In case you somehow missed it, Tom Glavine won his 300th game on Sunday night. This caused various people to talk about how Glavine might be the last 300 game winner.
Now, I think some of this talk is simply shortsighted. People look at the active players with the most wins, and don't see much hope in the near future. Randy Johnson is only 16 away, but he's 43 and out for the year. After him is Mike Mussina at 245, but he's 38 and hasn't won more than 15 games since 2003. And after that it's a bunch of guys who are 40+ and still a long way away.
And that's fine. It's reasonable to say that we might not have a 300 game winner in the next decade. But to say that there will NEVER be a 300 game winner again? Olney was on ESPN after the game talking about this, and said something to the effect of "Well people are so careful with pitchers now, they're more likely to go on the DL and miss time".
Well, yeah, I guess that's true, but isn't this a point for there being another 300 game winner. Isn't the more advanced medical technology helpful for these guys? It seems to me that missing a few starts now is helpful if it tacks on another year at the end of your career. Over at AA, OMDQ also had a problem with this argument, disagreeing with ESPN's use of a stat showing the demise of the complete game.
Anyway, I thought I'd take a look at which of the younger guys (under 32) have the best chances of getting to 300 wins.
1. C.C. Sabathia (26 years old, 95 career wins)
Sabathia is always the first name thrown out in this conversation, and there's a reason for that. In 2001, he won 17 games with the Indians, turning 21 in July. Since then he has won between 11 and 15 games every year, and it looks like he'll eclipse that mark this year, as he has 14 with two months left. He has consistently improved his walk rate, and seemingly could win 18-20 games over the next few years. To get to 300 wins, he would have to average 14.6 wins a year until he's 40, or 12.8/year until he's 42.
2. Carlos Zambrano (26 years old, 78 career wins)
There's a little bit of a drop off after C.C., as Zambrano is the same age with 17 fewer wins. Although Z got started a little later than Sabathia (first full year was age 22, had 18 career wins at the end of that season), he's been a more consistent winner, with 13-16 wins each of the last four years, and 14 already this year. He's been incredibly consistent, pitching at least 209 innings each year starting in 2003, with ERAs between 2.75 and 3.42 each year. Zambrano would have to average 15.9 wins/year until he's 40, or 13.9 until 42.
3. Roy Oswalt (29 years old, 109 career wins)
Oswalt got a late start for this list, making his debut at 23 and having his first full year come at the age of 24. But he made up for that, winning 19, 20, and 20 in his age 24, 26, and 27 seasons, respectively (he only made 21 starts in 2003, his age 25 season, winning 10 games). He has a career ERA of 3.11. If he had his first full year at 22, rather than 24, he'd probably be at the top of this list. Oswalt would have to win 17.4 games until he's 40, or 14.7 games until 42.
4. Johan Santana (28 years old, 89 career wins)
In 2004, 2005, and 2006, Santana led the league in strikeouts, H/9, WHIP, and ERA+ each year. He won the Cy Young in '04 and '06, and should have won in 2005 (predictably, the voters couldn't see past Colon's 21 wins). He has seen a bit of a decline this year because of a spike in HR allowed, but his other peripherals are at their established levels. He is, in short, the best pitcher in baseball- unfortunately, his first full season as a starter was at the age of 25, which gives him a significant handicap. He would have to win 17.6 games a year until he is 40, or 15.1 until 42- a tall order, but certainly not impossible for Johan.
5. Mark Buehrle (28 years old, 106 career wins)
I didn't realize this, but at the end of his age 22 season, Buehrle had 20 career wins. From 01-05, he averaged 16.2 wins a year. He was awful last year (12-13, 4.99 ERA, 247 H & 98 K in 204 IP), but has been good this year (3.07 ERA). With the exception of 2006, his K/BB ratio has actually been over three each year since '04. Buehrle would have to average 16.2 wins/year until he's 40, or 13.9/year until the age of 42.
6. Jake Peavy (26 years old, 68 career wins)
Peavy got the necessary early start, ending his age 22 season with 18 career wins. He has struck out a guy an inning every year since 2004. The problem is that he's never won more than 15 games. Part of it is the Padres' inept offense, but he only made 27 starts in his best year (2004), and had a down year last year (4.09 ERA). Still, Peavy is one of the best pitchers in the game, and probably will be for the forseeable future. To get to 300, he would have to win 16.6 games/year until he's 40, or 14.5 a year until 42.
7. Dontrelle Willis (25 years old, 65 career wins)
In terms of this list, Dontrelle is the anti-Santana, as he got the requisite early start, but hasn't been good enough recently to be higher on this list. If I had been doing this after the 2005 season, he would probably be #1; 23 years old, 46 wins already, and coming off a year where he went 22-10, 2.63, and finished second in the Cy Young voting. But last year he was 12-12, 3.87, and this year he's declined again, as he's currently 7-11 with a 4.91 ERA. His strikeout rate is the same as it's always been (about league average), but he's seen his walk rate jump from 2.09 in '05 to 3.89 this year. He would have to win 15.7 games/year until he's 40, which is the second least on this list, behind only Sabathia. But he's not going to get there unless he cuts down the walks.
Stats taken from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. Pictures taken from here, here, here and here.