Who will follow Randy Johnson in the marathon race to 300 wins?
WASHINGTON -- After Wednesday night's rainout,
Yet when the duo, two of the game's winningest active pitchers, were asked if they had any thoughts about trying to pitch long enough to win 300 games, the mere suggestion was so unfathomable that both men started laughing. "I don't believe so," said Pettitte, who with 220 wins is fourth among active pitchers. "I don't have the desire to do that in my career."
"I don't know about that," said Millwood, who has 146 career wins, tied for ninth on the active list. "I just don't know how many more 300-game winners baseball will see."
That has been a common sentiment as the Big Unit has made his march toward the big unit that is the hallowed 300-win plateau. It's the same refrain that was heard two years ago when
As of now, there are no likely candidates on the horizon. In fact, for the first time since
Now, as Johnson prepares to pull into the 300-win port with no one in his wake, there is a similar dearth of likely 300-game winners. Only three other active pitchers have more than 200 career wins: Philadelphia's
The list of pitchers between 100 and 200 wins is no more inspiring. That group of 24 is mostly comprised of the ancient (
The most important (and unpredictable) element in the chase will be a pitcher's longevity. At 45 Johnson will be the second-oldest pitcher to reach 300, and his remarkable late-career resurgence -- which includes more wins in his 40s (71 and counting) than in his 20s (64) -- is the biggest reason why. It is that, as much as his fearsome fastball and devastating slider, that are responsible for Johnson reaching this milestone, and anyone wishing to do likewise will need to pitch nearly as well, and almost certainly as long, as Johnson has.
They will also need to have a similar drive to compete. Johnson overcame two back surgeries to keep his Hall of Fame career going strong. Glavine still plans to come back even though elbow and shoulder surgery have kept him from throwing a single major-league pitch since last August. Clemens famously came out of retirement twice (albeit after he had gotten to 300). Pettitte says his longtime friend and teammate urged him to stay in the game and go for 300. "He always talked to me about that, telling me that with the way I worked out I could pitch as long as I wanted," said Pettitte, who has never talked the talk of a guy who's likely to pitch into his 40s, a virtual requirement for those hoping to win 300. In fact, the average age of the 11 300-game winners since World War II when they got their milestone win is 41.2, and only two --
With 299 wins in his 22 seasons, Johnson has averaged 13.6 wins per year. Those numbers are nearly identical to the averages of the 11 pitchers who have won 300 games since World War II. The 23 members of the 300-win club can be broken down into three categories that have each defined the game in its own way: pre-1900, 1900-World War II and post-World War II. The first group had far shorter careers highlighted by astronomical win totals, a product of the rules and style of the game at the time. By the turn of the 20th century, pitchers were beginning to fashion careers of at least two decades, but none of those who got to 300 needed to wait that long to do so. Since World War II, though, as starts per year have dropped, bullpen usage has risen and five-man rotations have come into practice, pitchers have needed to extend their careers into a second decade to get anywhere close to 300, a pursuit aided by increased emphasis and advances in medicine, technology and pitching mechanics.
Using the post-World War II average of 23 seasons, pitchers would have to win a tick over 13 games per year over that time to get to 300. The former is likely to be much more of an impediment than the latter.
Here are the 13 active pitchers with the best chance at 300:
It isn't yet known whether any of these pitchers will come anywhere close to 300. After all,