Career High Wins vs. Total Career Wins

When Tim Wakefield decided to call it a career, he retired as 1 of only 8 pitchers to win at least 200 games in the majors without racking up a 20 win season. In fact Wakefield won his 200 games without ever winning more than 17 games in a season. The other pitchers in this small club are:

In honor of this stat, I thought it might be interesting to examine the career records for all pitchers at each career high win number. Who had the most wins winning only 1 game a season? Which 20 game winner had the fewest career wins (a question that came from Tmckelv on another thread) How many pitchers have won 19 games in a season, but not 20? If a pitcher wins 15 games in a season, how many career wins can we expect him to have? etc.

Here is a table summarizing all of the information since 1871.  All players are sorted by the most wins that they recorded in a season. The other columns show the number of players that  met that criteria and the smallest, largest and average number of career wins for those players.

Career High WinsPlayers Matching the CriteriaAvg Career WMin Career WPlayersMax Career WPlayers
025340.0002534 Pitchers02534 Pitchers
110101.181858 Pitchers5Matt Ginter
25982.782326 Pitchers8Ambrose Puttmann & Roman Colon
34494.783188 Pitchers17Tony Fossas & Mike Lincoln
44057.264115 Pitchers39Alan Embree
534810.76558 Pitchers42Rick White
629914.14632 Pitchers40Armando Benitez
729619.19726 Pitchers62Mike Jackson
824021.48827 Pitchers (26 - Rivera
924027.73917 Pitchers (18 - Burgmeier
1021831.33105 Pitchers96Gene Garber
1122035.32113 Pitchers96Dennis Lamp & Tug McGraw
1220340.50127 Pitchers109Denny Galehouse
1317047.4514Norm Baker125Clarence Mitchell
1417856.6715Warren Fitzgerald141Woodie Fryman
1515165.8715John Thornton171Danny Darwin
1614773.6316Fleury Sullivan245Dennis Martinez
1710986.56172 Pitchers209Milt Pappas
1812394.1118Sam Kimber220Jerry Reuss
198589.79193 Pitchers240Frank Tanana
20126122.6724Harry Salisbury355Greg Maddux
2167130.1631Ian Kennedy & Johnny Beazley324Don Sutton
2267127.9922Henry Schmidt324Nolan Ryan
2351147.3123Jocko Flynn363Warren Spahn
2440157.9332Joe Corbett354Roger Clemens
2540155.1332Gus Krock311Tom Seaver
2622154.7737Bill James326Eddie Plank
2724173.4279Doc McJames329Steve Carlton
2812124.5849Bob Barr286Robin Roberts
296179.0048George Derby239Mordecai Brown
30799.7161Pete Conway150Dizzy Dean
317152.0089Terry Larkin300Lefty Grove
324110.5044Bob Emslie264Gus Weyhing
333207.3396Henry Porter373Pete Alexander
346116.5075Elmer Smith159Elton Chamberlain
356186.0072Jim Devlin361Kid Nichols
367274.71129George Zettlein511Cy Young
373224.67110Jack Lynch373Christy Mathewson
382126.00114Toad Ramsey138Kid Gleason
403154.0049Bill Sweeney218Bob Caruthers
414145.0064Charlie Sweeney198Jack Chesbro
423237.3373Lady Baldwin342Tim Keefe
434172.5050Billy Taylor234Tommy Bond
443213.00149Dick McBride307Mickey Welch
453213.00171George Bradley265Jim McCormick
462252.50141Matt Kilroy364Pud Galvin
471164.00164John Ward164John Ward
481233.00233Charlie Buffinton233Charlie Buffinton
521173.00173Guy Hecker173Guy Hecker
531328.00328John Clarkson328John Clarkson
551253.00253Al Spalding253Al Spalding
591309.00309Charley Radbourn309Charley Radbourn


All data was derived from the Lahaman Database with some of the links created by the Play Index. The one discrepancy that I noticed is noted on the table. Lahman has Charlie Bartson with 8 wins and b-r has him with 9.

38 thoughts on “Career High Wins vs. Total Career Wins

  1. 1
    kzuke says:

    Wow that is a huge jump in average career wins from the 20-win group compared to the 19-win group.

