At this writing, the only pitcher within 80 wins of the magic 300 is 46-year-old Jamie Moyer (250), whose own 7.62 ERA suggests that he's on his last legs. Of the three other active pitchers above 200 wins, 37-year-old Andy Pettitte (220) has annually threatened retirement since 2006, 37-year-old Pedro Martinez (214) is currently unemployed after three injury-filled seasons, and 42-year-old John Smoltz (210) is rehabbing his way back for a final go-round in Boston. Just three other active players are even halfway to the milestone: 42-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (184), 36-year-old perpetual rehab case Bartolo Colon (153, but just 14 since 2005), and 34-year-old palooka Livan Hernandez (151), the game's most hittable pitcher.I took a look at the field of contenders who are at least one quarter of the way there, using James' toy as well as what I called the Jaffe Blind Optimism Method, which "generously assumes each pitcher will average 15 wins annually through his age-42 season, unfettered by injury or bad luck, and with the bonus of not having his 2009 total to date counted against this year's allotment." Uh-huh. The three pitchers who emerge looking as though they have some kind of shot are Sabathia, Santana, and Roy Halladay, with the latter possibly reaching the halfway mark by year's end.
Of course, not everybody does care these days, as pitcher wins ain't what they used to be thanks to the rising offensive levels, deeper lineups, longer at-bats, and increased reliever specialization which have made the complete game a relic from the increasingly distant past. In 1972, the year before the designated hitter's introduction, starters completed games 27.1 percent of the time, collected decisions 78.5 percent of the time, and lasted an average of 6.7 innings in their starts. In contrast, last year they went the distance 2.8 percent the time, collected decisions 69 percent of the time, and averaged 5.8 innings. Against this backdrop, the win has come to be understood less as the product of an individual pitcher's brilliance or intestinal fortitude on a given day, and more as the confluence of the right amounts of support from the offense, the defense, and the bullpen. That's true both in sabermetric circles, where pitcher value is preferably measured in isolation of such factors, and in the dugout, where a manager cares less about who collects the W and more about bridging the gap from starter to closer, inning by inning or batter by batter.
Down by the old mainstream, however, the attachment lingers. The Baseball Writers Association of America hasn't elected a starting pitcher to the Hall of Fame since 1999 (Nolan Ryan), and hasn't elected a starter with fewer than 300 wins since 1990 (Fergie Jenkins). With the disappearance of the 300 clubbers on the ballot, the writers have barred the door for the eminently worthy Bert Blyleven, almost solely due to his missing the mark by 13 wins, and they never came close to inducting Tommy John (288 wins) or Jim Kaat (283), pitchers with shakier credentials. Though Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine have reached 300 this decade, the Rocket's raging steroid-related controversy suggests that it will take until 2014, when Maddux is eligible, for another starter to earn election to the Hall.
As for the Big Unit's successors, the current field's distance from 300 wins leaves us lacking a rigorous methodology for forecasting. PECOTA, which looks "only" seven years into the future, foresees just 81 wins for both Johan Santana and CC Sabathia from 2009-2015. The annual totals, which dwindle into single digits, put Santana at 190 through his age-36 season, and Sabathia at 198 through his age-34 season. Less scientifically, Bill James' aptly named Favorite Toy method identifies nine pitchers with at least a 10 percent chance at 300 wins in The Bill James Handbook 2009, estimates that are based upon weighted three-year averages of each hurler's win totals. James' notion of an "established win level" is rather dicey because of the teammate-dependent nature of the stats — pitcher wins don't predict future pitcher wins very well.
[#1 Dodgers] Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda makes a solid return to the rotation after missing nearly two months due to an oblique strain, and while the Dodgers fall in that game, they continue to hold the majors' widest division lead. That the Dodgers are where they are despite Kuroda's injury is a surprise; they're 14-5 in games started by Eric Stults, James McDonald, Jeff Weaver, and Eric Milton despite a .490 combined Support Neutral Winning Percentage and a 4.83 ERA because they've supported those hurlers with 6.8 runs per game of offense.I don't know why, but at 1 AM on Friday morning I was especially proud of that opening line in the latter entry; those confused need look no further.
[#11 Brewers] Hoff Time: The Brewers share the top spot in the NL Central, and their bullpen (save for a meltdown-and-out by Jorge Julio) is a major reason why, as they're third in WXRL and first in reliever Fair Run Average. Trevor Hoffman is 14-for-14 in saves while tossing 16 scoreless innings and allowing just seven baserunners. He's fourth in WXRL, while free-talent pickups Todd Coffey and Mark DiFelice are also in the top 25.
[#26 Astros] Breaking the Wandy? After allowing just one homer in his first 70 1/3 innings, Wandy Rodriguez is blitzed for four over his next 2 1/3 frames, including two by Garrett Atkins, who hadn't hit one since Colorado attained statehood. After yielding a 1.83 ERA and 6.6 hits per nine through his first nine starts, Rodriguez has been lit for 29 hits and 18 runs (12 earned) over his last three turns (13 2/3 innings). The loss snaps Houston's season-high four game winning streak and quashes their hopes of an undefeated June, but they can still root for the Tooth Fairy to show up.
[#27 Diamondbacks] In a performance that surely confuses senile Angelenos, Billy Buckner blanks the Dodgers for six innings en route to one of the team's two victories on the week. Demoted during the season's first week with a 15.75 ERA compiled in relief, Buckner's put up a 2.95 ERA over three starts since being recalled...
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