Archive for the ‘Atlanta Braves’ category

Jhoulys Chacin Gets No Respect

December 18, 2016

Jhoulys Chacin gets no respect, at least by the current standards of MLB.  Last off-season I wrote a post stating that I just couldn’t understand why the Diamondbacks failed to tender Chacin a contract when he was only expected to get $1.8 million through the arbitration process.  I thought it would make a great deal of sense for somebody else to swoop in and sign him for that $1.8 million or even $2 million.

Chacin ended up getting only a minor league deal from the Braves, who then traded him early the season to the Angels for a grade-C prospect.  Chacin was little more than a mediocre fifth starter in 2016 whose biggest accomplishment was eating 144 innings.  Even so, fifth starters who aren’t god-awful have value: fangraphs valued his 2016 performance at $13 million.

Now, I really don’t believe that Chacin was worth any kind of $13 million, but it’s certain he was worth more than the $1.75 million the Padres just signed him to.  Inning-eating fifth starters of Chacin’s ilk are easily worth a one-year guarantee of $3M or $4M in today’s market.

For example, Jerome Williams received $2.5 million in 2015 for a 2014 campaign less impressive than Chacin’s 2016.  That should have been the starting point for Chacin’s negotiation, since the market has gone up since then.

If nothing else, Chacin’s signing with the Padres may be the bargain basement steal of the 2016-2017 off-season, just as his signing was last off-season.

The Current Pitcher Most Likely to Win 300 Games

October 25, 2016

In June of 2009, I wrote a blog piece entitled Of Course, Someone Else Will Win 300 Games.  After the 2012 season, I wrote a post which looked at the issue more deeply, and I concluded that it was more likely not that a pitcher pitching in 2012 would win 300 games.

In two updates to the 2012 piece, I reversed course and concluded that it was less likely than not that a current pitcher would win 300 games.  My most recent post from after the 2015 season is here.

While I am still of my revised opinion that it is less likely than not that a current pitcher will win 300 games, I think the odds are better today than they were a year or two ago, mainly because of the huge come-back season Justin Verlander had in 2016, about whom I will talk about more below.

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.

Here are the current pitchers  I think are most likely to win 300 based on their current ages (during the 2016 season) and career win totals:

CC Sabathia (35) 223

Justin Verlander (33) 173

Zack Greinke (32) 155

Felix Hernandez (30) 154

John Lester (32) 146

Clayton Kershaw (28) 126

Max Scherzer (31) 125

David Price (30) 121

Rick Porcello (27) 107

Madison Bumgarner (26) 100

What you look for in projecting a pitcher to have a long career is that he throws really hard, he strikes out a lot of batters, and he doesn’t throw a whole lot of innings before his age 25 season.  That said, Greg Maddux didn’t strike out batters at an extremely high rate, even as a young pitcher, and he threw a lot of major league innings before his age 25 season.  Still, these factors remain relatively good corollaries for predicting longevity in a major league pitcher.

For these reasons, I like Justin Verlander’s chances of winning 300 the best.  His 2016 season, in which he struck out 10 batters per nine innings pitched and led his league in Ks, suggests he’s all the way back from whatever was holding him down in 2014 and 2015 and can be expected to pitch many years into the future, provided he isn’t worked as hard as he was from 2009-2012.

Add to this the fact that Verlander is pretty close to the average of the last four 300-game winners (the “Last Four”) through his age 33 season, and I, at least, have to conclude he’s still got a reasonably good shot at winning 300.

For pretty much the same reasons, I like Max Scherzer’s odds going forward as well.  In his age 31 season, he recorded a career-high 11.2 K/IP rate, he didn’t pitch a whole lot of innings at a young age and he’s really racked up the wins the last four seasons.  There’s no reason to think at this moment that he cannot continue to throw the 215-230 innings he’s consistently pitched the last four seasons for many more seasons to come.

CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw are all ahead of the Last Four.  However, their ability to last long enough to win 300 is very much in question for each of them.  Sabathia had a come-back season in 2016, but he’s won only 18 games the last three years, and I don’t see him at his age, his size and his recent injury history winning another 77 major league games.

Felix Hernandez is well ahead of the Last Four at the same age, but he looks to be on the verge of the arm injury many have been predicting for the last several years.  In 2016, Hernandez strikeout rate was the lowest of his career, his walks rate was the highest, and he threw fewer innings than in any season since he was an 18 year old minor leaguer.

Clayton Kershaw is undeniably great, but he missed 12 starts this season to a herniated disk in his back.  Herniated disks aren’t something that typically heal fully and never return for someone who is as active as a professional athlete, unless they are very, very lucky.

There have always been a lot of questions about whether Zack Greinke can consistently pitch 210-220 innings is a season, and 2016 did nothing to dispel that concern.  David Price has likely been overworked his last three seasons.  Jon Lester has settled into a very nice groove of pitching between 200 and 220 innings a year, and quite likely for that reason has had only one less than successful season since 2008.

Rick Porcello and Madison Bumgarner are really too young and too far from 300 wins to merit much consideration at this point.  Young pitchers who rack up the wins can fade as fast as Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain.

Even so, there was no way a year ago that I could have imagined Rick Porcello would make a list of the ten pitchers I thought had the best chance to win 300 games.  He threw a lot of professional innings before his age 25 season (although never 200 in a season), and he didn’t strike anyone out.  Starters who can pitch but don’t strike anyone out tend to go the way of Mark Fidrych and Dave Rozema.

However, something strange happened.  Porcello has started striking people out, with his 2015 and 2016 rates the highest of his career, while also improving his command.  It’s rare for a pitcher to improve his strikeout rate significantly this late in his major league career without adding or perfecting another pitch or dramatically improving his command, but the information I was able to find on line suggests that Porcello credits making better in-game and between-game adjustments and that he’s getting better coaching in terms of correcting minor mechanical flaws sooner based on video tape analysis.  On the other hand, Porcello came up so young that he may just still be learning as a pitcher and has become better at pitching to each American League hitter’s weakness.

One thing that would help the current generation of pitchers greatly in the quest for 300 career wins is another round of major league expansion.   There’s nothing like a watering down of the talent pool to elevate the best players’ performances.  The Last Four’s generation benefited from expansion in 1993 and 1998, but it doesn’t look like there will be another round of expansion any time soon.

Three Home Runs in One Game – 2016 Update

April 10, 2016

Since 2010 I’ve written a couple of posts containing fun facts about three home run games.  The most recent was almost three years ago, so it seems like a good time for another update.  Here is baseballreference.com’s list of the players to hit three in one game between 1951 through early in the 2011 season.

You will note that three home run games have been particularly common in the last 20 years, the period in which the PED-fueled offensive barrage reached its peak.

The original “Big Cat” Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa are the all-time leaders with six different three home run games each. Joe Carter, Dave Kingman, Mark McGwire and Carlos Delgado and Alex Rodriguez each hit three or more in five different games.  ARod’s fifth such game occurred July 25, 2015.

Babe Ruth is still the only player to have two three home run games in the World Series, but as of October 22, 2011, Albert Pujols has joined the Babe with two three HR post-season games. On October 24, 2012, Pablo “Kung-fu Pando” Sandoval joined the Sultan of Swat, Reggie Jackson in 1977 and Prince Albert as the only other players to hit three in a World Series game.

In the Dead Ball Era between 1900 and 1920, not one player hit three home runs in a major league game.

Interestingly, Babe Ruth did not have a three home run game in any of the four years (1919, 1920, 1921 and 1927) in which he set the single season HR record.  Nor did Roger Maris (or for that matter Mickey Mantle) in 1961.

