Age takes no Halladay

Over the past 4 years, Roy Halladay leads the majors with 77 wins, a 160 ERA+ (min. 500 IP), 969 IP and 27.7 bWAR. With 188 career wins through age 34, he’s the active wins leader (at least until Jamie Moyer takes the mound in a real game). He still in peak form, winning 19 last year while leading the NL in ERA+ and pitchers’ WAR.

What are his chances of winning 300?

In a poll on with over 10,000 votes cast, 66% say “yes.” SweetSpot blogger David Schoenfield builds his case for “yes” by examining the last 10 pitchers to reach 300 wins. I like Schoenfield – his postgame stories during last year’s postseason were terrific deadline writing – but that strikes me as no way to tackle the problem. Those guys made it to 300 wins in large part because they were able to stay healthy and effective for many years after age 35. They averaged 128 wins from age 35 onward, with at least 97 wins for all but one; six of them won more than the 112 that Halladay needs to join the club.

I think it’s more useful to look at those who were similar to Halladay through age 34, and what they did from there on. So here goes:

Group 1: Since 1901, there are 111 pitchers who:

  • had 15+ wins in their age-34 season; and
  • are either retired or over the age of 45 (Moyer).

Care to guess their average win total from age 35 onward? Or how many of those 111 pitchers won at least 112 more games from age 35 (the number Halladay needs for 300)? While you ponder that….

Group 2: Let’s narrow the field to the 25 pitchers who met the prior criteria and had 180+ wins through age 34.* Almost all those guys are in the Hall of Fame (19) or have a very good shot at enshrinement (Clemens, Maddux, Glavine, Mussina). The only one’s who’ve been rejected by the HOF are Jim Kaat and Carl Mays. What would you guess was the average win total for those elite pitchers from age 35 onward?

And the answers are:

  • Group 1 averaged 53 wins from age 35 onward, with a median of 44. Just 13 of the 111 got the 112 wins that Halladay needs for 300.
  • Group 2 averaged 78 wins from age 35 onward, with a median of 73. Six of the 25 got 112+ wins.

Here are Group 2’s totals from age 35:*

1 Warren Spahn 180 1956 1965 35-44 375 331 177 29 33 121 .598 13 2565.0 2422 1004 911 626 1189 3.20 110
2 Roger Clemens 141 1998 2007 35-44 292 291 9 5 0 66 .681 0 1876.2 1622 775 704 656 1790 3.38 134
3 Eddie Plank 124 1911 1917 35-41 251 183 125 32 55 63 .663 20 1579.1 1380 522 402 418 781 2.29 128
4 Pete Alexander 123 1922 1930 35-43 257 223 141 10 23 81 .603 10 1821.2 1947 800 666 253 409 3.29 126
5 Early Wynn 116 1955 1963 35-43 287 256 102 27 21 94 .552 7 1836.2 1655 791 714 728 1164 3.50 111
6 Greg Maddux 115 2001 2008 35-42 273 273 10 4 0 92 .556 0 1690.1 1740 786 714 266 1021 3.80 113
7 Steve Carlton 104 1980 1988 35-43 254 240 54 13 6 84 .553 1 1732.1 1604 774 670 631 1453 3.48 109
8 Tom Glavine 97 2001 2008 35-42 248 248 7 5 0 78 .554 0 1512.2 1547 689 643 535 796 3.83 112
9 Jim Kaat 89 1974 1983 35-44 407 185 44 7 82 77 .536 12 1473.1 1594 672 600 350 594 3.67 103
10 Walter Johnson 80 1923 1927 35-39 161 149 83 15 11 48 .625 4 1136.0 1085 494 429 327 569 3.40 118
11 Eppa Rixey 79 1926 1933 35-42 244 180 73 10 47 77 .506 4 1441.2 1599 711 591 333 281 3.69 109
12 Tom Seaver 76 1980 1986 35-41 201 198 34 9 1 72 .514 0 1328.1 1216 598 541 441 753 3.67 107
13 Bert Blyleven 75 1986 1992 35-41 187 186 42 9 0 67 .528 0 1254.0 1289 631 586 308 826 4.21 99
14 Mike Mussina 71 2004 2008 35-39 151 150 4 2 0 43 .623 0 894.0 963 447 411 188 687 4.14 108
15 Burleigh Grimes 63 1929 1934 35-40 168 117 54 8 37 50 .558 8 924.0 1054 493 404 307 269 3.94 111
16 Bob Gibson 61 1971 1975 35-39 145 137 66 11 4 57 .517 2 1067.2 956 427 382 387 724 3.22 112
17 Carl Hubbell 61 1938 1943 35-40 146 121 59 4 18 52 .540 4 934.2 955 416 365 227 419 3.51 106
18 Red Ruffing 59 1940 1947 35-42 105 105 62 12 0 34 .634 0 806.2 763 341 303 230 291 3.38 111
19 Herb Pennock 49 1929 1934 35-40 152 95 43 5 35 33 .598 7 776.2 1001 463 387 153 252 4.48 92
20 Mordecai Brown 49 1912 1916 35-39 136 79 53 8 51 40 .551 10 779.1 742 322 249 198 304 2.88 109
21 Whitey Ford 37 1964 1967 35-38 105 88 23 11 10 28 .569 2 606.0 572 208 174 140 398 2.58 134
22 Jim Palmer 27 1981 1984 35-38 77 68 13 2 4 20 .574 1 448.2 420 206 186 145 176 3.73 105
23 Bob Lemon 26 1956 1958 35-37 71 53 23 2 9 26 .500 3 398.0 400 188 161 169 147 3.64 111
24 Waite Hoyt 22 1935 1938 35-38 105 40 21 1 42 28 .440 9 492.0 537 222 180 88 168 3.29 124
25 Carl Mays 14 1927 1929 35-37 65 23 11 1 27 10 .583 5 267.2 296 139 118 63 59 3.97 106
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/12/2012.
* I excluded Larry French, who enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and never came back to baseball. So he’s not dragging down the average.

