Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sportsology: Ranking those who won 300 games

By Rick Morris

Our good buddy Russ Cohen over at Sportsology put together a ranking of the best pitchers ever to win 300 games. Courtesy of our association through The 21st Century Media Alliance, we bring you that excellent column.

How Old Were They When They Won 300 Games and How Do I Rank Them All-Time?
By Russ Cohen

I decided to look at the list of 300-game winners, and from that list, I wanted to decide for myself: who were still-vibrant pitchers when they won their 300th, how old they were and who was on their last legs holding on to get to that number. To me, there’s a difference. Sure, either way, the player makes it to the Hall of Fame, but from this list, I still think we should figure out who were the most prolific winners were in the history of the game.

Sure, some players not on this list have a higher winning percentage, but if they don’t have 300 wins, they aren't a part of this conversation. I rounded up their ages because counting the days to who was the youngest isn’t that relevant here.

1) Walter Johnson – 32 – The “Big Train” was pretty young, although players that reached 300 before him were even younger! To me, his best stat is the fact that he hit over 200 batters in his day. I’d say he owned the plate and he had two 20-win seasons after his 300th.
2) Cy Young – 34 - His 511 wins seem to be a curse; fans seem to dismiss it. He had a 30-win season after his 300th game, but he did hang on a bit at the end of his career. In 7354 innings, he gave up just 7092 hits and 1217 walks. His lifetime WHIP is 1.13 and he deserves a lot of credit for that no matter the era.
3) Christy Mathewson – 31 – The originator of the fade-away pitch or the modern day cutter. He had a 25-win season after reaching 300. His lifetime ERA is 2.13. This WW1 war hero died at the age of 45 due to tuberculosis because of poison gas he ingested during the war.
4) Warren Spahn – 41 – The lefty with the most wins in the history of the game still had 18 and 23-win seasons after the milestone. He pitched 5243 innings lifetime, WOW!
5) Greg Maddux – 38 – He was in the midst of a 16-win season at the time of the milestone and still had two double-digit win seasons after that. Known for his control, he walked just 999 in his career.
6) Tom Seaver – 40 – “Tom Terrific” was in the midst of a 16-win season and still threw over 238 innings the year he got to the magic number. He beat the Yankees at “The House that Ruth Built” for his 300th, and after that, his knee failed him and he knew when to hang it up. He still threw 176 innings in that last season, which would be very acceptable today.
7) Grover Cleveland Alexander – 37 – For his standards, he was going downhill fast. He did rebound with 21 and 16-win seasons near the end, but in those days, it wasn’t that great.
8) Nolan Ryan – 43 – “The Express” had a double-digit win effort during his milestone season. The no-hitters and fun starts that he had will make some think he should be higher, but from 1985-87 he was pretty average (30-36) and that works against him here.
9) Steve Carlton – 38 – “Lefty” had a decent 15-win milestone season where he threw 283 innings and the season after he won 13 before it got ugly. Yes, he hung on too long but not to get the milestone.
10) Lefty Grove – 41 – He had an amazing .789 winning percentage before the milestone and he was just better than a .500 pitcher afterwards. He ended up with 300-even, but I cut him some slack because he was 7-7 in that final season.
11) Roger Clemens – 40 – This guy has a cloud of suspicion following him, so while I can’t take away his accomplishments, all I can do is say that he was a great for a long time and he amassed a lot of wins.
12) Eddie Plank – 39 – Got his milestone during a fine season in the Federal League. The year after, he still won 16 games in the AL, and that gives him more credibility than some of the others below him on the list.
13) Early Wynn – 43 – OK, he was a fabulous pitcher who was fading, but he was still 8-2 when he was 41. He knew he was done and he walked away after the win and you have to give him some credit for that.
14) Randy Johnson – 45 – “The Big Unit” did win double-digits last season so why isn’t he ahead of Wynn? His age is the answer. He has hung on way too long. He is currently on the DL as I write this.
15) Tom Glavine – 41 – He pitched a solid game in Wrigley Field to get his 300th win, but lets face it, he was done at that point. His 13-8 record was misleading because he was abysmal in the second half of the season, including a seven-run first inning (he retired just one batter) against the Marlins to help his team fall out of the playoff race.
16) Gaylord Perry – 41 – The master of the “spitball” did get double-digit wins during that milestone season and once more before he hung up his spikes. He was a master of psychology (he may have only loaded up a few times in his career) and did hang around too long, but was effective throwing 205 innings when he was 41.
17) Don Sutton – 41 – He was always suspected for scuffing and that’s why he is so low on this list.
18) Phil Niekro – 46 – “Knucksie” just kept hanging around. He won 16-games in his milestone season, but if he wasn’t on the Yankees, I’m not sure he would have gotten to this milestone.

The rest of the list I am lumping together because their careers were played at a time when the rules and the game didn’t really resemble the modern-day game. They were great athletes and I don’t want to diminish that.
^ Pud Galvin – 31 – He once started 76 games and completed 72 of them.
^ Tim Keefe – 33 – Once pitched 619 innings in one season.
^ John Clarkson – 30 – Has the Cubs team record of 53 wins.
^ Charley Radbourn – 36 – He had one 59-win season.
^ Mickey Welch – 30 – He was 44-11 one year.
^ Kid Nichols – 30 – He had seven years of 30 or more wins.

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