Mark McGwire did it twice and Sammy Sosa once in 1998, the year they decimated the old HR record.  Barry Bonds did it twice in 2001, and Sosa three more times that same year.  The feat was accomplished a ridiculous 22 times in 2001, the year with the most three home run games.

George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) had their big days on Opening Day.

On May 6, 2015, Bryce Harper became the youngest player to hit three HRs in a game since the now largely forgotten Joe Lahoud did it on July 11, 1969.  Both were age 22.

The youngest player to hit three home runs in a major league game was Al Kaline at the tender age of 20 years and 119 days when he did it on April 17, 1955.  Eddie Matthews was the only other player to do it before age 21, when he hit his three on July 20, 1952.

The oldest player to hit three in one game is Stan Musial at age 41 and 229 days on July 8, 1962.  Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Jason Giambi are the only other players to accomplish this feat after reaching age 40.

Now’s a good time for some trivia questions, the first from my original 2010 post, the second from my 2013 update, and the third a new one.

(1)  who are the only two major league players to hit five home runs in a double-header?  This is a record that will probably never be matched again, since MLB teams no longer schedule double-headers.

(2) who hit the fewest career home runs for any player to hit three HRs in one game?

(3) who hit the fewest career home runs for any player to hit three HRs in one game twice?

Answer (1): Stan “The Man” Musial for the Cardinals against the New York Giants on May 2, 1954; and Nate Colbert for the Padres against the Atlanta Braves on August 1, 1972.  Colbert was from St. Louis and claims to have personally attended the game in which Musial first accomplished the feat.   Whether or not he actually did, it’s a great story.

Answer (2): Since 1951, Bill Glynn, who hit three dingers on July 5, 1954, but finished his major league career with only ten.  Here’s a list of the players with the fewest career home runs to hit three in one game since 1951.  However, the actual correct answer is probably Merv Connors, who hit three on September 17, 1938, but hit a total of only eight in his major league career.

There’s a lot more to the story than this, however.  Merv Connors was one of the all-time great minor league sluggers.  He hit 400 HRs in his minor league career, placing him in the top five all-time.

In the year he hit three home runs in one game for the Chicago White Sox, Connors hit three other HRs and in only 24 games, he batted .355 with a 1.146 OPS.  He was only 24 years old that season, but he never played in the major leagues again.

No matter how bad his defense may have been, there’s no way a team doesn’t keep a player who hit like Connors did in his 1938 trial.  By way of comparison, no other player on that White Sox team had an OPS higher than .854.

My guess is that an injury was involved.  At any rate, he was sent back to Shreveport in the Texas League in 1939 and had a bad year, batting only .229.  He was even worse in 1940, another season in which he was almost certainly battling injuries.

That poor year got Connors sent down to the low minors in 1941.  He bounced back that year and also had a great 1942 campaign back in the Texas League, but he was now going on age 29.  1943 appears to be another season in which he battled injuries, and he was then drafted for the last two years of the War.

When Connors returned to professional baseball, he was 32 years old.  He spent most of the remaining eight years of his career playing in B and C leagues in Texas.  For what it’s worth, Merv Connors was born and died in Berkeley, California, the location in which I’m writing this post.  Needless to say, he attended Berkeley High School.

Answer (3): The New York Giants’ immortal pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes, who hit only 54 HRs in his career.  Darnell Coles (75), Pat Seerey (86), and Erubiel Durazo (94) are the only other players I am aware of who have multiple three home run games but finish their MLB careers with fewer than 100.

The Best and Worst Hitters’ Parks in MLB Baseball 2016

April 8, 2016

Back in the summer of 2012 I discovered that espn.com provides stats for what it calls “park factor”, which for purposes of this post means the ratio between the number of runs scored at a ballpark in any given season divided by the number of runs scored by said ballpark’s occupant (and its opponents) in away games that same season.  I’ve written several posts on this subject, which have proven quite popular, the last about two years ago, so it feels like a good time for an update.