Considering that Halladay has been consistently great over the past 10 years and is still at his peak, it may seem natural to project him winning 18+ for many years to come. But I looked at the top 10 from Group 2 in wins at age 34; that’s 10 guys with at least 187 wins through age 34 and 21+ wins at age 34. Only three of those ten got to 300 wins: Roger Clemens (354), Tom Glavine (305, 97 from age 35) and Early Wynn (300).

Notes on the other seven:

  • Burleigh Grimes had a spectacular year at 34, with a career-high 25 wins, which gave him 207. Grimes won 50 over the next 3 years, but managed just 13 in his last 3 seasons and was washed up at age 40. He finished with 270 wins.
  • Whitey Ford went 24-7 at 34 (leading the league in wins and innings), giving him 199 wins. He won 33 over the next 2 years, but injuries limited him to 4 wins in his final 2 years, and he retired at 38 with 236 wins.
  • Bob Gibson at 34 won his 2nd Cy Young Award with a career-high 23 wins, giving him 190. He won 35 over the next 2 years, but just 26 in 3 years after that. Gibson retired at 39 with 251 wins.
  • Carl Hubbell at 34 went 22-8 and placed 3rd in the MVP vote. It was his 5th straight year of at least 21 wins, and gave him 192 for his career. The Meal Ticket pitched 6 more years but never won more than 13, totaling 61 wins from age 35 and 253 for his career.
  • Eppa Rixey won 21 at 34, giving him 100 wins in the past 5 years and 187 for his career. He won 45 over the next 3 years, but just 34 over his last 5 years as both he and the Reds (7th or 8th each year) fell on hard times. Rixey finished with 266 wins.
  • Mordecai Brown won 21 at 34, capping a 6-year run averaging 25 wins, reaching 190 for his career. It was his last really good year in the true majors, and even counting his 17-8 season in the Federal League, he won just 49 games from age 35 and finished with 239.
  • Red Ruffing won 21 at 34, his 4th straight 20-win season, reaching 214 career wins. He won 44 over the next 3 years, though with a clear decline in IP and effectiveness. But WWII service cost him the next 2-1/2 years, and he won just 15 more in his last 2-1/2 years, giving him 59 wins from age 35 and 273 career wins. (Just how many wins Ruffing lost to the service is debatable. Although he won 29 in his prior 2 years, he was clearly in decline, averaging 190 IP and a 110 ERA+ those 2 years. Also, the Yankees in 1944-45 averaged 82 wins, down 16 from Ruffing’s prior 12 full years there.)

One more perspective, starting from Halladay’s 4-year total of 77 wins. Here are the pitchers in the last 20 years with 70+ wins in a 4-year span (I’ll list just one per pitcher):

  • 81, Randy Johnson, 1999-2002 (age 38): That run of 4 straight Cy Young Awards, each one somehow better than the last, helped vault Johnson from 81 wins through age 30 all the way to 224 wins through age 38. But there was only one more year of vintage Big Unit; it took him 7 years to get #300.
  • 77, Pedro Martinez, 1997-2000 (age 28): 3 Cy Youngs in 4 years left Pedro with 125 wins. He won 94 more over his last 9 years and finished with 219.
  • 74, Bartolo Colon, 2002-05 (age 32): 22 wins in 6 years since.
  • 74, Curt Schilling, 2001-04 (age 37): 32 wins in his final 3 years.
  • 72, Mark Mulder, 2001-04 (age 26): 22 wins in the next 2 years, none since. Mulder had 97 wins through age 27, but finished with 103.
  • 71, Greg Maddux, 1999-2002 (age 36): Pitched 6 more years, with a record of 82-75 and 104 ERA+.
  • 71, Tom Glavine, 1998-2001 (age 35): Winning 18 at age 36 gave Glavine 242 wins and 55 in his past 3 years. But it took him 5 full years to get #300.
  • 71, David Wells, 1997-2000 (age 37): Pitched 7 more years, through age 44, adding 78 wins.
  • 70, Brandon Webb, 2005-08 (age 29): Hasn’t won a game in 3 years since.
  • 70, Johan Santana, 2004-07 (age 28): 40 wins in the 4 years since.

Finally, I ran Halladay’s numbers through the Bill James Career Assessment Tool. It came up with a 17% of winning 300, roughly 1 in 6. My gut tells me it’s a little better, but not more than 30%. What do you think – and why?

