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300 win club

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In Major League Baseball, the 300 win club is an informal term applied to the group of pitchers who have won 300 or more games in their careers. There are currently 24 pitchers to have accomplished this feat.

Contents

[edit] History

The club's "founding member" was Pud Galvin in 1888. Six pitchers entered the club in the 19th century, with a seventh (Cy Young) joining in 1901. Early in the history of professional baseball, starting rotations of two men were commonplace, giving the best pitchers far more chances to earn wins than in today's game. Conversely, the rigor required for a two-man rotation meant that most pitching careers didn't last more than a decade or so (Cy Young being the major exception). In addition, the medical treatments then available were minimal; if a pitcher 'blew out his arm' then his career was over. Four more pitchers would join the club in the first quarter of the 20th century.

However, only three pitchers scored their 300th win between 1924 and 1982; for two of them (Early Wynn and Lefty Grove), it was the final win of their career and they both struggled in their last season to achieve it. This dearth of 300-game winners may be explained by the offensive explosion due to the abolition of the spitball in 1921, later changes in the baseball, World War II military service (in the cases of Bob Feller and Red Ruffing), and the advent of the home run as a major part of the game, thanks mainly to Babe Ruth. Once the home run became commonplace, physical and mental demands on pitchers dramatically increased, leading to the creation of the four-man starting rotation.

Between 1982 and 1990, the 300-win club gained six more members. This may be partly explained as a consequence of the era of free agency that began in the mid-1970s. Free agency led to unheard-of player salaries, which encouraged many older pitchers to stay in the game longer than they might have in the past. Another part of the explanation is increasing sophistication of training methods and sports medicine, which allowed players to maintain a high competitive level for a longer time. Additionally, reduced pitch counts and less of a demand for complete games led to pitchers' arms lasting longer and fewer hurlers burning out at a young age. A very good example of this is Phil Niekro, who was still under 200 wins at his 40th birthday, yet finished his career in his late 40s with 318 wins. Niekro's success also can be explained by his throwing a knuckleball, a pitch that takes far less of a toll on a pitcher's arm. Many of the pitchers who joined in this era, such as Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, and Phil Niekro, only had a couple of 20+ win seasons and mainly achieved the feat by pitching well into their 40s (however, all 3 pitchers are in the Hall of Fame). Others continued to follow suit into the early 21st Century, such as Tom Glavine, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Randy Johnson, proving that better pitcher management systems and reduced arm strain were more than compensating for the change to a five-man rotation.

[edit] Future club possibilities

Mike Mussina came only 30 wins away from the mark and could have won 300 with a few more good years, but he decided to hang up his spikes at the age of 40 after a 20-win season. Jamie Moyer also ran out steam in his 40's. Andy Pettitte recorded his 250th win in 2013, but he had lost a year to retirement, and then decided to announce his retirement for good effective at the end of 2013 well shy of the mark. Roy Halladay was also in the top five active pitchers, but he also announced his retirement after the 2013 season. The most serious possibility to be next is New York Yankees ace CC Sabathia who recorded win number 200 in 2013 while still only 32 and was pitching just below his prime level, although he struggled with health issues in 2014. One other pitcher, in addition to Pettitte, was ahead of him on the all-time win list (Tim Hudson), but only by a sliver while already five years older than CC, giving him little realistic chance of reaching the mark. Bartolo Colon, who is third on the active list, recorded his 200th win in 2014, but at the age of 41, also excluding him from contention.

Several young pitchers could also eventually join the club, such as Felix Hernandez, who is the youngest pitcher among those with 100 career wins, or Justin Verlander who is closing in on 150 wins while still only 30. However, pitchers who post high win totals in their 20's are not usually those who end up in the club; the key to achieving the mark is longevity after the age of 30, and particularly continued success in the second half of that decade and beyond. For example, Roy Oswalt posted back-to-back 20-win seasons in 2004-2005, becoming only the third pitcher in the new millennium to do so, but his career stalled after he crossed the 150-win threshold. Other potential candidates included Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, but injuries derailed his career. Thus beyond Sabathia, it is more likely that a serious candidate could emerge among the likes of Mark Buehrle or Cliff Lee, who may not have posted huge win totals before the age of 30 but are steadily adding to their total year after year with a pitching style conducive to exceptional longevity.