As we enter the 2016 season, below are the average park factors for all major league ballparks over the last six seasons, 2010 through 2015 (four seasons for Marlins Park which opened in 2012).

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.427.  Coors Field remains far and away the best hitters’ in MLB by a wide margin.  Every other stadium had a season or two between 2010 and 2015 well out of line with its overall average position except Coors Field.  It was the best hitters’ park in MLB five of the six seasons, usually by a lot, and a strong second in the sixth season.

2.  Globe Life Park at Arlington (Rangers) 1.144.  Globe Life Park remains the best hitters’ park in the American League.

3.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.107.

4.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.093.

5.  Camden Yards (Orioles) 1.083.

6.  Miller Park (Brewers) 1.072.

7.  Yankee Stadium 1.059.

8.    U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) 1.058.  One of the more variable parks in MLB, U.S. Cellular Field was a pitchers’ park in 2015, but a strong hitters’ park in 2010 and 2012.

9. Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 1.047.  A pitchers’ park in 2015, Rogers Center was a hitters’ park every other year of the last six.

10.  Great American Ball Park (Reds) 1.045.

11.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.034.  Long regarded as one of the best hitters’ parks in MLB, Wrigley was a pitchers’ park in 2014 and 2015, bringing it’s six year average down considerably.

12.  Comerica Park (Tigers) 1.026.

13.  Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 1.027.  25 or 30 years ago, Kauffman Stadium was one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball.  However, the newer parks built starting with Camden Yards in 1992, have for the most part been much better hitters’ parks than the ballparks they replaced.  The casual fans want to see offense, and the modern parks have largely catered to that desire with resulting attendance increases.

14.  Target Field (Twins) 1.013.  The Twins’ new ball park looked like it was going to be a pitchers’ park after the first couple of seasons of play there.  However, it now looks to be a slight hitters’ park.

15.  Citizens Bank Ballpark (Phillies) 1.005.

16.  Nationals Park 1.004.

17.  Marlins Park (2012-2015) 1.000.  The Marlins’ new park appears to be as close to a perfectly level playing field for pitchers and hitters as currently exists in MLB, at least based on the first four seasons of play there.

18.  Progressive Field (Indians) 0.992.  Progressive Field was the second best hitters’ park in MLB last year, after five consecutive seasons as a moderate pitchers’ park.  2015 was almost certainly a fluke.

19.  Minute Maid Park (Astros) 0.987.  Once known as Ten-run Park, when it was named after failed energy company Enron, Minute Maid Park varies wildly between a hitters’ park and pitchers’ park from season to season.

20.  Turner Field (Braves) 0.972.

21.  Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 0.957.

22.  Oakland Coliseum (A’s) 0.941.  O.co isn’t as much of a pitchers’ park as it once was, more or less switching places with Angel Stadium, another now antiquated multi-use stadium from the 1960’s.

23.  PNC Park (Pirates) 0.927.

24.  Dodger Stadium 0.906.

25.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.894.

26.  Angel Stadium 0.877.  The fact that Angel Stadium is now one of the worst hitters’ parks in MLB gives one additional appreciation of just how good Mike Trout is as an offensive player.

27.  Citi Field (Mets) 0.876.

28.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.857.

29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.842.  The Mariners and the Padres moved their outfield fences in before the 2013 season in order to goose offensive production.  It hasn’t helped a whole lot, as both parks remained among the worst hitters’ parks in MLB from 2013-2015.

29.    AT&T Park (Giants) 0.842.  AT&T varies a lot season to season, but in 2011, 2012 and 2015 it was a strong pitchers’ park.

Independent-A League Stars to Watch in 2016

February 27, 2016

Every year I like to do a piece about Independent-A League players who played so well the past year they may have the opportunity to move on to bigger and better things, particularly if they are still reasonably young.  I have a crop of these guys this year too, but I will note from the outset that almost no one really jumped out at me this year, as at least a couple usually have in past years.

