Blog Entry

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 7:35 pm

By Evan Brunell

Justin Verlander is coming off one of the most successful seasons of his career -- or really, of any pitcher's career. The right-hander unanimously won the AL Cy Young Award on Tuesday.

Verlander's credentials to win the award lie on his low ERA, his dazzling strikeout numbers and the ability to pitch deep into games. But he no problem showing up in the wins department for those who still value wins. His 24 victories are the most since Randy Johnson won 24 in 2002. Before that, you have to go all the way back to John Smoltz in 1996, who also won 24.

Award Season
Verlander's dazzling season handed him the AL Cy Young Award victor for the first time in his career.
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Johnson, of course, is a member of the 300-win club, winning his 300th as a member of the Giants two seasons ago. But through his age 28 season, Johnson had won just 49 games. Verlander? He's sitting pretty at 107. That seems to suggest Verlander has a very real chance at 300 victories, but there's a lot more to winning 300 games than just comparing Verlander and Johnson's win totals.

(Earlier this summer,'s Danny Knobler discussed the possibility of 300 wins with Verlander -- click here to read).

There are several reasons why Johnson won 300 games, and a large part of it is his dominance extending into his later years. The man won four straight Cy Young Awards from age 35-39, and he was a feared pitcher until the day he retired, also racking up 4,875 strikeouts. He pitched until he was 46 before finally hanging it up, more than offsetting his slow start to his career. But Johnson is the exception -- there aren't many pitchers out there who don't separate themselves as an elite pitcher until their late 20s or early 30s, then morph into one of the best pitchers in history throughout his 30s. Johnson is the exception, not the norm.

Verlander is the norm -- a dominant pitcher who debuted at a young age and has held that dominance through his prime years. A better comparison might be Nolan Ryan, who tucked 105 victories under his belt through his age 28 season. But Ryan was another pitcher who pitched late into his career, hanging up his spikes at the age of 46. It's impossible to predict if Verlander will be pitching 20 years from now, let alone 10, but like Ryan, Verlander boasts no-hitter stuff, with each pitcher tossing multiple no-hitters in their career.

Roger Clemens had 134 wins in his career by the age of 28, but he also pitched late into his career, ending his career at age 45. And of course, there's the possibility that Clemens helped himself along by using steroids once he joined the Blue Jays.

One thing's clear -- if Verlander hopes to reach 300 victories, he's going to have to stay elite well into his 40s. If you do a simple projection of doubling his wins along with his years of service, Verlander will be sitting at 214 wins come age 35. He'd need at least five more seasons to reach 300, putting him into his 40s.

But can one even predict 214 wins in the next seven seasons? Fortunately, the argument about whether a pitcher's wins are a value state is largely dead. Most people these days understand that a win is not an acceptable way to judge pitchers. Baseball clubs moved on from wins quite a while ago, and most of the media has come around in recent seasons. You can't judge a pitcher on wins because it is so heavily dependent on the team. How is their defense -- can it prevent balls from dropping in or unearned runs from scoring at a clip enough to harm the pitcher? Is the bullpen good enough to hold leads? Does the manager have a quick hook? Is the offense capable of supporting the pitcher?

The fact that Verlander has 107 wins at this point in his career is rare, no matter the pitcher, because of all the variables that go into winning a game. Verlander has lucked out in pitching for a contender his entire career, and within that, having his team rack up the victories for Verlander. That's not easy to do. For comparison, let's look at a list of players since the new millennium that reached 100 or more wins by the age of 28, just like Verlander:

CC Sabathia, Carlos Zambrano, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Pedro Martinez, Andy Pettitte.

Other than Sabathia, none of these players are thought to have any shot at winning 300. The latter two, of course, are now out of baseball and thus have zero chance. The 90's are kinder to Verlander's chances. Those pitchers who won at least 100 games by age 28 in the 90s are: Mike Mussina, Ramon Martinez, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Dwight Gooden, Bret Saberhagen and Clemens. Madduz and Glavine have won 300 along with Clemens. Glavine needed into their 40s to get win No. 300, while Maddux grabbed his at age 38... and he is a transcendent pitcher in baseball history. When you're talking about a starting pitcher with tons of miles on his arm pitching at an elite level into his 40s... it's simply too unpredictable to guess whether or not Verlander will get 300 -- or if he'll even still be playing.

