitor would never make it.
Never say never & largebill has it just about right.
Shoudda made it clear that Wynn & Spahn reached 300 Ws in the '60s contrary to what you wrote
The reference to decades is the decade in which the pitcher got the most wins. Thus, Ryan is a 1970s pitcher, though he won his 300th in the 90s.
Obviously there was a reason why nobody from the 1940s or 1870s won 300.
Spoken like a lawyer. On rereading, you're absolutely correct in defining your own terms. I should've read more carefully.
But, point of order, please. While a lawyer myself, I don't think that I should have to parse your BB stuff so closely. I'm reading for pleasure not reviewing an indenture! If it were an indenture I would have advised you to reword the sentence which contains the clause "five decades produced no 300-game winners" since it could cause semantic ambiguity in even a brilliant mind such as mine. Spahn was a star in the 40's, 50s, & 60s. Clemens was a star in the '80s, '90s, & '00s.
Anyway, we agree when you said "but the evidence that they are a dying breed is entirely conjectural".
My specific point was that BB experts like ESPN's Buster are guilty of the fallacy of extrapolation. In the case of only two guys reaching 300 from 1941 thru the early '80s (the usual form the discussion takes), the would-be experts blamed the military draft (or proclaimed that the then current group didn't measure up to the greats of their childhood), but after 1971, they should've (many did)assumed that that issue was probably over. Here would-be experts (Buster?) understand 5-man rotations & managers with a quick hook & shaky bullpen but do not seem to be willing to take into account largebill's considerations.
All we can say is that at this point I think, feel, believe, is that, barring Randy J's getting doused in Lourdes water & Musina's being able to win more than 12 games a year for the next 5 years, we won't see anymore 300 game winners for a while. What never? Well hardly ever.
Yours in semantic clarity
What never? Well hardly ever
A stealth Gilbert & Sullivan reference. Very well done, sir.
Oh . . . and just a thought: I wonder, based on the 5 man rotations and strict pitch limits of the modern game, we'll see the last of the 200 game losers after Tommy passes that mark soon (or any other guys who are very close).
Just food for thought.
Tim Wakefield at 144 losses, age 40 and a knuckler has a shot at 200 losses. That would essentially be 4-5 years of starting which is not inconceivable given his pitch, relative consistency and durability. He has a decision in all 23 starts this year which, in and of itself, is freaky. 11-12 losses per year from a 4th-5th starter who can still win 13-16 games is not a bad ratio so if he can still generate those numbers he can still start for the time being. An outside shot for sure but not completely out of the woods.
Yes, I see that. And I also see that I commented! So I guess I stole your food before thinking about it. Sorry.