Atlantic League

The Atlantic League is the undisputed top Independent-A League in North America.  It plays a  140-game schedule, roughly equal to AA and AAA, and attracts the top talent that can’t find jobs in the MLB system.

However, this year no one on either side of the ball really impressed me in terms of age and level of performance.  The most promising player I found is probably Buddy Boshers, who will be 28 this year, already over the hill in terms of professional baseball players as a group.

Boshers was good enough to pitch in 25 games for the Angels in 2013, but a bad performance in AAA in 2014 got him cut out of the MLB system.  In 2015, he had a 1.00 ERA with a pitching line of 54 IP, 39 hits and 14 BBs allowed and 71Ks.  He’s still young enough that an MLB team could sign him and send him to AA or AAA to see if the Angels gave up on him too soon.

Ron Schreurs (23 in 2016).  A player orginally from Curacao, he had a 2.55 ERA in relief with 25 Ks in 24.2 IP.  The low innings pitched total suggests he had arm problems going into or coming out of the 2015 season.

Telvin Nash (25).  Nash, a 1B/LF, has major league power but strikes out way too much.  He hit .270 with a .908 OPS in half an Atlantic League season.

American Association

The American Association is generally regarded as the next best Indy-A League, and players who play well in this league who don’t sign with an MLB organization typically move up the Atlantic League the next season.

Tyler Alexander (24) ranks as my top prospect in this league, because he’s young and pitched quite well, with a 3.31 ERA and 111 strikeouts (4th) in 111.1 innings pitched.  He’s a left-hander who’s a little wild, but he deserves another shot from an MLB organization.

John Straka (26) had a 3.27 ERA with 110 Ks (5th) in 127.1 IP.  My guess is he moves up to the Atlantic League in 2016.

Patrick Johnson (27) is getting up there in age for this level, but he went 15-1 with a 2.08 ERA (3rd) with 132 Ks (2nd) in 134 IP.  Even more impressively, he’s been one of the top pitchers in the Venezuelan Winter League this off-season, with a league leading 1.57 ERA in ten starts with 46 Ks (4th) in 51.2 IP.

Johnson may have suffered an injury late in the VWL season, as he didn’t make an appearance after December 2nd.  He’s a small right-hander listed at 5’10” and 170 lbs, which certainly hurts his chances of signing with an MLB organization.  If he can continue to pitch the way he did in 2015 going forward, he could potentially pitch in Asia one day.

John Brebbia (26) and Rob Wort (27).  Two not particularly young relievers who had terrific seasons.  Brebbia posted an 0.98 ERA with a pitching line of 64.1 IP, 34 hits and 15 walks allowed and 79 Ks; while Wort had a 1.79 ERA and a pitching line of 65.1 IP, 35 hits and 26 walks allowed and 92 Ks.

Christian Ibarra (23).  Hit .278 with an .853 OPS in 58 games.

Carlos Fuentes (23).  3.38 ERA with 43 Ks in 45.1 IP.

Can-Am League

In years past, the Can-Am League has generally been regarded as about equal to the American Association.  However, attendance in the Can-Am League isn’t nearly as good, which one would think will eventually effect that league’s ability to compete for talent.

However, the Can-Am League seemed to have plenty of talent in 2015, although it may have something to do with the fact that with only six teams, the better players may stand out more.

Joe Maloney (25).  A 1Bman who can play the corner outfield positions and even catcher in an emergency, Maloney hit .337 (2nd) with 14 HRs (4th) and led the league  by a wide margin with a .991 OPS.  Were Maloney to move up to the Atlantic League this year and continue to hit, he could definitely have a future in Asia.

John Walter (25).  Walter had a 3.08 ERA (4th) with a league-leading 127 Ks in 120.1 IP.  Listed at 6’5″ and 225 lbs, he’s got a major league pitcher’s body.