If Verlander stays healthy, if he stays elite, if he lasts into his 40s and if he continues to pitch for a contender the majority of his career, the odds do seem good that Verlander will win 300. But that's a lot of ifs. Too many ifs, actually. Right now, let's bask in Verlander's historic season, the likes of which haven't been seen since the mid-1980s, and worry about Verlander's chances to win 300 in a decade.

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Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: November 16, 2011 8:30 am

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

So...basically what this article is saying is that, no, Justin Verlander will not reach 300 wins. He's 26 now and 107 wins. He needs to win 193 more. That's essentially saying he needs 10 more 20-win seasons, which means winning 20 games every year until he's 36, or like the article says, being dominant (winning 16-19 games a year) into his mid-40's. With bullpen specialization the way it is, I don't think Verlander or any other active pitcher for that matter will win 300 games. When Randy Johnson did it, people were speculating that he may be the last 300 game winner. And I think he will be. 
In case you are disagreeing with me, go pull up the active wins leaders right now (Tim Wakefield is the leader right now I believe) and look at the projections for the top couple of guys while factoring in their ages. Every single guy you look at has a serious uphill climb. I have always thought the most unbreakable record anyone cares about (there are lots of obscure little records no one cares about) is Cy Young's 511 wins, even more than Dimaggio's hit streak, Rose's career hits, etc. We're talking about whether anyone can win 300 anymore, never mind 511.  

Since: Sep 9, 2011
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:22 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Still better than 99%!

Since: Sep 9, 2011
Posted on: November 15, 2011 9:21 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Sure he can.  Pitchers can pitch to age 50 these days.  Look at Jamie Moyer.  Without steroids 85mph can make some outs.

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: November 15, 2011 8:32 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Verlander is a terrific pitcher for sure, but it is way too early to start predicting 300 wins. I remeber a pitcher with the Orioles and Yankees named Mike Mussina, who had very similar numbers to Verlander, and ended his career with 270 wins. Jack McDowell won a Cy Young at 27 and never got close to 150 wins. Pitchers get arm trouble and fizzle out. Verlander just passed 100 wins, let's wait till he gets to 250 wins before we predict 300.

Since: Jan 13, 2011
Posted on: November 15, 2011 6:04 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

A better comparison might be Nolan Ryan, who tucked 105 victories under his belt through his age 28 season. But Ryan was another pitcher who pitched late into his career, hanging up his spikes at the age of 46.
Even Nolan Ryan favorably compares Verlander to himself ... a great article in Baseball Stats by him in August told that story. And imho I agree. I think Verlander is more like Ryan than any other Hall of Famer. Incredible speed late in the games, drop off the table junk to go along with that power and the right mindset and self discipline to take care of himself to go the long haul.

Remember ... Justin Verlander was a child prodigy raised to accomplish this very thing.

Since: Jan 10, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 5:39 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Everybody forgets about Felix Hernandez.  He is only 25 and has 85 wins.  If he just averages 14 wins the next three years he will have 127 wins at age 28.  He has ace stuff and has been consistent on a bad offensive team.  If he had an offense behind him he woudl be around 18 - 20 wins every year.  If there was one person I would bet on to get to 300 wins it would be King Felix.  Verlander should make it too.

Since: Mar 19, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:28 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

true, Halladay had a down year by his standards and was still better then 95% of the pitchers in MLB this year!

Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:27 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

The one thing about both Halladay and Verlander is that they have a proper pitching motion where they use their hips and trunk to great effect, reducing stress on the arm.  That seems to suggest that both can pitch into their 40s and get to the magic 300 mark, but they have to pitch for some decent teams along the way.

Since: Nov 24, 2008
Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:22 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

In the Age of the Bullpen, 250 wins should be enough to garner serious consideration.  

Since: Jan 1, 2007
Posted on: November 15, 2011 4:13 pm

Can Justin Verlander get to 300 wins?

Interesting, no mention of Halladay. It will take Verlander 10+ seasons winning 18 games a season (which is his average) to hit 300. Halladay has also averaged 18 wins a season in his career and he would be able to do it in just about 6 seasons. Seems at least worth a mention... Halladay may be older, but hell, Jamie Moyer managed to pitch into his mid-40's. Even if Halladay falls to 10 wins a year, if he pitches past 40, that's a few years to surpass 300.

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