Tom Glavine won his 300th game this season. AC’s Stephen Sullivan wrote a piece about it and speculated about which active pitchers might one day join him in the 300-win club. However, as expected many in the mainstream media went on at length about how Glavine will be the last pitcher to win 300 games in his career. This article will show why that premise is ridiculous.
It’s one thing when people inside the game, like former Glavine pitching coach Leo Mazzone, say this, but it’s really disappointing when people who follow the game’s history say this kind of stuff.
Here’s a list of all of the 300-game winners and what year they cracked the milestone:
2006 – Tom Glavine
2004 – Greg Maddux
2003 – Roger Clemens
1990 – Nolan Ryan
1986 – Don Sutton
1985 – Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver
1983 – Steve Carlton
1982 – Gaylord Perry
1963 – Early Wynn
1961 – Warren Spahn
1941 – Lefty Grove
1924 – Pete Alexander
1920 – Walter Johnson
1915 – Eddie Plank
1912 – Christy Mathewson
1901 – Cy Young
1900 – Kid Nichols
1892 – John Clarkson
1891 – Charley Radbourn
1890 – Tim Keefe, Mickey Welch
1888 – Pud Galvin
The main thing that stands out in this chart is that 300-game winners happen in bunches and then a long period of time elapses before the next group. The 300-game winner club was first established over a 13-year period from 1888-1901, when seven pitchers cracked the magic barrier.
Then we go a decade before Mathewson joins the club. This starts another group where in 13 seasons, five more players join the 300-win club.
Then we go 16 years until Lefty Grove turns the trick. Then we wait 19 years until Spahn, and Wynn joins him two years later.
It’s another 18 years until Gaylord Perry reaches 300 wins and he is joined by five other pitchers in the next eight years.
Next is a 12-year gap until Clemens and he is soon joined by Maddux and Glavine. Randy Johnson looms as a potential member of this latest group but then we will probably have another decade-long wait.
But it’s absolutely insane that anyone who gets paid to write about baseball for a living (I’m looking at you, Buster Olney) suggests that Glavine will be the last winner. The old saying – those who ignore the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them – seems especially apt in this situation.
The Olney article is part of ESPN’s Insider, which you have to pay to read. So here’s an excerpt from STATS’ Thom Henninger, “In a recent issue of the Sporting News, managing editor Stan McNeal speculates that not only will the 21-year veteran be the 23rd pitcher to post 300 wins, he may be the last one to ever join the vaunted club. Only Randy Johnson, with 284 victories, is close.
McNeal has a valid point. Clemens, Maddux and Nolan Ryan are the only 300-game winners to reach the milestone in the last 20 years.”
And here’s another one. This was written by John Donovan of Sports Illustrated on July 30, 2004:
“When the Cubs’ Greg Maddux wins his next game — which might be in his next start, Sunday against the Phillies — that’s probably going to be it. When Maddux wins his next game, whenever that is, in all likelihood you’re looking at the last 300-game winner.”
Here’s another one. This was written by Jim Armstrong of Baseball Digest, in August 2000:
“While the 500 homer club will have to tear down a few walls to accommodate its future members, we may have seen the last of the 300-game winners. Fact is, Clemens and Maddux are two of only three active pitchers with 200 victories. The other is Orel Hershiser, who limped over the 200 mark last season at age 41.
“Add up all the factors and you come to one logical conclusion: If Clemens or Maddux doesn’t get to 300, nobody in today’s game will.”
I distinctly remember these “no more 300-game winner” stories following Nolan Ryan. I’m sure if you checked the archives that they were written after Early Wynn, too. It wouldn’t even surprise me if these stories came out after Lefty Grove.
The people with no sense of baseball history will point to five-man rotations, pitch counts and fewer complete games as reasons that no one else will crack the 300-win barrier. But Clemens, Maddux and Glavine were all products of the five-man rotation era, which kind of blows that argument out of the water, doesn’t it?
There are three things that the next 300-game winner will need to have. Obviously, he’ll need to be a great pitcher. But he’ll also need to get an early start and stay healthy for two decades.
It will take a minimum of 600 starts to reach 300 wins and more likely it will be 650. As of August 13th, Clemens has 702 starts, Maddux has 697 and Glavine has 660. A pitcher will have to average 33 starts for 20 years to reach Glavine’s total of 660 starts. It’s not going to be easy.
Maddux made his Major League debut at age 20 while Clemens and Glavine were up at age 21. Through their age 29 seasons, Clemens had 152 wins, Maddux 150 and Glavine had 124. Roy Oswalt and Barry Zito are currently in their age 29 season and they have 110 wins each. Mark Buehrle is a year younger and he has 106. C.C. Sabathia may be in the best shape of all (there’s a phrase Mr. Sabathia doesn’t hear every day), as he has 95 wins and this is his age 26 season.
All of those pitchers have a shot of making it to 300 wins. While the odds that any one of them makes it is not very large, collectively odds are much better that one of them will. And there are plenty more to put on the watch list. Jon Garland, Johan Santana, Carlos Zambrano, Josh Beckett, Jake Peavy, Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, Ervin Santana and Scott Kazmir are other pitchers to watch.
And it’s quite possible that someone active who doesn’t jump out yet will make a run at 300 wins. Not too many people thought Glavine would be a 300-game winner when he started out his career at 9-21.
The 300-win plateau is a great accomplishment and we should be glad that we got to see Clemens, Maddux and Glavine break it in the past five seasons. It may be a dozen years or more, but history has proven that most of us will see another 300-game winner in our lifetime. It’s just too bad that some of the well-paid hacks in the mainstream media are unaware of this.