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 ESPN.com 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:*

Rk Player W From To Age G GS CG SHO GF L W-L% SV IP H R ER BB SO ERA ERA+
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 Baseball-Reference.com: 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?

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52 Comments on "Age takes no Halladay"

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Craig
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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…

Doug
Editor

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

Doug
Guest

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.

Doug
Guest

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.

Paul E
Guest

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?

Mark in Sydney
Guest
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… Read more »
John Nacca
Guest
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… Read more »
bstar
Guest
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest

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.

MikeD
Guest
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,… Read more »
Ed
Guest

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.

Dr. Doom
Guest
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… Read more »
Dave V.
Guest

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.

deal
Guest
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… Read more »
Andy
Guest

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

Wine Curmudgeon
Guest

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.

Christopher
Guest

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

MikeD
Guest

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. : -)

bstar
Guest
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”,… Read more »
Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
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… Read more »
Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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… Read more »
Mike L
Guest
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… Read more »
Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest
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… Read more »
Michael E Sullivan
Guest
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… Read more »
Doug
Editor

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.

Christopher
Guest
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.
Ed
Guest

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

Ed
Guest
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… Read more »
Ed
Guest

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.

bstar
Guest

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).

Doug
Guest

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.

nightfly
Guest

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…

Jimbo
Guest

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.

Fireworks
Guest
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… Read more »
Dr. Remulak
Guest

25% chance feels about right for Halladay 300.

Fireworks
Guest

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.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Guest

Why are pitcher wins relevant?

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