The last pitcher to join the 300 win club was Randy Johnson back in 2009. Based on the way pitchers are being used, it really seems like we may have seen the last one.
What skills would a likely candidate for this have?
- Health/Longevity - To get to 300 wins, a pitcher is simply going to have to pitch for a long time at this point. Looking at the last 5 pitchers to get to 300, their career lengths averaged 22.8 seasons in the Majors. Add to that fact that they will need to avoid missing time during those seasons due to injuries, and it becomes a critical skill.
- Opportunity/Role - The next reliever that even has a shot at getting 300 wins will be the first. You have to be in a role that is conducive to racking up that kind of win total, and relievers just aren't going to have that chance on a year-in, year-out basis.
- High Strikeout Potential/High Control Potential - Of the 10 pitchers who have won their 300th game since 1981 (30 years), 8 have either had a career K/9 rate above 7, a career BB/9 rate below 2, or a career K/BB rate above 2.50. While it's not a guarantee, these skills obviously help a pitcher.
- High Team Strength - The days of Steve Carlton winning 27 games for a team that only wins 54 total are not likely to return either, and your team has to help you with some run support as well.
- Early Start or Late Finish - Realistically, with so much money available to quality pitchers, the requirement of the early years of baseball for a player to keep coming back until they physically can't throw any more are gone. So it becomes critical for a pitcher to either get an early start in the Majors (by age 25 seems the most likely), or to keep pitching well into his 40's.
The most likely candidates to get to 300:
- Roy Halladay (169) - Currently age 34, for him to get to 300 he needs another 131, which averages out to 7+ seasons of 18 wins each. I wouldn't count him out for this, but it seems unlikely he would be winning 18+ in his 40's.
- CC Sabathia (157) - Sabathia is 30, which would leave him needing 143 total. If he pitches for 8 more seasons (until age 38), he would need 18 per year on average. He seems like he has a very good shot at this based on his own history of health and usage, but there is always the possibility of him breaking down at some point.
- Justin Verlander (84) - Verlander is 28 this year, and would need 13 seasons averaging 17 wins each year to get to 300. He actually seems like a decent shot to do this, as he has recorded at least 17 wins in 4 of the last 5 seasons. But expecting him to be able to keep this up into his age 41 season is a bit of a stretch.
- Felix Hernandez (72) - Hernandez is 25 years old, which gives him quite an advantage towards this goal over a lot of the other pitchers. However, unless his team starts improving, he could be looking at a lot of 13-14 win seasons. He would have to average 14 wins over 16+ seasons to get to 300, but could conceivably get there by averaging 17 over the next 13 seasons. Neither of which seems extremely likely based on the current makeup of the team.
- Clayton Kershaw (27) - Kershaw is still just 23 years old, but is already rapidly showing that he will be a dominant pitcher for many years. Throw in a very good history in terms of health, and we could be looking at a pitcher who could make it.
All in all, the likelihood of another pitcher getting to 300 wins anytime soon is extremely unlikely. Jamie Moyer might make it if he comes back for 2-3 more seasons (he currently sits at 267), but it's hard to judge the value of a pitcher who won 300 games over a nearly 30 year career.