Meisel: Exclusive 300-win club looks to stay that way

From Zack Meisel at on January 4, 2013, with mention of SABR members Paul Hirsch and Gary Gillette:

Cy Young can get comfortable. The Hall of Fame hurler is the lone pitcher in the 500-win guild, the most exclusive club in the annals of America’s pastime, and he won’t have company anytime soon, if ever.

Young and Walter Johnson are the only pitchers to compile more than 400 wins, another number that seems out of reach for today’s tossers.

Even 300 wins — the modern standard of excellence, the landmark upon which a pitcher can safely book a future flight to Cooperstown — seems like a tall order for the current crop of hurlers, who have been conditioned to harness their talent across fewer innings and on fewer occasions. To arrive at the monumental digit requires a lengthy career devoid of enduring injuries and defined by consistency, fortune and supremacy.

Perhaps what makes the club so prestigious is its elusiveness and the uncertainty surrounding its future participation. There are 24 pitchers in the 300-win brigade, and that total might hold steady for some time. Of active pitchers, only 40-year-old Andy Pettitte (245) has more than 200 career wins. Of all hurlers who have yet to celebrate their 30th birthday, Justin Verlander paces the pack with 124 career wins.

It could be years before another pitcher reaches the milestone and gains entry into the pantheon of pitching elite.

“I think it’s a bit of an endangered species, because of the five-man rotation and pitchers pitching fewer innings,” said Paul Hirsch, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research board of directors. “We could argue there was a five-man rotation in the [Tom] Glavine and [Greg] Maddux era, and they won 300 games, but they were pitching deeper into games.”

Long behind us are the days of Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, who needed only 11 seasons to secure his 309 victories. He tallied 48 wins during the 1883 campaign and logged 59 wins while tossing 678 2/3 innings during the ’84 season.

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Originally published: January 4, 2013. Last Updated: January 4, 2013.