    • 3
      Tmckelv says:

      nobody wants to only have 19 wins. unless you are like me in the 0 group. 🙂

    • 35
      Dr. Remulak says:

      Mussina sat at 269 at Sept 28th of his age 39 year, having never won twenty. He got the win, and he and Koufax remain the only (I believe) two modern-era pitchers to hang it up after a 20 win season.

      • 36
        bstar says:


        I posted a similar thing about Mussina later down in the scroll, but my question to others was, ‘Do you think the fact that he’d finally accomplished his 20-win goal contributed to his abrupt retirement?’ Hard to call retiring at 39 abrupt, but as you said he’d just won twenty and I recall saying his ERA+ was his best mark in seven years. I just wish for his HOF case he’d have hung on and tried to win 300; I think he could have.

  2. 2
    Hartvig says:

    Two things jump out at me- first is how close Maddux and to a slightly lesser extent Sutton came to winning 300 plus games in their careers without ever winning 20 games.

    The second is that there are two 40 or more games in a season winners that have 50 or fewer career wins. Shows how much the game has changed since the 19th century, I guess.

    • 11
      Doug says:

      Maddux never won more than 20, and did that only twice, but …
      – He had 20 straight seasons with 13+ wins
      – 17 straight with 15+ wins
      – 9 out of 10 years with 17+ wins

      Maddux got his 300th win in start 594. Then he had another 146 starts AFTER that. Clemens is eerily similar. Win 300 in start 587, and another 120 starts afterwards. Of course, they ended up only one win apart.

      By comparison, Grove got win 300 in only his 451st start, but had only 6 more starts after that.

      • 14
        Ed says:

        The strike also hurt Maddux’s chances of winning more than 20. He won 16 in 1994 (Braves played 114) and 19 in 1995 (Braves played 144).

        • 20
          bstar says:

          Thanks for bringin that up, Ed. Saved me some typing. I think that’s one of the many reasons Maddux flew “under the radar” somewhat for most of his career; because his two best seasons happened when baseball was at its low point. And by “under the radar”, I simply mean his ability to avoid the spotlight. Even casual fans knew his greatness. Pro-rated wins totals for Maddux had they played 162 games:

          1994 – 23
          1995 – 21

      • 25
        Ed says:

        Doug – Grove actually pitched a lot in relief. “Only” 268 of him wins were as a starter.

        • 26
          Lawrence Azrin says:


          Many of the other aces of that time, such as Dizzy Dean and Carl Hubbell, also pitched a lot in relief, and served unofficially as (what we now call) the “closer”, or maybe more of a “fireman”. Ed Walsh and Three-Finger Brown also frequently served this role.

          This seemed to be common most of the twentieth century, till the late 50s or early 60s. I think the establishment of a fixed pitching rotation ended this practice.

          • 27
            Ed says:

            Lawrence – Yes I’m well aware of that. My comment was in response to Doug comparing the number of starts it took Grove to reach 300 wins vs. the number of starts Maddux and Clemens needed. Because of Grove picking up over 10% of his wins in relief, it’s a bit of an apples vs. oranges comparison.

        • 28
          Doug says:

          Thanks Ed,

          That explains a bit how he got to 300 wins on his 451st start. The other part is he completed almost 2/3 of the games he started, and thus didn’t miss out on wins coughed up by ineffective relievers. For his career, Grove had only 22 starts where he missed a potential W by pitching 5+ innings, and getting an ND in a team loss.

          • 29
            Doug says:

            By comparison, the same “lost win opportunity” starts were 82 for Clemens and 74 for Maddux.

          • 31
            Ed says:

            And as I mentioned on another thread, Grove’s winning percentage at home was an astounding 79%. (that includes his relief appearances since I’m not sure how to separate them out). That has to be a record. Would also be interested to know what percentage of his home starts he won but I’m not sure how to do that other than by hand counting.

          • 32
            Doug says:

            Grove was 149-41 (.784) as a starter in home games.

    • 15
      RJ says:

      Maddux won 4 of his last 5 starts in 1992 to reach 20 wins.