Gabriel Perez (25).  Perez had a 2.90 ERA (2nd) with 109 Ks (2nd) in 108.2 IP.

Brian Ernst (25).  Ernst had a 2.96 ERA (3rd) with 100 Ks (Tied 5th) in 109.1 IP.

Ryan Bollinger (25).  Bollinger had a 3.68 ERA and 108 Ks (Tied 3rd) in 127.1 IP.

Leandro Castro (27).  Castro batted .322 (6th) with 13 HRs (Tied 5th).  He’s old to be a prospect at this level, but he played in 234 games in the AAA International League in 2013-2014, he can play center field, and he runs well (21 stolen bases in 23 attempts against the Can-Am League’s admittedly not very good catchers in 2015).  His main problems are that he walks very little and would be a below-average defensive center fielder at the major league level.  He’s another guy who might be good enough to make some real money in Asia one day.

Ty Young (23).  A player who was apparently dropped from the Rays organization by his defensive failings, Young hit .265 with a .783 OPS in 2015.

Frontier League

What struck me about the Frontier League stars this year is how not young they were.  The Frontier League is the lowest of the established Independent-A Leagues, and its rosters tend to be stocked with a lot of 22 and 23 year old undrafted former college players, so I was definitely surprised I didn’t find more promising players there this year.

Jose Barraza (21).  As a 20 year old catcher/1Bman, Barraza hit .294 with a .783 OPS.  The White Sox drafted Barraza in the 7th round out of high school, and he hit .287 with an .818 OPS in the Arizona Rookie League at age 19.  Hard to understand why the White Sox released him (and no one else picked him up), unless he has some personality problems.

Cody Livesay (22).  A young center fielder whose release by the Braves organization seems strange (he had a .362 on-base percentage in 117 games in the low minors through age 20), Livesay batted .308 with a .388 OBP in 2015.

Boo Vazquez (23) and Kyle Ruchim (23).  A couple of the undrafted college players I was talking about, Vazquez hit .287 with an .865 OPS but played in only 41 games, while Ruchim hit .304 with an .825 OPS.

Andrew Brockett (23), Lucas Laster (23) and Trevor Richards (23).  Brockett was released by the Royals organization after two seasons in which he combined for a 2.19 ERA with 46 Ks in 49.1 IP.  As the Frontier League’s top closer in 2015, he had a 1.54 ERA with 28 Ks in 35 IP.  Laster had a 3.81 ERA with 74 Ks in 78 IP, while Richards had a 3.36 ERA with 84 Ks in 91 IP.

Connor Little (25).  Little had a terrific season in relief, posting a 1.19 ERA with a pitching line of 68 IP, 41 hits and 14 walks allowed and 90 Ks.  He did it against inferior competition, but even so his numbers really do jump out at you.

Baltimore Orioles to Sign KBO Star Hyun-soo Kim

December 18, 2015

The Orioles have reportedly reached an agreement with South Korean star Hyun-soo Kim for two seasons at $7 million total.  The deal is pending a physical, and while it hasn’t yet been reported, I would expect that the O’s have an option for a third season at something more than $3.5 million.

Given the amount of the contract in terms of current MLB salaries, it’s not a particularly big risk by the Orioles, but it does leave me wondering why not even one MLB team posted a bid for fellow KBO star Ah-Seop Son when he was posted earlier this off-season, because I don’t see much of a difference between the two players in terms of past KBO performance.

Both Kim and Son will be 28 next season.  Kim has a KBO-career slash line of .318/.406/.488, while Son’s KBO-career slash line is .323/.398/.462.  Not a lot of difference there. Kim has nearly 1,200 more KBO plate appearances than Son (4,700+ compared to 3,500+) because Kim reached KBO’s major league a couple of years younger than Son.  At this point in their KBO careers, I don’t think that’s particularly important.