52 thoughts on “Age takes no Halladay

  1. 1
    Craig says:

    I’d put the odds at 45%. Doc’s been very durable the last 6 years, and he’s obviously been quite good. However, he’s not getting any younger, and I can’t say for certain what the future holds. I know that, barring injury and ineffectiveness, he can get to 250-270 easily. If he can get to 280, he’s probably going to try to stick around so he can get to 300. And teams will take him, if only to drum up excitement (and ticket sales) within the fan base. But you just never know…

  2. 2
    Doug says:

    FWIW, Favorite Toy puts the odds for Halladay at 1.8%, predicting just 58 more wins.

    • 3
      Doug says:

      Actually, I see that the Career Assessment tool is an updated version of Favorite Toy. Calculates more remaining seasons. Hence, a better probability than Favorite Toy produced.

      I’m guessing the updates have to do with more players playing late into their 30s and early 40s than was the case 25 years ago when Favorite Toy first came out.

  3. 4
    Doug says:

    Halladay will be 35 in May. 112 wins is 7 seasons averaging 16 wins. Seems like a tall order.

    Unless … you consider another recent pitcher. These are his win totals from age 35 to 42 – 17, 16, 16, 16, 13, 15, 14, 8 for a total of 115.

    Those totals belong to Gred Maddux, so, yes, it can be done. But, I doubt the chance is even as high as the Career Assessment tool has it.

    • 18
      Paul E says:

      Regarding pitching style, specifically movement in the strike zone, Maddux probably is a good comp. I just don’t know if Halladay hangs around till he’s 42. Regardless, he’s probably a Hall of Famer w/o 300 wins, no?

  4. 5
    Mark in Sydney says:

    Maybe he can do a Maddux (thanks, Doug) but that assumes that he remains healthy and that he gets the run support to get the wins.

    Wins are a really funny metric, ain’t they? He had two seasons with the Jays when he was over 20 wins (2003, 2008). Over the 1999-2009 span he hurled for them, the Jays were 880-901, with Doc going 147-76.

    If the Phillies go downhill, then it would be fair to assume that Doc wouldn’t get close. And if they go downhill, it is likely that they will release Halliday. Unlike Maddux, I am not sure that a 100-game season winner will pickup a 37 year old. Maybe unless he has a couple of CY years just ahead of him.

    I am figuring him for around 240-250.

  5. 6
    John Nacca says:

    I personally would love to see him do it, as I think he is very much like the “old school” line of pitchers. But 112 wins is so hard, unless you pitch fairly effectively into your 40’s that a team would want to take a chance on you for more then just drumming up ticket sales. And if a lousy team signs him for that purpose, obviously the odds decrease due to less chances for a win. I would hate to see him go out getting shelled 2 starts out of every 3. I think he will end up somewhere close to Mussina…265-275 wins.

  6. 7
    bstar says:

    I would be very cautious about putting odds out about Halladay’s chances until I get some sense on how this guy wants to end his career. Really, I think if he decides that’s he alright pitching at a sligtly lesser level of effectiveness as he ages, then that would probably allow him to pitch into his early forties, like Maddux did. If he does that, then yes I think we will win 300 games. There is no evidence at all that any sort of decline has begun for Halladay, so I think he will remain an elite pitcher for at least another couple of years.

    If he decides to end his career like Mike Mussina or Andy Pettitte and retire at 38 or 39 even though they obviously had something left, he’s got no chance, really. But recent dominant streaks into their late thirties by Randy Johnson(age 35-38: 188 ERA+, 81 wins) and Curt Schilling(age 34-37: 151 ERA+, 74 wins) suggests Halladay may be able to extend his peak to that advanced age. That, combined with the fact that the guy’s legendary workout regimens are the stuff of legend, makes me think he indeed will pitch for a very long time.

    Of course, one significant injury could derail all hopes for 300, so that has to be factored in as well. I’m going to be really optimistic and give Halladay a 45% chance of making it to 300.

  7. 8
    Ed says:

    I’m not sure it’s appropriate to use pitchers from more than about 20 years ago, given modern conditioning methods and modern surgeries that have prolonged careers. Also, the salaries that can be earned nowadays encourages players to keep playing as long as they can.

    • 28
      MikeD says:

      There was a belief with free agency that the high salaries of players would encourage them to retire earlier. That didn’t turn out to be the case. It might even be just the opposite. Some players would retire years back when the opportunity for a new career would pop up. They didn’t make enough as a ballplayer, they knew their days were numbered, so they might not push for that extra year or two as a plyer, instead going off to a new career of being insurance salesman, or whatever. If they weren’t going to continue on as a coach, and they weren’t a star player, they had to think about the rest of their lives. Nowadays, it’s quite lucrative to stick around, even if a player makes the minimum.

      That said, there were two pitchers who recently retired, walking away from a lot of money, and a chance at 300 wins. Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte. Mussina seemed the more likely, falling 30 wins short and coming off of a 20-win season and a 132 ERA+. Pettitte had a much tougher climb, 60 wins short. It seemed unlikely, but he also had a 132 ERA+ his final year, and as a lefty with a very good cutter, it would have not shocked me at all if he was the next Jamie Moyer, capable of pitching effectively into his early 40s.

