With a prostate the size of a honeydew and a head full of bad memories, Randy Johnson strode to the mound last night as defiantly as ever, zipping fastballs by hitters and glaring like he needed a new prescription. After six strong innings of 2-hit ball, Johnson handed the game off to the Giants bullpen, and when Beach Boy closer Brian Wilson shut the door on the Washington Nationals in the 9th inning, the surly southpaw became only the 24th member of the 300-win club. At the grizzled age of 45, the Big Unit became the second oldest player to reach 300, coming in just a hair younger than the immortal Phil Niekro. Although he was already a sure fire Hall-of-Famer, win number 300 cemented Johnson among baseball’s all-time greatest pitchers. With 5 Cy Young awards and 6 seasons of 300+ Ks, it could be argued that Randy Johnson was the most dominant left-handed pitcher ever (and only the 6th to ever win 300 games).
As a young hurler for the Montreal Expos and Seattle Mariners, the Maestro of Mullets never looked destined for greatness; a late start to his career and erratic control lead to only 64 wins in Johnson’s twenties. But with perserverance and a face only a mother could love, he continued on unfettered, becoming nearly unhittable in his thirties (a decade in which he averaged 16.4 wins per year). Johnson has continued to defy father time this season at an age when most men struggle to do anything more athletic than change the channel to Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Incredibly enough, the Big Unit has won more games in his 40’s than in his 20’s, a mind boggling stat.
Yet while the night belonged to Randy Johnson, and rightfully so, much of the talk following the game centered around whether another pitcher would ever cross the vaunted 300-win threshold. Many baseball experts contend that it will never be done again, citing pitch counts and 5-man rotations as factors why today’s starting pitchers won’t be able to accumulate 300 wins. Consider that a pitcher would need to win 15 games a year for 20 seasons in order to rack up 300 wins; that kind of consistency just isn’t found in baseball anymore (where are you Greg Maddux?). Throw in unpredictable bullpens and homerun friendly ballparks, and it’s easy to see why the odds are stacked against pitchers in this era.
So will any pitcher ever crack this elusive milestone, or did the door to 300-wins swing closed behind Randy Johnson? Let’s examine, in order or probability, the five current pitchers that have the best shot at joining the Big Unit in this exclusive fraternity:
1) Roy Halladay (32-years-old): One of the most consistent and durable pitchers in the game today, Doc Halladay has averaged just over 16 wins a season the past 7 years. Like Johnson, Halladay didn’t blossom until his mid-20’s, but he has been a workhorse ever since. He’s currently sitting at 140 wins and if he continues his year-to-year improvement, and can fight off the injury bug, Halladay has a reasonable shot at joining the 300-win club…in 2019.
2) CC Sabathia (28-years-old): The hefty lefty has been a mainstay in major league rotations since he was 21, giving him a head start on most MLB pitchers. Sabathia has averaged nearly 15 wins a year since his career began in 2001, and joining a potent Yankees team should add some wins to his total over the course of the next few seasons. C.C. has piled up a boatload of innings over the past few years (including 253 last season), and it will have to been seen if this leads to breakdowns/injuries later on, but with 122 wins before his 30th birthday Sabathia could join the Big Unit as the 7th lefty to 300 wins.
3) Mark Buehrle (30-years-old): The darkhorse of this group of starters, Buehrle has quietly plugged away in Chicago, winning between 10 and 19 games every season from 2001-2008. His career total of 128 doesn’t blow anyone away, but consider that Randy Johnson had just 64 wins at the same point in his career, and Hurley Buehrle’s shot at 300 doesn’t seem so far fetched. Plus he’s left handed, and thanks to the trailblazing efforts of dinosaurs like Johnson and Jamie Moyer, Buehrle will probably pitch into his 60’s.
4) Johan Santana (30-years-old): Johan has been one of the most dominating pitchers over the past 6-7 years, and shows no signs of slowing down this season thus far, with a 2.00 ERA and 89 Ks in 72 innings. Satana has already racked up 116 wins, a number that would surely be higher if he hadn’t been handing the ball off to Aaron Heilman and Co. last season. There were some concerns about the Voracious Venezuelan’s shoulder at the beginning of the year, but he has quited those doubts with his strong start. Santana definitely has the stuff, but it remains to be seen if he has the drive to pitch into his 40’s for a shot at 300.
5) Carlos Zambrano (28-years-old): Sure he’s crazy (just ask Michael Barrett), but he also knows how to pitch, and with 100 wins at the age of 28 Killer Z is already a third of the way to pitching immortality. Zambrano has an electric pitching repertoire, and should get even better if he can learn to control his emotions. He has struggled with injuries the past two seasons, and that should be a concern moving forward, but so far Zambrano has put himself in a good position to challenge for 300 wins.
What are your thoughts? Will there be another pitcher who wins 300 games? Who do you think has the best shot at the milestone? Will Steven Strasburg win 300 in his first season in the bigs? Should Jamie Moyer pitch into his 50’s for a shot at 300?
Filed under: Baseball | Tagged: 300 wins, Arizona Diamondbacks, big unit, brian wilson, C.C. Sabathia, carlos zambrano, Cooperstown, greg maddux, Hall of Fame, Johan Santana, mark buehrle, montreal expos, Phil Niekro, randy johnson, Roy Halladay, san francisco giants, Seattle Mariners, steven strasburg |