While many baseball observers believe that it may take decades, if ever, to produce another 300-game winner unless changes occur along the way that increase potential win totals (such as de-emphasizing relief pitching), such commentators have regularly been proven wrong in the past. The odds are that at least one other pitcher who is currently active will join the club by the early 2020s.

[edit] Members

Pitcher Wins Date of 300th Teams
Cy Young 511 July 3, 1901 Cle (NL), Bos (AL), StL (NL), Bos (NL), Cle (AL), Bos (NL)
Walter Johnson 417 May 14, 1920 Was (AL)
Grover Cleveland Alexander 373 September 20, 1924 Phi (NL), Chi (NL), StL (NL)
Christy Mathewson 373 June 28, 1912 NY (NL), Cin
Warren Spahn 363 August 11, 1961 Bos/Mil, NY (NL), SF
Pud Galvin 361 June 4, 1888 Buf, Pit (Amer. Assoc.), Pit (NL), Pit (Players League), StL (NL)
Kid Nichols 361 September 7, 1900 Bos, StL, Phi (NL)
Greg Maddux 355 August 7, 2004 Chi (NL), Atl, LA (NL), SD
Roger Clemens 354 June 13, 2003 Bos, Tor, NY (AL), Hou (NL), NY (AL)
Tim Keefe 342 June 4, 1890 Troy, NY (Amer. Assoc.), NY (NL), Phi (NL)
Steve Carlton 329 September 23, 1983 StL (NL), Phi (NL), SF, Chi (AL), Cle, Min
John Clarkson 328 September 21, 1892 Worc, Chi (NL), Bos (NL), Cle (NL)
Eddie Plank 326 September 11, 1915 Phi (AL), StL (Fed. League), StL (AL)
Nolan Ryan 324 July 31, 1990 NY (NL), Cal, Hou (NL), Tex
Don Sutton 324 June 18, 1986 LA (NL), Hou (NL), Mil (AL), Oak (AL), Cal
Phil Niekro 318 October 6, 1985 Mil/Atl (NL), NY (AL), Cle, Tor
Gaylord Perry 314 May 6, 1982 SF, Cle, Tex, SD, NY (AL), Atl, Sea, KC
Tom Seaver 311 August 4, 1985 NY (NL), Cin, Chi (AL), Bos (AL)
Charles Radbourn 310 May 14, 1891 Prov, Bos (NL), Bos (Players League), Cin
Mickey Welch 307 August 11, 1890 Troy, NY (NL)
Tom Glavine 305 August 5, 2007 Atl, NY (NL)
Randy Johnson 303 June 4, 2009 Mon, Sea, Ari, NY (AL), SF
Lefty Grove 300 July 25, 1941 Phi (AL), Bos (AL)
Early Wynn 300 July 13, 1963 Was, Cle, Chi (AL)

[edit] Closest Active Players

as of the end of the 2014 season

Pitcher Wins Teams
Tim Hudson 214 Oak, Atl, SF
CC Sabathia 208 Cle, Mil (NL), NY (AL)
Bartolo Colon 204 Cle, Mon, Chi (AL), Ana/LA, Bos (AL), NY (AL), Oak, NY (NL)
Mark Buehrle 199 Chi (AL), Mia, Tor
A.J. Burnett 155 Fla, Tor, NY (AL), Pit, Phi (NL)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Dan Schlossberg: The 300 Club: Have We Seen the Last of Baseball's 300-Game Winners?, Ascend Books, Overland Park, KS, 2010.
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