Three hundred victories is an iconic thing. I realize, of course, that victories is a generally lousy way to rank pitchers, but it is what it is. Pitcher who win 300 go to the Hall of Fame, no exceptions*. Pitchers who don't win 300 ... maybe they go to the Hall (
So, how do you get to 300? Well, this will sound blindingly obvious, I know, but in order to win 300 games in the big leagues you pretty much have to win a lot of games as an old man. Blindingly obvious, yes, but this gets at the question that
The reason, I think, is that you can't project 300 because you have absolutely no idea who is going to win a lot of games from age 35 to 44 -- and having looked hard at the 12 pitchers who have won their 300th game since World War II, winning in those later years is the key to winning 300.
That is, no one since WWII has clinched 300 victories with dominating performances in their 20s. One way to look at it is to take a look at the winningest pitchers, by age, since the War:
Yes, the march to 300 has been mostly about late-life success. Here's another way to look at it: This is the average number of victories for those 12 pitchers who have won 300 games since WWII, by age:
Pretty easy to see there -- the 300-game winners averaged more victories from 35 to 39 than they did in their supposed prime of 25-29. They pulled in, on average, 53 victories from age 40 to 48 -- now, admittedly this is somewhat tilted because
So take someone like
So, it's really impossible to predict. Johnson had only 99 victories at age 31. Niekro had only 97 victories at age 33. Perry,
So when looking at potential 300-game winners ... well, there's no way to do it. But we'll go ahead and take a look anyway at the most likely candidates, from age 26 on up. We're not including victories from the first part of this year.