      • 29
        Ed says:

        Yep, I agree with what you wrote. The other issue is that there are simply more teams and more spots available (what with the move to the 5 man rotation). Through in teams’ general preference for proven players over an unproven youngters, and you have pitcher’s with longer careers than in the past.

  8. 9
    Dr. Doom says:

    My feeling is that if someone active’s going to do it, it’ll be CC (or, more probably, someone so young and with so few wins that he wouldn’t even be on our projection radar yet). Halladay is a great pitcher, but what if he has a stinker of a year this year? All of a sudden, you’d see everyone backtracking. I’m just not that confident that he can keep winning ~15 games for 8 years, or ~18 games for 7 years. That’s asking him to pitch very effectively into his forties, for a team that just keeps getting older and older. I’m just not buying that. I HOPE I’m wrong, because Halladay’s a great pitcher, and it would be awesome to see him defy age and logic and do it, but I’m thinking that the chances are slim. I would probably place it somewhere lower than the Bill James Assessment Tool. Maybe around 10%. It’s not impossible, but a little unreasonable, I’d say.

    • 13
      Dave V. says:

      I agree with the mention of Sabathia as far as an active player getting to 300. I think he’s got a better shot than Halladay. He has only 12 less wins (176 for CC) than Halladay and is 3 years/2+ months younger than Halladay. He doesn’t turn 32 until late July this 2012 season. The Yankees have him signed through 2017, so that’s a huge help to his win totals as well.

      I’d predict Halladay ends up around Mussina’s totals as others have mentioned (Mussina had 270). I’d predict Sabathia to get to 300 and a little bit beyond.

  9. 10
    deal says:

    The late start to the better part of Halladay’s career obviously works against him, however…

    Baseball has been trending back in favour of pitchers the last few years. This may help extend Halladay’s career. He is currently in the NL, which may help as well – the team he is on should also generate a few wins.

    I would be interested in the results of pitchers at a similar age with similar innings over the most recent seasons – Halladay has over 700 innings since 2009 – That to me indicates he is in good baseball health and should be expected to make every start in the upcoming seasons. Would like to see if my hypothesis gels w/ the numbers.

  10. 11
    Andy says:

    I don’t see a single active pitcher as having a legit shot at 300 wins.

    • 15

      Agreed. The pitchers who have done it in the post-modern era have been freaks– Johnson, Maddux and even Glavine.

      And what a great post.

    • 16
      Christopher says:

      Surely it depends on how many more decades Jamie Moyer decides to pitch!

      • 27
        John Autin says:

        I think those of us who’ve enjoyed Moyer’s late career should be prepared for the end coming soon. After all, he was pretty awful in his last 2 years before the injury, with a combined 4.90 ERA and 85 ERA+.

    • 30
      MikeD says:

      What you mean by “legit” is difficult to quantify. I wouldn’t be too comfortable in betting on any one pitcher, even they likely candidates, but I am comfortable betting on the field.

      There is someone pitching today who will win 300 games. There is probably more than one. Let’s meet back here on 3.13.32 to see who was right. : -)

      • 40
        bstar says:

        Yeah, and let’s remember that after Greg Maddux got 300, we started to hear the “no one will ever reach 300” talk, and then Tom Glavine made it. Then we heard the same talk again, and then Randy Johnson made it. Mussina retired of his own volition; otherwise, he could have made it playing for the Yankees. I still think it’s up to Halladay: if he wants to extend his career like Greg Maddux did, why wouldn’t he make it? Almost assuredly he will make it if he pitches to 43 or 44. And should that really be considered “freakish”, to pitch to that age? We’re talking about Hall of Famers here, not the entire pitching population of MLB. Look at the recent ages that these HOF-quality pitchers pitched til: Maddux-42, Unit-45, Glavine-42, Smoltz-42, Schilling-40. If Halladay can survive as long as the average of that group, he should get 300.

        Personally, I think CC has well over a 50% chance. He’s certainly pitching on the right team to pile up wins year after year, and he’s well ahead of Halladay’s pace.

    • 34
      Michael E Sullivan says:

      Really Andy? You don’t think CC has a legit shot? I mean sure, he’s like as not to not get there, but surely he’s got a good shot if he stays prime for another few years, and then healthy and good enough to pitch full time till 40.

      After him, I can see an argument about whether the 10-20% chance that Halladay, Verlander and Hernandez might have by my lights is enough to be considered “legit”.

      I guess I’d like to see you put a percentage on these guys, especially CC, so I get a sense of whether your estimates are radically different than mine, or if you just mean something like “comfortably on track and better than a 50/50 shot.” by “legit”, in which case I’d agree completely that nobody really does.

      • 36
        Dr. Doom says:

        I have to agree that CC has a legit shot, as I mentioned above. Plus, he plays for the Yankees. Sure, they’re getting old, but if Steinbrenner’s willing to open his wallet, they’ll be fine.

        Plus, like you mentioned, Michael, King Felix is still out there; and, truth be told, he’s really, really young. He has 85 wins through his age 25 season. That seems like a pretty decent start to me.