  3. 4
    Tmckelv says:

    Raphy, Thanks for the shout out!

  4. 5
    Tmckelv says:

    I like to use posts like this to learn about players I have never heard of. In this case I was looking for someone in the Minimum career Wins list that had all of his wins in 1 year. most of them are from the 1800’s early 1900’s. But then there is Eddie Yuhas (part of the list of guys with 12 win max and 12 career wins).
    At first you notice he was a relief pitcher for the Cardinals in 1952 and went 12-2 with a 2.76 ERA. then in 1953 he had only 2 games with no Wins and his major league career was over. so it sounded like a young phenom that got hurt early. But upon further inspection he was like 27 years old as a rookie and was signed by the Yanks in the early 1940’s. That intrigued me enough to check out his Bullpen page.
    It mentions his signing as a 17 year-old and after 1 minor league season he spent 3+ years in the Military in the European Theater of WWII. He came back in 1947 to find out he had been traded back in 1943 and spent 5 average seasons in the minors before getting a break as a relief pitcher as a 27 year old rookie in 1952. He formed a terrific R-L duo with Al Brazle out of the Cards’ pen in 1952. But then had shoulder tendonitis and only pitched 1 inning (2 G) in 1953 and his career was essentially over.

  5. 6
    Doug says:

    Interesting how consistent the numbers are all the way out to 27 wins.

    If you want to win 50, you have to get a 7 win season.
    If you want to win 100, you have to get a 12 win season.
    If you want to win 200, you have to get a 16 win season.
    If you want to win 300, you have to get a 20 win season.

    Regarding the “last rule-of-thumb”, I’m guessing Don Sutton would have still got to 300 even if he won a few less games in his lone 20+ win season. Sutton had 17 straight seasons and 21 seasons out of 23 with double figures in Wins.

    But, you don’t want to win 30 in a season – the average is under 100 wins for a career, and top is only 150.

  6. 7
    Timmy Pea says:

    Kenny Rogers has a wild stats page. He made over $80 for his career, almost half after he was considered washed up. I loved watching him pitch, and I like people that get mad.

  7. 8
    Timmy Pea says:

    Like most Cro-Magnon, I spend most of my time looking at hitters stats, so is it just my perception that Kenny Rogers lost fewer games than most? I know there is a throbbing debate about W’s not being important, what bout L’s and guys that don’t have many? (and they actually pitch a lot)

    • 13
      birtelcom says:

      Rogers took the loss in 32.9% of his career starts, a good number but not particularly historic. Other pitchers with at least 200 career starts who also took the loss in 32.9% of their career starts: Moose Haas, Juan Guzman, Steve Blass, Rick Rhoden. The lowest career loss per start numbers among all pitchers with at least 200 career starts (assuming I’ve done my little Excel spreadsheet correctly):
      1. Whitey Ford 24.2%
      2. Pedro Martinez 24.4%
      3. Tim Hudson 25.7%
      4. Vic Raschi 25.9%
      5. Roger Clemens 26.0%

      • 19
        Timmy Pea says:

        Wow, I like that stat. W/L get’s beat up here quite a bit, but I think when you look over a long career it’s useful. Look at those names, Pedro and Clemens! Thanks.

      • 22
        bstar says:

        Boy, that’s the best pro-Tim Hudson stat I’ve ever seen. I thought it was the fact that he’s third all-time in consecutive seasons starting career with a winning percentage over .500:

        Grover Alexander 19 seasons
        Whitey Ford 14 seasons
        Tim Hudson 13 seasons
        Andy Pettitte 13 seasons
        Bob Feller 13 seasons

  8. 9
    Timmy Pea says:

    And I don’t just mean W/L%. I’m talking about the cold hard statistic, L. He had a high ERA, and take away his relief days (he once led the league with 81 G) he looks to have fewer losses than many others. In my eyes Kenny is underrated. Best nickname ever! Age 47, bet he can still bring it.

  9. 10
    Richard Chester says:

    Henry Schmidt, at 22 wins on the list, quit ML baseball after his first season because he was a Westerner who did not want to play in the East.