Kim had a better season than Son in 2015, but Son was better in 2014.  Kim has a little more pop than Son, but Son appears to be faster based on stolen base numbers.

I don’t have any idea whether either player was significantly scouted by MLB teams, but based on the statistics, if Kim is worth two years and $7 million, then Son should have been worth at least a $2 million posting bid and a two-year contract offer of $3.5 million.

I feel the same way about Rich Hill and Jhoulys Chacin.  Both pitched well in four late-season starts after spending most of the 2015 season at AAA.  Hill was better than Chacin was, particularly in terms of strikeout rates, but I am at a loss to understand why Hill, who will be age 36 next year, received a $6 million deal from the A’s for 2016, while Chacin, who will be 28 next year, was forced to accept a minor league deal from the Braves.  If Hill’s four 2015 MLB starts are worth $6 million in 2016, weren’t Chacin’s worth at least a guaranteed $600,000, particularly when Chacin is still in his prime?

Based on his past major league experience, my educated guess is that Chacin’s minor league deal probably pays him somewhere between $125,000 and $300,000 for time spent in the minor leagues and somewhere between $650,000 and $950,000 for time spent on the major league roster, so a strong Spring Training and season could mean more money for Chacin than a guaranteed contract at or near the major league minimum.  Even so, a couple of years ago six or seven minor league free agents about the same age Chacin is now received major league contracts, and none of them had anywhere near Chacin’s past major league success, either in career terms or in the season after which they became free agents.

I think everyone but the Braves missed the boat on Chacin, but, of course, we’ll have to wait and see what happens when they begin playing baseball again in the spring.

The Pitcher Most Likely to Reach 300 Wins

October 31, 2015

Three years ago I wrote a piece in which I opined that it was more likely than not that an active MLB pitcher would win 300 games.  Only a year later, my opinion changed, and as of today, I am more convinced than ever that the likelihood that any pitcher now pitching will win 300 games is less than 50%.

After the 2012 season, there were a number of pitchers I thought had a reasonable chance of winning 300.  Since then, all have either gotten hurt, lost effectiveness, or are reportedly on the verge of getting hurt.

Added to that, the trend of starting pitchers pitching fewer innings and fewer complete games has only gotten stronger, making season win totals as much a matter of luck as a matter of performance.  I also think that the trend of increasingly enormous baseball players decreases the chance of another 300 game winner among today’s pitchers — pitchers can get bigger and stronger and throw harder, but their joints can’t keep up with the increased stresses professional pitchers put on their pitching arms.

Currently, Tim Hudson and Bartolo Colon are the active wins leaders with 222 and 218 career wins, respectively.  Neither has any reasonable chance to win 300 games.  Hudson has already announced his retirement, and Colon, no matter how long he wishes to continue pitching, is simply too old at age 42 to hang around long enough to reach 300 wins.

However, Tim Hudson’s Hall of Fame chances are now looking pretty good.  Ten years from now 220+ wins is going to look like a lot among HOF eligible pitchers.  The main thing standing in his way is the fact that he hasn’t led his league many times in major statistical categories.

Here are the active pitchers I think have the best shot at 300 wins.

1.  Felix Hernandez (143 wins through his age 29 season).  A year ago there was a lot of talk that Hernandez was on the verge of an elbow injury.  So far, he’s proven the speculation wrong, winning 18 games in 2015.  He’s also one of only two active pitchers who is significantly ahead of the career win average for his age (starting at age 30) of the last four 300 game winners (Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson).

However, Hernandez’s 2015 performance raises a lot of questions.  He pitched the fewest innings of any season since 2008, while winning more games that any season since 2009.  His ERA was up, and his strike out rate was down.  While he’s still on track for 300 career wins, he’s only 47.7% of the way there, and one has to wonder if 2016 won’t be the year that last off-season’s predictions of impending arm failure prove accurate.