        And finally, like I said above, the person with the best shot among any active player is probably someone we’re not even considering. Maybe he’s a decent #4 or 5 in some rotation, who’ll “figure it out” this season and become an ace. Those things happen. in 1970, no one was predicting Nolan Ryan to win 300. Would the Cards have traded Carlton if they thought they had a 300-game-winner on staff? I kind of doubt it. So usually, these things come as a surprise. I’m sure it will now, too.

        • 39
          John Autin says:

          You’ve raised a great point, Doom: A high win total by a young age is not a mark of a future 300-game winner.

          Since Walter Johnson, no pitcher with 79+ wins by age 25 has gone on to win 300. There are 29 such pitchers who are now retired. They had a median of 95 wins through age 25; their median career wins was 194 (high: 287, Blyleven; low: 94, Ruth).

          The pitchers who did reach 300 wins since W.Johnson had a median of 47 wins — just half that of the high-wins-by-25 group.

          Total teenage wins by all 18 of the modern 300-game winners: 5, all by Walter Johnson.

          • 45
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            “Since Walter Johnson, no pitcher with 79+ wins by age 25 has gone on to win 300.”

            John A., the conclusion I take from this is that to win 300 games, it’s a large negative to be really good really young. See Dwight Gooden, Jim Malony, Frank Tanana, Catfish Hunter, etc.. As youngsters, they were so outstanding that the temptation to have them pitch a lot of innings before the age of 24 was hard to resist.

            It seems counterintuitive, but the “late bloomers” like Spahn, Randy Johnson,and Phil Neikro, who didn’t win many games in their early 20s, were the ones who got to 300+ wins, because their arms were allowed to gradually adjust to the increased workload.

          • 47
            John Autin says:

            Lawrence @45 — I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say that late bloomers have an advantage in reaching 300 wins.

            R.Johnson, Spahn and Niekro are the only ones of the 18 modern 300-gamers to have their first 180-IP season at age 26 or older. Here’s the breakdown of their first 180-IP season by age:

            20 — Mathewson, W.Johnson
            21 — Sutton
            22 — Wynn, Carlton, Seaver, Glavine
            23 — Clemens
            24 — Young, Alexander
            25 — Plank, Grove, Perry, Ryan
            (and Grove had a couple of 300-IP years in the A.A., age 21 and 23)
            26 — Spahn, R.Johnson
            28 — Niekro

            By age 25, 11 of the 18 had multiple 180-IP years; half had 3+ years; 1/3 had 4+; and two guys had 6.

          • 49
            Michael E Sullivan says:

            The implied idea that winning a lot early gives little advantage in a pursuit of 300, or even might be a disadvantage doesn’t make sense to draw from this sample. The problem is that very few pitchers ever win 300, and by looking at pitchers who won 79+ by age 25, you’ve narrowed the sample a *lot*.

            In fact, those guys who won 79+ by 25 on average did quite well, much much better than an average set of pitchers.

            You say the median guy in that sample won 194 games. That’s something only 104 pitchers have done since 1901.

            To get a sense of how many guys cracked at 104 that might not have made your cut, I looked at all pitchers with at least 1000IP and 150 games started, so this represents everybody who stuck as a starter for a significant time. That was 822 guys. So if we know that you are somebody who stuck in the majors for a while, you have a 13% chance to have won 194 games.

            OTOH, If we know you won 79+ by age 25, then you have a 50% chance to have won 194.

            That’s a pretty big improvement.

            Note that you say nobody has gotten 300 out of your group since Walter Johnson. Well only 13 guys have done it total since Walter got his 300th, and only 17 total since 1901.

            That even one guy made it to 300 from a list of 30 beats the odds of the base sample, 17/822 == 2.07% 1/30 == 3.33%.

            All in all, despite nobody doing it since WJ, I’d say having a lot of wins early makes it *more* likely, rather than less that you will do it.

            But perhaps putting King Felix at 10% as I did, let alone the 15% that career assessment tool has him at is a bit high. maybe 3-4% is a better prediction. And of course, that means everybody else’s chances are smaller still.

          • 52
            John Autin says:

            Michael E. @ 49 — For sure, the sample size is a big problem in drawing any conclusions, and I may be misinterpreting this particular subset of data. And your central point — that very few pitchers win 300 games, period — can’t be overstated.

            But let’s just take the top 10 pitchers in that subset — 98+ wins — and lower the goal to 200 wins, which has been done by 80 pitchers since 1913.

            These 10 guys were virtually halfway to 200 wins (or more) through age 25, but only 4 got there. Here’s the breakdown:

            Pitcher, @25, Career
            Gooden, 119, 194
            McLain, 114, 131
            Newhouser, 114, 207
            Blyleven, 108, 287
            Feller, 107, 266
            Drysdale, 104, 209
            Donohue, 103, 134
            Ferrell, 102, 193
            Valenzuela, 99, 173
            Dierker, 98, 139.

            As a group, these 10 averaged 107 wins through age 25, but 87 wins thereafter. It’s true that 87 wins is more than a random group of 25-year-old pitchers would average for the rest of their career. But it seems paltry for guys who are established “aces” at such an age.

