Sunday, June 9, 2013

Andy Pettite Wins His 250th. Is 250 the new 300?

40 and Winning
Today, Andy Pettite had a day for the ages: he picked up his 250th career win on the same day that the team that has defined his career, the New York Yankees, drafted his son, Josh. By getting his team past the Mariners, Pettite raised his season record to 5-3, lowered his ERA to 3.82 and his WHIP to 1.26... which is to say, more or less his career levels.

Now, it's not real likely that Pettite is going to get to 300 wins. He's only thrown 258 innings since 2010, having taken 2011 off, and the DL trips are not going to get less frequent now that he's on the south side of 40. By his career norms, he wins half of his starts, but that's down to about 44% in the last five seasons. since you don't exactly let a senior pitcher go deep into games. So he'd need to make something like 113 starts, or take the ball every turn out through this year, then go all the way through 2016. It's possible, but this is a guy who has made over $139 million in his career; he's not exactly hurting for cash. You'd have to think that he's going to need something more like 5 years to get there with injuries, and that's also assuming that someone's going to keep giving him an opportunity all that while. (And yes, the similarities between him and Mike Mussina, who stopped at 270 wins and $144 million at age 39, are pretty potent.) The number of modern starting pitchers who took the bump for 23 seasons pretty much begins and ends with Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Jim Kaat and Tommy John... and none of those guys had Pettite's injury history. (Even John, for whom the surgery is named, as a workhorse, really.)

Pettite is, of course, the active career leader in wins: only two other guys (Roy Halladay and Tim Hudson) are over 200, at 201, though CC Sabathia isn't far behind at 197. No one in the top 10 is really racking up wins right now, and you pretty much have to go down to Justin Verlander at 132 to see someone who doesn't look less than 2-3 seasons away from retirement, unless you are buying into Barry Zito at 164. (Me, not so much.) And if you were to tell me that there will not be another 300-game winner for the next 20 years, I wouldn't be surprised at all. I'd also hope that we can somehow get past the idea that wins are important as a realistic measurement of pitcher value, but honestly, that kind of stuff is just too ingrained, really.

There are 24 men who have reached 300 wins in their career, but with the exception of the compromised Roger Clements, the freakish Randy Johnson and the otherworldly Greg Maddux, the names are as loaded down with deadball guys as people you've might have seen. But if you take the standard down to 250, you only get 47 guys for the 130 years of organized ball -- and it's not like these names are pikers. If I have one game to win, I'm more interested in giving the ball to Bob Gibson, at 251 wins, then I am to Cy Young at 511.

So, getting back to Pettite. He's going to the Hall, assuming that we can get to a point where anyone who has any contact with PEDs can go. (And if they can't, we can pretty much shutter the Hall now.) The post-season record sends him over the top. But in the future, I'm wondering if we don't just make a bigger deal out of 250.

Or even 200, which has only been done by 113 guys...

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