Schlossberg: Door to exclusive 300-win club closing fast

From SABR member Dan Schlossberg at USA Today on May 23, 2013:

Ralph Branca laughs when a news reporter asks if he thinks anyone can win 300 games again.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” says Branca, the last survivor of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers team that not only won the National League pennant but integrated the game. “In my day, we had a four-man rotation and pitched in relief between starts. There were no pitch counts, and we tried to pitch nine innings. Those days are gone.”

Branca pitched the opener of the 1947 World Series after winning 21 games that season. He started 36 games, but also made seven relief appearances.

Branca won 88 times in a 12-year career, but among his opponents was Warren Spahn, who won 363, all after returning from combat in World War II.

Spahn started 35 or more games 10 times in his career, while starting between 30 and 34 games another eight times. No other lefty ever won that often, and no other pitcher was so prolific, at least in terms of wins, after the war ended.

Decades later, Greg Maddux came close. Although his career peaks included 37 starts, 268 innings pitched and 20 wins (twice), the right-handed control artist reached 355 wins, one more than Roger Clemens, through sheer consistency. He’s the only pitcher to win at least 15 times for 17 consecutive seasons.

Twenty one others have taken different routes to the magic No. 300, which barring the accusations of performance-enhancing drug use that have dogged Clemens, has proven a figure guaranteeing enshrinement into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But Randy Johnson was the last major leaguer to reach 300 … in 2009.

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Originally published: May 23, 2013. Last Updated: May 23, 2013.