Saturday April 11th, 2015

Mark Buehrle picked up the 200th win of his career Friday afternoon as the Blue Jays beat the Orioles 12-5 to improve to 3-1 on the season. Held out of the opening series in New York because of poor career numbers against the Yankees (1-14, 6.21 ERA in 21 starts including 0-7 and 6.22 in nine starts at the new Yankee Stadium), Buehrle recovered from a first-inning home run by Adam Jones to turn in a quality start, allowing just one other run in six innings of work in his season debut. With that, Buehrle became the fifth pitcher to reach 200 wins since the start of the 2013 season. However, he will likely be the last for some time and has within his reach this season an accomplishment that is far more rare.

The recent run of 200-game winners started when Roy Halladay won his 200th on April 14, 2013. Hot on Halladay’s heels, Tim Hudson won his 200th on April 30 of that season and CC Sabathia won his on July 3 of that year. Last year, 40-year-old Bartolo Colon, who had once seemed finished at 153 wins, joined the club, picking up his 200th on Aug. 8. After Buehrle, however, the active pitcher with the next-highest win total is 38-year-old A.J. Burnett at 155. Burnett needs 45 more wins to get to 200, but has said 2015 will be his final season.

Behind Burnett, Justin Verlander and John Lackey have 152 wins. At 36 and in the final year of his contract, Lackey is not a lock to pitch long enough to get the 48 wins he needs to reach 200. In his previous 11 seasons, Lackey has exceeded 14 wins just once, that coming in 2007, his age-28 season. If he were to average 12 wins a year going forward, he would have to pitch through his age-39 season to get to 200. Verlander is a much better bet to reach the milestone. Just 32, he has surpassed 15 wins six times in his career and is under contract with the Tigers for five more seasons (including this one) with a vesting option for 2020. Verlander is clearly no longer the pitcher he was at his recent peak, but baring a career-altering injury, he would appear to be a lock to reach 200 wins in the next four years. Even still, he’d have to average 16 wins a year to get there before 2018. Verlander hasn’t won more than 15 games since 2012.

Beyond Verlander, one has to dig for a while to find another potential 200-game winner. Bronson Arroyo (145 wins) is 38 and still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Cliff Lee (143) may already be done due to the condition of his pitching elbow. Dan Haren and Kyle Lohse have 142 each, but Lohse is the same age as Lackey and Haren, though just 34, seems even closer to retirement. Jake Peavy has 139, but, like fellow 34-year-old Haren, has aged badly. Jered Weaver is at 131 and just 32 years old but the continued decline of his already mid-80s velocity doesn’t bode well for his longevity, particularly with his contract due to expire after next season. It’s not until you get down to Felix Hernandez at 126 wins that you come across another pitcher who seems like a lock to win 200 games. Hernandez, who is 29 and still pitching at his peak level, has averaged just 13 wins per season over the last five seasons. His win totals should improve with the improvement of the Mariners, but even if you give him 15 wins per year going forward (matching his 2014 total, the second-highest total of his career), it would take him until late in the 2019 season to get to 200 wins from his current 126.

All of that should give some context to just how significant Buehrle’s 200th win is. Still, Buehrle ranks just 116th all-time in wins. He holds a far more prominent place in major league history due to his durability. Buehrle currently holds an active streak of 14 straight seasons with at least 30 starts and 200 innings pitched. Only 16 other pitchers have had 14 such seasons in their entire careers. Fifteen of them are in the Hall of Fame and the exception is Roger Clemens. Some of that is Buehrle’s good fortune to have avoided seasons shortened by war or a strike. Still, the names on the list are incredibly impressive:

Pitchers with most seasons of min. 30 starts and min. 200 innings

Pitcher

Seasons

Cy Young*

19

Don Sutton*

19

Phil Niekro*

18

Warren Spahn*

17

Gaylord Perry*

16

Tom Seaver*

16

Steve Carlton*

16

Bert Blyleven*

16

Greg Maddux*

16

Walter Johnson*

15

Roger Clemens

15

Christy Mathewson*

14

Pete Alexander*

14

Robin Roberts*

14

Nolan Ryan*

14

Tom Glavine*

14

Mark Buehrle

14

 

*Hall of Famer

If Buehrle is able to reach those marks for a 15th straight season, he would be one of just 12 pitchers in major league history to boast 15 such seasons. That, as much as if not more than his 200 wins, will stand as the legacy of Buehrle’s outstanding career.

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