2.  Clayton Kershaw (114 wins through his age 27 season).  Kershaw has the best arm in baseball, but history hasn’t been kind to pitchers who have thrown as many innings before age 27 as Kershaw has.  My original article three years ago listed Matt Cain, a big-bodied pitcher who had won a lot of games young while never appearing to be over-taxed by all the innings he threw at a tender age.  Well, “the Horse” got long in the tooth after his age 27 season.

Kershaw was absolutely still at the top of his game in 2015.  The question is whether he’ll still be wracking up the wins after his age 30 or 31 season.  No modern pitcher has any chance of winning 300 games unless he’s winning an average of 15 games a year in the back half of his 30’s.

3.  Mark Buehrle.  (214 wins through age 36).  I don’t think of Mark Buehrle as a guy who is going to win 300 games, but you can’t ignore the fact that he just keeps on adding to his career wins total.  That said, one has to wonder how many more years Buehrle can continue to win more games than he loses with a 4.1 K/9IP rate, even with his 2015 2.8 K/BB ratio.  Buehrle’s command and knowledge of the art of pitching is such that I think he’ll be around for a few more years.  However, his diminishing stuff is likely to drum him out of MLB before he reaches 3oo wins.

4.  Justin Verlander (157 wins through age 32).  Three years ago I thought Verlander had the best chance of any active pitcher to win 300 games, and I thought the same thing two years ago.  No more!  He was an average starter in 2014 and missed a couple of months on the DL in 2015.  It’s certainly possible that Verlander still has great seasons ahead of him, but at only 52.3% of the way to 300 wins, he surely isn’t likely to win 300.

5.  CC Sabathia (214 wins through age 34).  CC is the other pitcher who is ahead of the average wins by age of the last generation’s 300 game winners.  However, I never thought CC was a good bet to win 300, because pitchers his size historically break down fast after their age 32 seasons.  In fact, CC’s numbers declined dramatically in his age 32 season (2013), and he was hurt in both 2014 and 2015.

CC is such a good pitcher that, if the alcohol rehab treatment takes and he drops his weigh below 260 lbs and keeps it there, he could gut it out to 260 or even 270 career wins.  However, there’s no way to go back in time and take off all the weight on his joints from seasons past.  Do you see CC averaging better than 14 wins per season from 2016 through his age 40 season in 2021?  I sure don’t.

6.  Zack Greinke (142 wins through age 31).  Greinke is a smallish right-hander who hasn’t shown an ability to eat innings without consequences.  However, he was extremely efficient in his 222.2 IP in 2015 by virtue of his league-leading WHIP.  I can’t see Greinke lasting long enough to reach 300 wins, but he was arguably the best pitcher in MLB in his age 31 season, so you can’t completely write him off.

7.  David Price (104 wins through age 29).  Currently one of MLB’s very best, but he has a long way to go to 300 wins.  Of all the pitchers on this list under age 32 in 2015, he is probably the best bet to pitch well well into his 30’s.

8.  Jon Lester (127 wins through age 31).  Lester had a fine year in 2015, although it wasn’t reflected in his win column.  He’s locked himself into pitching his home games at Wrigley Field through 2020, which probably isn’t a great place to be for a pitcher hoping to win 300 games.

9.  Cole Hamels (121 wins through age 31).  Another pitcher still at the top of his game who finds himself locked into a hitters’ park for the next few seasons.  Although he appears to have the right body type, he would need to average better than 16 wins a year from 2016 through his age 42 season to reach 300 wins.  Doesn’t seem likely.

10.  Madison Bumgarner (85 wins through age 25).  Bumgarner’s situation is pretty much the same as Kershaw’s above, except that Bumgarner isn’t as far along in his career.  Statistically, his age 25 season was his best with terrific WHIP, K/IP and K/BB rates.  The odds are good that Bumgarner will be just as good or even better the next two or three seasons.  However, what Bumgarner does after age 30 will determine his ability to reach 300 wins, and that is too far into the future to make any real projections.