Thursday, May 28, 2009

Save the Last Dance for...Randy?


What was once relatively unlikely, now seems to be almost a sure thing - barring some unforeseen ostrich poaching - Randy Johnson will win his 300th game. And what a milestone it is, because Johnson will probably be the last pitcher to EVER DO IT.

Yes, I am fully aware that every time this statement is said in relation to some sports record, the record is immediately broken, and the person who voiced it is taken away to the Gulag and bludgeoned to death with a cane. But forget that. This just ain't happening - ever again. Not ever. Especially not in such a convoluted era populated by coward managers pulling their Aces after 100 pitches. Forget that, as humans we have evolved. Forget that we have grown bigger and stronger. None of that matters any more. At one point in time, 5'2'' Sandy Koufax could take the mound every fourth day and toss 200+ pitches and the go play horseshoes for nine hours or whatever. Now? No way.

The 300 win milestone will disappear soon, and sooner than you think. Only four active players currently have more than 200 wins (Pedro with 214, is not active, so take a hike) - Randy Johnson: 299, Jaime Moyer: 249, Andy Pettitte: 219, and John Smoltz: 210. Out of these players, only Pettitte is under 40 years of age (36). And it will disappear for a better reason: it's a horrible metric in which to gauge the effectiveness of a pitcher. In the end, a pitcher's win total can only really reflect how good of an offense he has, and whether or not he can stay in games long enough to aggregate a victory. Regardless, it's still linked to the history of baseball, blah blah blah, we have to respect it, I guess.

Believe it or not, there are a boatload of fans, writers, and actual players who truly believe that some dominate active pitchers will hit that 300 win plateau, no matter what age said player is, no matter what limitations said player faces, and no matter what the real numbers suggest. Well, all you happy-go-lucky believers out there, here's some advice: don't hold your breath. Actually, on second though, do, because it will afford humanity a few less dreamers to support. But to be fair, let's take the opposite approach and digest just who is out there, and who has an outside shot (and by 'outside shot' I mean out the door, beyond the yard, next to the curb 'outside shot'). Below is a list of players who sorta/kinda/maybe have shot at 300 wins. To make things fair, I'm putting them all on the same career path: We will assume that each pitcher will be a starting pitcher until they're 42 years old.

THE CAGEY VETERANS
I'm mathematically eliminating these 35-and-under guys that are in the 130-200 win range, because it's just not happening for them: Livan Hernandez - (151), Tim Hudson (146), Barry Zito (124), Kevin Millwood (146), Jeff Suppan (131), and Javier Vasquez (131).

1. Johan Santana: 30 years old - 116 Wins
Arguably the games best left-handed pitcher, Santana has consistently reeled off double-digit win seasons since moving into the Twins rotation full-time in 2003. But, in order to get to 300 wins, with 12 more years left, Santana must average at least 15 wins per season. At some point, the string-pulling change will meet up with his fastball. Just not gonna happen.

2. CC Sabathia: 28 years old - 121 Wins
Experts tend to watch CC like they watch NASCAR: It's only matter of time before something bad happens, right? Right? He's so fat! He's so big! His hat is crooked, that can't be a good sign! When is he going to lapse into a diabetic coma? Well, I don't think it will happen any time soon. Since coming into the league at 20 years old in 2001, Sabathia has yet to pitch less than 180 innings per season. He's even gone as high as 253 IP in a season, which is very rare for this day-and-age of six inning "warriors." But he still needs to average about 13+ wins per season for the next fourteen seasons. That's a lot of fat jokes.

3. Roy Halladay: 32 years old - 139 Wins
Doc has the kind of pitching style that may afford him a decent shot - he's not a power pitcher and doesn't rely on a curveball, which induces serious stress on the pitching elbow. With ten seasons remaining, he needs to average 16.1 wins per season. It's hard to underestimate the man, but it's also hard to think he'll actually pull it off.

Roy Oswalt: 31 years old - 130 Wins
Every season, experts predict the demise of Roy Oswalt. And every season, he ends up turning things around. Last year, around this time, he was just plain awful - he sported a 4-5 record and an ERA of 5.45. By September, he was chalking up his 17th victory. So don't count the guy out. No, not because he's resilient, but because he carries a f---ing gun. Seriously. Stay away from him.

THE YOUNG GUNS

1. Tim Lincecum: 25 years old - 29 Wins
It sounds minimal - 29 wins - but if he is able to keep his 5'10'' frame healthy, and keep up his mounting win totals, then pitch into his early forties without any setbacks, and play on a competitive team, he will only have to average 16 wins per season...For the next 17 seasons. See what I did there?

2. Zack Greinke: 25 years old - 42 Wins
I don't what the doctors prescribed Greinke - I assume it goes something like this - but if he has suddenly turned into the dominate pitcher he was supposed to be when the Royals drafted him, he will only need to keep his head together and win another 258 more games! I wonder how many CVS refills that equals out to?

3. Cole Hamels: 25 years old - 40 Wins
Hamels may be crawling his way back after postseason surgery, but does he have enough to sustain a long, productive career? 260 wins left - it's daunting. And keep in mind that Hamels plays in Philly, which in turn, harbors Philly fans, which is the equivalent of playing at Satan's softball field. That has to take its toll on a man, right?

4. Felix Hernandez: 22 years old - 39 Wins
He has a long way to go. But he also has Father Time on his side, and he does pitch in a pitcher's park. But still, he might as well have a team of Little Leaguers producing runs for him, because the Mariners offense is just plain awful. If only the Yankees would be able to pry him away...

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