Just after the Giants secured Randy Johnson’s 300th career victory, Keith Law said: “Next up: Three days of articles on how Randy Johnson will be the last 300-game winner we ever see. My advice is that you ignore them.” Amen, Keith. Not only are there a few current pitchers who can get to 300 wins. As Mike later noted, CC Sabathia has 122 wins at age 28, which is just slightly behind the pace of Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens, and a bit ahead of Tom Glavine. However, the most important comparison is Randy Johnson himself, who had just 49 wins at age 28. Longevity, not a bevy of 20-win seasons, is the key to getting to 300.
This is true of most baseball records. Just look at Pete Rose and his record 4,256 hits. Through his age-34 season he had 2,547 hits, just 12 more than Derek Jeter at that point. Rose had to accumulate 1,709 hits from age 35 on to attain his record. Likewise, Randy Johnson had to pick up 157 wins, or more than half of his total, from age 35 on. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that these players had to stick around for a long time to attain these lofty marks. Even as someone who won four straight Cy Young awards, Johnson had to last through age 45 to get 300 wins.
There certainly could be more 300 winners in baseball’s future. There won’t be as many, of course, given the way teams manage their pitchers’ workloads. But there will always be talented people who remain relatively healthy throughout their career and are able to pitch into their late 30s and early 40s. Those pitchers certainly have a shot to pick up 300 wins along the way, just like Johnson and Glavine did, despite not having stellar win totals in their late 20s.
Dave Pinto wonders if Andy Pettitte could be the next to 300. This might seem outlandish, and in a way it is. Pettitte is 80 wins away from 300 and is 37 years old. Even if he somehow picked up 15 wins this year (which would be possible if his back calms down), he’d still need 70 wins from age 38 on to attain that 300 mark. Combine that with the decision Pettitte has to make after every season, and it would seem foolish to even consider him for 300. Yet, consider the circumstances.
Starting pitching is hard to find. If Andy Pettitte is effective and wants to continue pitching, the Yanks would have to strongly consider keeping him around. Even if they decided to move on and go with the younger pitchers, Pettitte could certainly find a job elsewhere — perhaps while remaining in New York. He’d have to average 15 wins per year if he played through his age-42 season, though, which makes this seem unfeasible. Not impossible by any means. Just highly improbable.
Pinto admits this, though he does finish off with a strong point:
In the mid-1990s stories circulated about the end of the 300 game winner. Those stories turned out to be extremely wrong. There will be more 300 game winners, and I think some of them will surprise us.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I continue watching baseball every day from April through October. Anything can happen in any at bat, on any day, in any season, and over the course of any career. I’m sure we’ll see another 300 game winner, and as Pinto says, it might not be someone we expect.