- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 6, 2009

The loss of the 300-game winner? Not just yet

With Randy Johnson earning his 300th win at Nationals Park on Thursday came the “he might be the last to do it” drumbeat. Later that day, MLB Network touted the highlight as “June 4, 2009, the last time a pitcher won his 300th game.” True, the pitcher next on the wins list, 46-year-old Jamie Moyer, is closer to joining AARP than he is to winning 50 more games. And there are only three other active pitchers with between 200 and 250 wins.

But that’s beside the point. Three hundred wins, like 3,000 hits and 500 home runs (OK, bad example), is a hallowed baseball milestone — meaning very few players achieve it. And given the ebb-and-flow nature of baseball, it’s natural that there will occasionally be long dry spells. For 300 wins, one of those times seems to be right now.

To gain a more accurate perspective of the frequency of 300-game winners, consider this: If you don’t count the players whose career began prior to the modern era (1900) — Pud Galvin, Old Hoss Radbourn and the rest — the list shrinks from 24 to 18. Eighteen pitchers in 110 years? That’s not very many — an average of one about every six years. And the past six have been jam-packed, relatively speaking, with Roger Clemens, then Greg Maddux, then Tom Glavine… and now the Big Unit.

There was a similar spike from 1982 to 1990, when the 300 Club ballooned by five members. By comparison, only one pitcher (Lefty Grove) achieved the feat in a nearly four-decade span from 1925 to 1962. Do you think baseball fans spent the intervening years fretting about the disappearance of the 300-game winner?

There’s no good reason to think other pitchers won’t achieve the feat, even in the era of the five-man rotation, though it may not be for a while. In fact, there might be a future member in the majors today.

Consider that by his 29th birthday, Johnson had just 48 victories — a mere one-sixth of his total. Glavine had only 33 wins in his first four seasons. Contrast that with Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who at age 28 has 122 wins and is now well-positioned to earn a lot more. Or even 23-year-old Felix Hernandez, who has 44 wins already.

The 25th member of the 300 Club is probably out there somewhere. It might even be the guy who slides on a Nationals hat in the opening minutes of Tuesday’s draft. No matter what, it’s far too early to write the obituary of the 300-win pitcher.

Saturday’s Best Bet on Television

The Stanley Cup Finals are tied, but history is on the Red Wings’ side: When home teams split the first four, the higher seed has lost the series only once. 8 p.m., Chs. 4, 11

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