        • 48
          Michael E Sullivan says:

          Just to nitpick. The pitcher who *actually does it* eventually is probably someone we’re not even considering. Why? Because there are a *lot* of pitchers playing.

          All those young guys who haven’t shown ace ability yet, individually have a relatively low chance of becoming an ace, *and* a low chance if they do of lasting the 20odd years you’d have to last in order to win 300, *and* even given those constraints, no better than a 50/50 chance to have the kind of offensive and relief support to actually win 300 even if you pitch for 20+ years with 12-15 of them at an ace level.

          Individually, any pitcher that isn’t already kinda on track with 50+ wins under their belt has a vanishingly small probability.

          But collectively, there are a lot of young pitchers, and some of them will be very good, and a few of those will have excellent hall of fame or very good level careers, and probably a very few of those will have long enough, and injury free enough, and supported enough careers to take a good shot at 300 wins. So somebody will, but none of them have even a 5% chance now. Some of them will later. And I’d bet that at least one guy that none of us has mentioned will have a 50/50 shot at some point down the road — but which guy? *That* is the question that I guarantee none of us can answer with any certainty.

  11. 12
    Mike L says:

    Great pitcher, but I’m going to say he falls more in the Mussina category (270, maybe 280 or so wins) by the time he is done. He’s better than Mussina, but he only won 78 games through age 28, and that’s a lot of time to make up. He’s been winning roughly 60% of his starts-even if he could sustain that, he would need 200 more starts (about six injury-free years) from age 35-40. Not impossible with his size and conditioning, but difficult. Some things are in his favor-he’s presently on a very good team and they just signed Papelbon to close. However, it’s interesting his contract is only guaranteed through 2013-there’s a vesting option for 2014, and it’s going to make for some interesting problems for the Phillies in terms of thinking about an extension then, particularly when you look at the other big contracts they have. If the option doesn’t vest (it depends on IP over the next two years) will a big market team be willing to spend with the new CBA?

  12. 14
    Michael E Sullivan says:

    What birtel says, kinda.

    I think if Halladay is willing to pitch into his 40s at a less effective but still decent level (like Maddux), then he has a good shot to hit 300, but it’s nowhere near a slam dunk, 50/50 at best, and I’d put it at around 1 in 3.

    If he’s not willing to do that, the chances he’ll be able to win 300 are very very small, maybe 5%.

    There are very few precedents for being able to pitch at an ace level after age 40, and the chance that he will hit 300 before age 42-43 is quite small, even if he doesn’t decline at all. To be a good shot to win 112 in 7 more years, even at his current level, he needs to stay on a team with solid run support. With some decline, it becomes iffy even with a solid offense behind. In 7 years he’ll be 42.

    Because of his age and the fact that he’s with the Yankees, who are unlikely ever to have a bad offense, I think CC is a much better bet to hit 300, even though Halladay is a somewhat better pitcher. By the time CC is Doc’s age, if he’s still going strong, he’ll probably have 230-240 and even 250+ isn’t unrealistic. He’s clearly got the best chance of any active pitcher to reach 300, and I’m not sure he’s even 50/50. After CC and Doc, probably Verlander is the next best bet, but he’s barely a third of the way there. I just don’t see anybody on the active wins list that looks like a worthy shot for 300 except CC.

    There are maybe 3-4 guys with the chops and time to do it if the stars align perfectly (they age very well, and end up in a good situation for a long time), but they would all have catching up to do.

    CC is the only guy with 50+ wins that’s even kinda sorta on track.

    • 19
      Hartvig says:

      I would say that there were definitely times in Glavine’s, Johnsons’s, & even Clemens career when you would have been hard pressed to find a majority who believed they had a shot at 300 wins. I at least know that I would have bet against Glavine making it after his age 37 season (his first in New York) and both Clemens & Johnson after their age 32 seasons.

      That said, I still think the odds are stacked against Halladay. I think I’d give him a little better odds than 5% but not a whole lot. I think that Sabathia has a very good chance to reach 300 however- great offense behind him, no history of injuries, 5 years of a contract that virtually guarantee he’ll get an opportunity to pitch- the only negative is his weight & while I haven’t seen him yet this spring I’ve heard that he’s lost a few pounds & is in better shape. I’d also give Verlander and maybe Weaver about the same odds as Halladay and King Felix an outside shot if he can ever find an offense to back him up. The odds are against all of them but the talk that there will never be another 300 game winner has surfaced a couple different times since the 1960’s.

      Around 1977-78, after Aaron, Mays, Robinson & Killebrew retired, McCovey had an off year and Reggie and Schmidt were still a long ways off from reaching it, I remember magazine articles about how there would never be a 500 home run hitter as well.

      And now just as then I think the news about the end of the 300 game winners may be a bit premature.

      • 21
        Michael E Sullivan says:

        I agree completely that it is still possible. I think it’s very premature to say nobody will ever do it again. I actually think it’s quite likely that *somebody* will, just that with the exception of Doc, CC, Verlander, and Felix (not Weaver IMO, but Hernandez is a good catch, he’s very young), the probability of any individual pitcher doing it is so small as to be not worth attention.

