2012 Milestones (And Beyond): Wins
Champagne has been quaffed in St. Louis, free agents have already begun signing with new teams (where have you gone, Jonathan Papelbon?) and the winter meetings are right around the corner. Those of us who don’t live in tropical climes are looking for ways to stay warm as winter nears, and what better way to throw another log on the hot stove than to look ahead to the 2012 season?
Those of you who hang out here know that one of my favorite Bill James creations is The Favorite Toy, which predicts counting stats based on age, current total and the previous three years of a player’s career, and also determines the chance that said player will reach a specific milestone. Since the name of the game is wins, let’s start there, although we don’t have much to look forward to for the foreseeable future.
Rumor has it that 49-year-old southpaw Jamie Moyer has looked good during throwing sessions in front of scouts, one of whom predicted Moyer could wind up winning 10 or 12 games as a fifth starter. If that’s the case, he has a chance of passing Jim Palmer, Mike Mussina, Burleigh Grimes and Red Ruffing on the all-time wins list, and with a little luck and a nod from the baseball gods, might even catch Jim Kaat at 283. Of course that would take 16 wins, a total Moyer has reached only four times in 24 seasons, and one that no 49-year-old has ever come close to. In fact, if Moyer lands a job and wins only one game, he’ll set the new benchmark for pitchers his age. Only three other pitchers in history pitched at age 49 or older—Satchel Paige in 1965 at age 58, Jack Quinn in 1933 at age 49 and Hoyt Wilhelm in 1972, also at age 49—and none of them recorded a victory.
If Moyer doesn’t land a job and finally calls it quits, the active wins leader is long-time Boston knuckleballer and current free agent Tim Wakefield with 200. If he signs on with a team and wins only seven games—his average over the last three seasons—he’ll catch Hal Newhouser and Bob Lemon for 100th place on the all-time list. Nice company but not exactly a milestone we’ll all be anxious to see.
Fortunately there are some pitchers right behind Wakefield who could and probably should reach 200 wins in 2012, and there’s at least one with a very good chance at 300 and an outside chance at 400.
||Proj. Car.||200||250||300||MAX (1%)
As you can see, most of the above have an excellent shot at 200 wins, although Halladay looks to be the only one who will reach that total in 2012. Hudson needs 19 and he’s only reached that once, and that was way back in 2000 when he was still a kid. He’s come back strong from Tommy John surgery to win 17 and 16 games over the last two seasons, but he also just underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back. He’s expected to be ready by spring training and if he’s healthy—he actually pitched with the injury for the last two seasons—he has an outside shot at reaching 200 wins next year. The only other pitcher with a shot at 200 is Sabathia, who has averaged 19.7 wins since joining the Yankees in 2009. Sabathia’s career high in wins is 21, so 24 might be a stretch. Six of his eight losses last year came at the hands of the Red Sox (4) and Rays (2), so if he can finally solve those two nemeses he might get to 200 in 2012, but it’s more likely that he won’t get there until 2013.
None of the above project out to 300 wins, although Sabathia looks like a lock to get there, assuming he stays healthy. He has a 45% shot at the milestone with a slim chance of becoming only the third hurler in history to record 400 victories. Considering the last man to do it—Walter Johnson—retired 84 years ago, and the two who came closest—Christy Mathewson and Pete Alexander—last pitched in 1916 and 1930, respectively, I’m guessing the 400-win club will remain at two.
And it doesn’t look like the 300-win club is going to get crowded anytime soon, either. There are only five active pitchers with a chance at 300 wins, according to The Favorite Toy:
Halladay and Sabathia are almost two-thirds of the way there and both pitch for excellent teams; the rest still have a long road to travel. Verlander could be half way to 300 by age 30; Hernandez will have to leave Seattle for any real chance at the coveted milestone or hope that the Mariners somehow return to the glory days of Ken Griffey, Jr., Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez; and Lester is with the right team in terms of run support and has won almost 70% of his decisions. All he needs to do now is throw together 14 more 16-win seasons and he’s in like Flynn. Piece of cake.
On deck: Runs milestones
(Editor’s Note: While exchanging emails with Bill James last night, I was informed that The Favorite Toy was never meant for pitchers and shouldn’t be used on pitchers. So the numbers above may not be accurate, and the rest of the series will focus only on hitters.)