Saturday, January 21, 2012

Friday Baseball Post

So we're in this weird pause for starting pitchers and career wins, with the top active pitcher having only 200 wins (that's Tim Wakefield, who isn't going to add to that very much). I haven't seen it, but I'm sure there are plenty of people saying that the 300 game winner is extinct.

Here's the funny part. 200 wins is, it turns out, the lowest ever for an active leader in wins. Any guesses about what year had the previous record? Turns out it's 1968. Don Drysdale, with 204. It's a serious dry spell; from 1967 through 1977, the leading guy never got past 253. And yet we completely think of that era as a good one for 300 game winners: Carlton, Ryan, Sutton, Niekro, Perry, and Seaver were all pitching then. People have been saying that 300 game winners were going extinct as long as I remember, and yet it still hasn't happened, and I'm confident that it still isn't happening (okay, sorry for being lazy

Roy Halliday is 112 games away, and just finished his 34 year old season. Let's see...he gets 15 a year for four more years and he'll be 52 away through age 38, which would leave him in excellent shape, although of course with pitches...well, at any rate, there's a Favorite Toy calculator over at ESPN, and it gives Halliday a 17% shot. Tim Hudson has a bit more to do and one fewer year...tough, but not impossible. CC Sabathia is in as good shape as you can be at this point, with the Favorite Toy saying 45%. Even someone such as Josh Beckett (125 wins, was 31) isn't as far off the mark as you might thing. Of course, most similar guys don't come close and he probably won't, but would it really shock you if Beckett averaged 18 wins over the next three years? If he does that, he's all of a sudden just a bit behind where Halliday is now.

My guess is that there are three to five active pitchers who will hit 300 wins, and I'll be shocked if there isn't at least one.

...and looking around before I finished this, I came across a John Dewan article from November making basically the same point, except for the Drysdale thing, but with much better calculations on the Favorite Toy. So ignore my calculations above (sorry, too lazy to remove them), and look at his table.


  1. I actually have seen commentators on ESPN the last couple of years wondering whether the 300-game winner is extinct. While you make a good point that this kind of talk has happened before, you're missing two crucial structural change in the game: the reduction in starting pitchers' innings per game and the increasing reliance on mediocre middle relievers in the bullpen. In the old days, pitchers were usually around at least 7 innings, and if they weren't, good closers could pitch the occasional three-inning save. These days, it's considered a "quality start" if a pitcher lasts 6 innings without giving up too much, and most closers only pitch one inning. Therefore, you see a lot of games where the starter leaves early and middle relievers give up the lead. Whether or not a team wins, the starter often isn't a factor in the decision. That's why these days, only the best starter in the league has 20 wins. Since you need to win 20 games for 15 years in a row to reach 300, we'll be waiting quite a while for the next 300-game winner, barring radical changes in the game.

  2. Yes, IP/start is down, and that reduces the share of wins that go to the starting rotation. However, starting rotations now eat up virtually all of a team's starts (since about the 1960s/1970s), which tends to be good for increasing career starts for good pitchers. And thanks to technology and high salaries, careers are longer. The result is that starts/career for great pitchers have gone up compared to pre-1970. Four of the top 16, 5 of top 21 all time in GS are recent.

  3. K.R. I think is on to the core question: What's the trend over time of no-decisions as a percent of games started? ( probably has the data, or surrogates for it, but I'm tablet-bound for the momemnt.)

  4. Don't forget that Jamie Moyer is trying to make a comeback right now with the Rockies. 267-204.

  5. Definitely should have mentioned Moyer, since I'm in the demographic who are very much rooting for him. He's my last guy, alas. Makes me think I might not have a career in MLB after all. Hmmm...I'm pretty sure he was on my Blue Sox in his first year with the Rangers. I was going to say it was my first roto year, but it looks like it wasn't -- I started in 1988, and it was '89.

    If Moyer had averaged 10 wins a year in his 26-29 year old seasons, all else equal, he'd have reached 300.

  6. Verlander is at 107. He'll be 29 in Feb.

    If he averages 18 W's (his career avg to date) over the next 5 years, he'll be at 215 W's after his age 34 year.

    That would be a much better shot than Halliday has.


  7. "However, starting rotations now eat up virtually all of a team's starts (since about the 1960s/1970s), which tends to be good for increasing career starts for good pitchers."

    I'm not sure what you mean by this. If you're talking about the use of "spot starters" during long stretches without an off day, that probably had no effect on the best pitchers, since all it did was turn a four-man rotation into a five-man at certain times of year, while these days every team has five starters the whole season.

    You make a more persuasive argument about career length. I'm not sure we'll see 4-5 300-game winners out of the current generation, but if that trend holds up, we might see one. I'll allow that the 300-game winner might not be extinct in the future, just exceedingly rare.


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