Regular Articles
In celebration of my 300th article with AtHomePlate.com, I’m dedicating this section of cyberspace to the future of the 300 game winner. While this club has been very exclusive -- there are only 22 pitchers to have reached this level in the history of our grand sport -- it figures to be letting in new members at a slower rate as time passes. Why? With the advent of the five-man rotation, there are just less starts made by present-day pitchers. And with more specialization in relief roles, starters are asked to throw fewer innings, making it more likely that someone else will pick up the decision.

Is this the end of 300 win club? No, I don’t think so. There are a few active pitchers who have very good shots at joining the list, but it’s going to take some luck and some durability. Here’s a look at those pitchers who might be in line to earn their 300th win, which should make them an automatic entrant into the Hall of Fame. (Note: The following are ranked by their chances of making it in.)

Tom Glavine, New York Mets – It’s surprising that not many people are talking about Tom Glavine and his chase for immortality, but the attention is being put onto that Barry Bonds fellow in San Francisco. This left hander has 295 career wins, which all but assures him of obtaining his 300th. It’s just a question of how far past that mark he wants to go. Glavine doesn’t require velocity to pitch well, which helps at his advanced age of 41. He relies on his changeup and curveball. Also, it’s not like he has been declining drastically. His ERA+, which is a measure of one’s ERA normalized, last year was 117, meaning it was 17% better than the league average. That’s right on his career mark of 120.

Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks – Look who is coming back from the dead in the desert: Randy Johnson. He’s striking out about seven batters for every walk, has a very respectable 1.15 WHIP, and is rounding into form this year, after getting started late. He’s at 282 wins right now, but we should see him get the magical 300th in the middle of next season.

CC Sabathia, Cleveland Indians – If you had to bet money on a youngster, this would be your guy. CC Sabathia came up to the major leagues at the tender age of 20 and won 17 games. While it still stands as his career high, he hasn’t won less than 11 in any season. For his first six years, Sabathia has averaged 13 wins, but expect that number to jump up once he reaches the prime of his career in a couple of seasons. He holds the record for most wins before turning 26 for any active pitcher, which includes Greg Maddux, a 300 game winner.

Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins – What’s a list of 300-game winners without the best pitcher in the major leagues? The Twins’ lefty started starting at an old age, 25, which puts the onus on him to have a great career and not decline much as he gets older, if he wants to finish with 300. Eighty-two wins before the age of 27 means he’ll need 218 more (not including what he has already done this year). If he pitches until he’s 42, that’s about 15 wins a season, entirely possible.

Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants – He was known as a big winner throughout his career with Oakland, and that did a very good job of masking how mediocre a pitcher Barry Zito really was. However, since he’s over a third of the way to 300 despite playing only seven years, there’s a chance he could make it. Basically, Zito would have to average about 13 wins the remainder of his career. That’s entirely possible, especially if he wins 16 to 17 games for the first few seasons of his contract with the Giants.

Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros – The Astros’ ace is another pitcher in the same category as Zito: about one third of his career out of the way, 100 wins down. The task is slightly harder for Oswalt in that he got started at age 23, rather than Zito’s 22, but Oswalt has posted large win totals throughout his career: 55 wins from 2004 through 2006, and he’s a much better pitcher.

Dontrelle Willis, Florida Marlins – While the funky mechanics lessen Dontrelle Willis’ chances of holding up over this career, the likelihood the Florida Marlins’ ace breaks 300 is reasonable. He earned 58 wins before the age of 25, meaning he’s got 15 seasons left. That’s an average of 16 wins per season. Maybe a little optimistic, but definitely not unattainable.

Mike Mussina, New York Yankees – This is probably a long shot, but Mike Mussina has 241 wins and is “only” 38. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t rely on a quick fastball, but rather command and feel. He should age well, and if he averages 15 wins over four seasons -- which might be a bit optimistic -- he could join the club.

Apologies to…
Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres – Jake Peavy is young and talented, two traits which suit him well in his pursuit of 300. However, his delivery is awkward, throwing from a quirky 3/4 arm slot. He may not stay healthy enough to reach the club, but he should be fun to watch. Peavy has a 1.68 ERA over his first 12 starts in 2007.

Josh Beckett, Florida Marlins – It’s pretty surprising that Josh Beckett actually has the same number of wins as Dontrelle Willis. Both have 65. However, Boston’s ace is two years older and there is a lot more concern about his ability to stay healthy. He’s only surpassed 200 innings pitched once, and that came with a 5.01 ERA. He’ll be known as one of those “Imagine if he had stayed healthy” guys.

Ben Sheets, Milwaukee Brewers – Another guy in Beckett’s category: too injury prone to project long-term success for. We’ll always take a look at him and think about what could have been. However, Ben Sheets is looking very good this season, already matching his win total from last year with 6.

Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs – When we think of Chicago Cubs right handers whose careers were ended because of high pitch counts, the name Carlos Zambrano doesn’t immediately pop into our minds. However, it should. He’s putting together a thoroughly despicable season, and the only person he can punch out is Michael Barrett. Too bad he didn’t get that five year, $85-90 million contract done at the beginning of the season. That may go down as the most boneheaded thing a player has done. Either that, or Zambrano’s prediction of him winning the Cy Young this year.

John Lackey, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – It was hard for me to leave John Lackey off the other list, but I had to. He has decent stuff, but not overpowering stuff. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim staff ace gives up far too many walks and hits, a fact that can be seen in his career WHIP of 1.34. Nice guy to have around, but not a nice guy to bet on reaching 300.

Sidney Ponson, Free Agent – No explanation needed here. It’s just a bad joke, much like that $8.5 million the Orioles shelled out for his 2005 season (6.21 ERA/1.73 WHIP). I don’t know what’s worse: that he hasn’t retired yet or that general managers are still giving him money to play.