        I’ll say 45% for CC, 20% for Doc, and 10% each for Verlander and Hernandez. <3% for everybody else you might think of (and effectively zero for anybody who hasn't had a 5WAR season by age 28)

        Clemens at 32 was much closer to 300 track than Doc is now, though I would have bet against him too at that point, I wouldn't have thought it out of the question.

        Johnson is the guy that really beat the odds. After his age 32 season he had 104 wins, and only 3 really good seasons under his belt. Definitely did not look like a contender for 300. So perhaps one of those aces in their late 20s early 30s and ~100 wins will hit the jackpot and do what he did. On the one hand, I can't think of a one that looks like as good a pitcher as Randy Johnson. On the other hand, neither did Randy Johnson at 32 — most of his best years were still ahead of him.

        • 46
          Doug says:

          Re: “Johnson is the guy that really beat the odds”

          Absolutely. To wit:

          After the 1993 season when Johnson had 69 wins at age 30, Career Assessment tool (Favorite Toy) predicts that Johnson would finish his career with 157 wins, barely half his actual final total.

          After the 2002 season with 224 wins at age 39 (2000-02 was Johnson’s best 3 year run with 64 wins), prediction was 265 wins with a 4% chance of 300.

  13. 17
    Christopher says:

    So 13 of 111 in Group 1 made it (the 112 wins that Halladay needs). That is just under 12%. In Group 2, 6 of 25 got 112, or 24%. The Career Assessment Tool calculates 17%. Group 2 is probably a better comparison for Halladay than Group 1, but the sample size seems a little low to me to project accurately (i.e., based on it alone, I don’t think it would be proper to conclude that Halladay has a 24% chance of reaching 300). So I guess I am agreeing with the CAT–he has a 17% chance of making it.

    • 25
      John Autin says:

      Let’s call this Group 1A: Pitchers with 19+ wins at age 34 – i.e., at least as many as Halladay had. There are 46 such pitchers since 1901.

      They averaged 62 wins from age 35 onward.

      Only 16 pitchers in MLB history have notched 112+ wins from age 35 onward. Five of them did it within the last 20 years: Moyer, Johnson, Maddux, Clemens, Wells.

  14. 20
    Ed says:

    Assuming Halladay makes the HOF, does his 2000 season rank as the worst ever for a HOF pitcher? Just some of the ugliness:

    10.64 ERA
    14 HRs in 67.2 IP
    2.2 WHIP
    48 ERA+
    14.2 H/9
    -3.2 WAR

    • 23
      John Autin says:

      On the bWAR front, Ed, the answer is no. Here are the worst WAR seasons by a HOF pitcher in the modern era:

      WAR, Player, Year
      -3.6, Jack Chesbro, 1909
      -3.5, Bob Feller, 1952
      -2.3, Herb Pennock, 1915
      -2.2, Jim Bunning, 1971
      -2.2, Chief Bender, 1916
      -2.2, Rube Marquard, 1915
      -2.1, Steve Carlton, 1986
      -2.1, Warren Spahn, 1964
      -2.0, Early Wynn, 1942
      -2.0, Christy Mathewson, 1915

    • 24
      Ed says:

      To answer my own question….the worst ERA ever for a HOF pitcher in a season with 50+ IP was 6.50 by Lefty Grove in 1934. Halladay’s 10.64 would blow that away.

      It’s not the worst ERA+ season though. That distinction goes to Jack Chesbro’s 1909 season in which he had a 42 ERA+, followed closely by Herb Pennock’s 46 ERA+ in 1915. Those are the only two HOFers to have a season of 50+ innings with an ERA+ below 60. Assuming Halladay makes the HOF, he’ll be the third.

      In terms of WAR, Jack Chesbro’s 1909 season is the worst ever (-3.6) followed by Bob Feller’s 1952 season (-3.5). So Halladay’s would be the 3rd worst ever for a HOF pitcher.

      • 26
        Ed says:

        John – Seems like we were searching at the same time.

        Okay, so maybe not the worst season by WAR or ERA+. But that 10.64 ERA is unsighlty, context be dammed.

        • 41
          bstar says:

          Ed, I was looking the other day at Hall of Fame pitchers and trying to find one who’d never had a losing season, like Tim Hudson has. To my amazement, virtually every pitcher, no matter how great, had at least one subpar season(very often it was just one exactly). I believe Grover Alexander has the all-time record for seasons starting career with a winning percentage over .500(granted, not the best metric, but I was looking for a pro-Tim Hudson stat at the time).

          • 42
            Doug says:

            One of Pete Alexander’s winning seasons was 2-1 in 26 innings in 1918.

            Most consecutive winning seasons that qualified for ERA title appears to be Greg Maddux with 14 (1991-2004). Bob Gibson had 13 (1961-73).

            If you look at .500 or better in qualifying seasons, then Maddux had 17 in a row (1988-2004), and Tom Seaver had 15 (1967-81) from the start of his career.

  15. 22
    John Autin says:

    FWIW, here are Career Assessment Tool odds for various pitchers reaching 300 wins:

    45% – Sabathia
    21% – Verlander
    14% – King Felix
    0% – Hudson, Buehrle, Livan, Vazquez, Oswalt, Haren, Kershaw, Gallardo, Billingsley….

