The Current Pitcher Most Likely to Win 300 Games

Starting in 2009 and every couple of years thereafter, I have written a piece handicapping the likelihood of any currently active pitcher winning 300 games in his major league career.  The last such post from about two years ago is here.

In my original post, I listed the average number of career wins the last four 300 game winners (Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson) had at the end of their age 30 through age 40 seasons:

Average: 137 (30); 152 (31); 165 (32); 181 (33); 201 (34); 219 (35); 235 (36); 250 (37); 268 (38); 279 (39); 295 (40).

This is the age of the last four 300-game winners in the season in which each won their 300th game: Maddux 38, Clemens 40, Glavine 41 and Johnson 45.  In short,  and as you probably already knew, you have to be really good for a really long time to win 300 games.

When I first started writing these posts over a decade ago, I thought we’d certainly see another 300 game winner in my life time.  About five years later, I changed my opinion almost completely.  I now think it less likely than not that any current pitcher will win 300 games, but at least it could still happen, as I explain below.

Here are the current pitchers  I think are most likely to win 300 based on their current ages (during the 2018 season) and career win totals:

CC Sabathia (37) 246

Justin Verlander (35) 204

Zack Greinke (34) 187

Felix Hernandez (32) 168

John Lester (34) 177

Clayton Kershaw (30) 153

Max Scherzer (33) 159

David Price (32) 143

Rick Porcello (29) 135

Madison Bumgarner (28) 110

It’s worth noting that the list of pitcher contains the same 10 as two years ago, which I think is a good sign in terms of one of them reaching 300 wins.

I like Justin Verlander’s and Max Scherzer’s chances of winning 300 the best.  Both are coming off of terrific seasons at advanced ages at which they still had extremely high strikeout rates.  These are the kinds of pitchers who end up pitching into their early 40’s and thus have the chance to eventually win 300 games.

The 12 pitchers to win 300 games after the end of World War II all pitched into their 40’s as follows:

Phil Neikro 48 (in his last MLB season)

Nolan Ryan 46

Randy Johnson 45

Roger Clemens, Gaylord Perry, Warren Spahn  44

Don Sutton, Steve Carlton, Early Wynn 43

Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine 42

Tom Seaver 41

With the exception of knuckleballer Phil Neikro, there is a pretty obvious connection between an ace’s strikeout rate in his respective era and how long he’ll be able to compete at the major league level.  That certainly suggests that Verlander and Scherzer could pitch well into their 40’s.

Verlander has averaged 15.7 wins per season in his first 13 full major league seasons.  If he can average 15.7 wins for his remaining seasons through age 42, he would win another 109 or 110 games, which would put him comfortably over 300 career wins.

Scherzer has average 15.9 wins per season in his first 10 full major league seasons.  If he can average 15.9 wins for his remaining seasons through age 42, he would win another 143 games, which would just get him over 300.

Thus, if either can avoid major injury and wants to keep pitching as long as it takes for a shot at winning 300 games, it could certainly be done, particularly when you take into account that MLB teams would be willing to carry them for an extra season or two at the end if either pitcher has a realistic shot at winning 300 game.

CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw have all won a lot of games at their respective ages, but none of the three seems like a good bet to still be pitching at 40, let alone 42 or 43.  Sabathia is likely coming back for another season with the Yankees in 2019, but it’s hard to imagine his big body holding up for as long as it would take for him to win 300.  King Felix’s arm may be shot — we’ll have a better idea a year from now.  Clayton Kershaw is undeniably great, but back problems don’t improve with age.

What all current aces need to improve their chances at winning 250 or 300 games is another round of expansion, which I think could easily add two wins per year to a top starter’s career wins total.

Explore posts in the same categories: Anaheim Angels, Arizona Diamond Backs, Atlanta Braves, Baseball History, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals

5 Comments on “The Current Pitcher Most Likely to Win 300 Games”

  1. Burly Says:

    Justin Verlander was just quoted as saying he intends to keep playing “until the wheels fall off.” That is certainly the attitude necessary for a pitcher to eventually win 300 games.

  2. brgcorbett Says:

    The chances of any pitcher winning 300 games in a career again is very remote. Almost impossible at least in terms of how the role of starter is utilized in today’s game.

    Let’s examine the variables:

    Starters are now averaging just above 6 IP’s per start which reflects a downward trend that has been evident for some time. Managers are electing to go with the bullpen sooner with key match ups. On average this equals to a lessor opportunity to getting credit for a potential win.Even when pitching the minimum 5, the potential on average for a no decision increases.

    In addition; as the role of starter diminishes, at least in the traditional sense, the longevity is also trending down. Only exceptional starters are full time in the rotation beyond age 35.So the opportunity to accumulate the win totals year in and year out to reach 300 becomes more and more unrealistic.

    Up until 4 years ago most observers would have pegged King Felix as a sure thing above anyone else. Since his first significant career injury in 2016 it has been downhill on the monitor.

    Kershaw was also seen as a front runner because he, like Felix, both experienced tremendous success at an early age, but alas the injury bug has dashed any real chance of 300 for him as well. He would have to win 14+ over the next 9-10 seasons (assuming injury free) to have a chance.That would make him 40-41 years old. The last starter outside of Colon to pitch as a regular to age 40 was Tim Hudson (2014) who finished with 222 wins, and Andy Pettitte (2012) with 256. The last starter to reach 300 was the Big Unit in 2009 and he was 3 mths shy of 46! Sabathia as the elder statesman is retiring after this season, and he is only 39

    The only pitcher with an outside chance at the magic 300 is Verlander. He has been dependable, consistent and injury free. Not to mention now pitching for a perennial contender (at least for now)
    If he continues at the current rate then he has a chance of hitting the mark in 6 seasons at the age of 42

    No one else pitching today has a chance.

    It’s best that we start talking about 250 as the new 300, because 300 has gone the way of complete games. The last pitcher to even reach 100 career complete games was Randy Johnson. Sabathia has 38

    Case closed 🙂

    • Burly Says:

      Never say never, but the odds certainly are in current pitchers’ favor. Only pitchers who are effective starters well past 35 have any chance of reaching 300. I agree Verlander has the best shot, such as it is. I would not entire count out Max Scherzer either. Baseball needs another round of expansion to give more pitchers a chance at lasting long enough to do it.

      • Burly Says:

        “aren’t in current pitchers favor”

      • brgcorbett Says:

        …Scherzer would be my No 2, however he is already 35 A late starter so to speak. Even if he reaches 175 this year. He would still need 9-10 years to hit the mark. I can’t see anyone pitching that long again let alone be productive and injury free.


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