    • 12
      Doug says:

      Jocko Flynn with 23 wins also never pitched again after his one age 22 season of 23-6, 160 ERA+ in 1886 (he played one game as an outfielder in 1887).

      What I googled attributes his demise variously to either alcoholism or blowing out his arm (or both).

  10. 16
    Voomo Zanzibar says:

    Great interactive chart!
    J. Autin has mentioned that he considers the ‘Modern’ era to begin in 1893, with regards to comparative stats. I’m in agreement with that here. It’s fun to see those old timers who won 40 and 50 games, but I’d love to see this chart without the 1880’s guys in the 14-25 positions.

    • 17
      Raphy says:

      Since 1893:

      Max Total Avg. Min Career   Max Career  
      14 174 57.40229885 16 Bob Brown 141 Woodie Fryman
      15 146 67.38356164 16 Jeriome Robertson 171 Danny Darwin
      16 148 73.37162162 16 Mark Baldwin 245 Dennis Martinez
      17 104 89.23076923 18 Clint Rogge 209 Milt Pappas
      18 117 96.97435897 21 Gene Dale 220 Jerry Reuss
      19 78 95.64102564 29 Mark Fidrych 240 Frank Tanana
      20 122 124.6311475 29 Buck O’Brien 355 Greg Maddux
      21 66 130.469697 31 2 Pitchers 324 Don Sutton
      22 60 136.1666667 22 Henry Schmidt 324 Nolan Ryan
      23 47 155.5106383 39 Roscoe Miller 363 Warren Spahn
      24 38 159.0263158 32 Joe Corbett 354 Roger Clemens
      25 33 173.3636364 41 George McConnell 311 Tom Seaver
      • 18
        Voomo Zanzibar says:

        Wow, thanks Raphy. This website really does kick ass.
        Jeriome Robertson
        15 Wins and Zero WAR.
        Mark Baldwin…. oop, seems that by grabbing from 1893 you got the last year of Baldwin’s 7 year career.

        Roscoe Miller
        23 wins as a rookie.
        20 losses as a sophmore

        • 23
          Raphy says:

          “Mark Baldwin…. oop, seems that by grabbing from 1893 you got the last year of Baldwin’s 7 year career.”

          I don’t think that “oop” works there. I considered only counting players whose career started after 1893, but the whole point was that before the pitching distance change, it was a different game. Making an 1893 cut means that Baldwin wasn’t really playing major league baseball until for the first 6 years of his career. I think he fully qualifies for this list.

  11. 21
    bstar says:

    It’s interesting that had Mike Mussina not won the last game he ever pitched, he would have been the 19s leader, beating Tanana by 29 games(269). But, no, he had to go out and beat the Red Sox on Sep. 28, 2008 and finally get his only 20-win season. I wonder if that was part of the reason he retired, that he had attained that goal? Sure would have helped his HOF case a lot if he could have ground out a couple more 15-win seasons. He’d just posted his first 20 win season and his 132 ERA+ was his best in seven years.

    • 37
      MikeD says:

      Supposedly he had made the decision prior to the start of 2008, and judging by the video I saw of him in the dugout after he won game #20, I think it’s correct. He had family members there, was hugging friends, family, etc. It wasn’t because he won #20. It was because he knew it was the final game of his career.

      I was hoping Mussina pitched another season or so. Not becasue I wanted him to win 300 games, but I was curious to see if he could duplicate his 2008 season after his career seemed done in 2007. He made some clear changes in hit pitching patterns because of his lost velocity and it worked.

      • 38
        bstar says:

        Good stuff, MikeD. That settles the issue for me. Here’s to hoping 270 wins becomes the new 300.

  12. 30
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    Ed/#27 –

    You’re right, the situation where manty decades ago the best starters often pitched in relief does make it more difficult to compare them to recent starting pitchers.

  13. 33
    ajnrules says:

    Technically shouldn’t Mussina still be in this club? His seasonal high was still 19 when he won his 20th game.

  14. 34
    bstar says:

    Huh? No, his 20th win put him out of the 19s and into the 20s club.

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