  16. 31
    nightfly says:

    I think 1 in 6 is a reasonable assessment. So much of it depends on whether the Phils hit for him, or it he goes to a team that will extend his twilight years as a back-end starter. I could see him moving back to the AL (with the DH saving him some wear-and-tear) and winning 12-15 a few times at the end to get across the 300-win threshhold.

    PS- true fact, while I was typing this, my iPod (set to “Shuffle All”) started playing “The Sound of Philadelphia” by MFSB. It’s time to get down…

  17. 32
    Jimbo says:

    77 wins in the last 4 years really helps his case. If he can put up 70 in the 4 years he’ll be knocking on the door and it’s just whether he can stay healthy and whether he wants it. He’s been very healthy for several years now.

  18. 33
    Fireworks says:

    John I can’t believe you forgot CC on your last list of guy with 70+ wins in a four year period the last 20 years. 17 in ’08, 19 in ’09, 21 in ’10, and 19 in ’11. One short of Doc. I also looked at active bWar leaders for pitchers, and saw that Doc and Sabathia are 1-2 with 31-30 bWar the last five seasons. The others whom trail by quite a bit have been young guys like Lincecum, Verlander, and Kershaw (not all of whom have five full seasons) and the hurt Santana IIRC. Halladay has clearly been the better pitcher for his career–Sabathia has a half-decade of being a young fireballer with a limited repertoire at the back of the rotation while Doc has been an ace for quite some time, but Sabathia’s strength has been his consistency. I think he has a better shot than Doc because of that and the age thing but I think DI hasda a decent shot. The things he does–throw strikes and utilizing movement on all his pitches–age better than merely relying on a plus fastball to blow by hitters. Also, he seems to have begun his prime recently, in his 30s.

    JA I would like to see you do a post on Santana. This is a two-time Cy Young winner (robbed of a third by Bartolo Colon) who needs to bounce back from injury but had a brilliant run and was an easy argument for best pitcher for a five year stretch. Yet his career win total is amazingly paltry.

    • 37
      John Autin says:

      Good catch, Fireworks. I meant to say that I deliberately omitted CC and other active pitchers from that list, to focus on those with substantial time after the 4-year period in question.

      For the record, CC had 76 wins in 2007-10 and 2008-11.

      As a Mets fan, I may be too close emotionally to do a solid post on Johan, but I’ll think about it. Thanks for the suggestion.

  19. 35
    Dr. Remulak says:

    25% chance feels about right for Halladay 300.

  20. 38
    Fireworks says:

    The only thing I see really hampering CC is the one thing he’s never had–arm problems. Nova won 16 last year and Hughes won 18 the year before and they weren’t that much better than young CC , if at all. Wang led the league in wins as a Yankee when he wasn’t even considered ace caliber. I can totally see CC getting another 124 wins especially since he got 40 in his first two tears in pinstriped which were down years by bWar in comparison to his CY-caliber 07 08 and 11.

  21. 43
    bluejaysstatsgeek says:

    Why are pitcher wins relevant?

    • 44
      John Autin says:

      It’s a fair question. Two-part reply:

      1. People still talk about wins, especially big, round numbers. And I like to keep a few toes in the mainstream.

      2. I wasn’t really talking about wins per se, but about Halladay’s odds of staying healthy and effective for a number of years from age 35. My points about Halladay’s shot at 300 wins apply about as well if we change the metric to WAR. In the modern era, there are 18 pitchers with 80+ WAR, the same number as have 300+ wins. Those lists have 14 players in common, and all but one of the 80-WAR guys have at least 284 wins.

      For the record, Halladay is 77% of the way to 80 WAR, compared to 63% of the way to 300 wins. Three more years at his recent pace would do it.

      P.S. Out of curiosity, do you also disdain discussion of 500 HRs or 3,000 hits?

      • 50
        Michael E Sullivan says:

        I’d say halladay is *much* more likely to hit 80 WAR (something he will do in 3-4 years if he doesn’t decline or get injured) than to get to 300 wins.

        I would bet on Doc to break 80 WAR right now even up.

        The difference is that if he pitches the lights out for a few years, his war over that span could be double what it is if he’s just pretty good. But there’s just no way he gets more than 24-25 wins in a year, and anything over 20-21 is unlikely no matter how well he pitches, while any solid performance probably gets him 15 wins unless the phillies really tank.

      • 51
        Dr. Doom says:

        JA, I think that you’re also forgetting that pitcher wins, over the course of a career, tend to account for the other stuff – ballparks, run support, year-to-year luck variation, etc. In one game? It tells you little. In one season? It doesn’t tell you much. But in the course of a career, especially a long career, all of the other stuff tends to average out, and it’s a pretty accurate way of comparing pitchers to one another. That’s why “adjusted” or “projected” wins for pitchers will tend to rank them about the same as they are normally. That’s why it was such a big deal that Bert Blyleven had such a bad record compared to what it looked like if you adjusted for run support: he was the exception, not the rule. Wins are in the popular ethos, so they’re useful, and over a career, they’re not a horrible assessment tool for comparing guys to one another.

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