By Andy Lindberg
Baseball, more so than any other American sport, is deeply rooted in history, intertwined within the very fabric of America. Much evidence of that history is the fact that in baseball, they count everything. Statistics in the game have been around since its inception.
Some of the grandest accomplishments in the sport have occurred well before what many of us can remember. Sure, the home run records are falling and will probably continue to fall as players become more and more genetically engineered to hit a baseball. But the pitcher today endures the most change.
In the near future, the Baseball Hall of Fame will feature pitchers with questionable resumes by the sport’s historical standards.
I believe that we will never again see a 300-game winner.
Pitchers today are coddled investments, incapable of going deep enough into a game to garner a win more than 15 times in a year in many cases. Baseball has become a game of relief pitchers, arguably the most value commodity in the game today. A quality start is considered to be six innings while giving up three runs. That is a 4.50 ERA, and according to Nolan Ryan, there is nothing quality about that.
And it’s true there is little quality to such a start. However more and more starters are evaluated on the amount of quality starts they throw as a bridge to the bullpen.
The active leader in wins is 44-year-old Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with 193, and he probably won’t hit 200 career wins. Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay is 20 wins behind Wakefield’s mark at the age of 34. Wakefield is also the active leader for innings pitched in a career, a signal of how deep into games a pitcher goes or has gone in his career. For his career, Wakefield has thrown 3,088.2 innings, good for 117th all time.
Cy Young with an absurd 7356. If Wakefield is the active leader with a shade over 3,000 innings, then how can we expect any pitcher currently or in the future to pitch enough to even come close to 200 wins?
Lefty Grove and Early Winn both have 300 career wins, which is a mark that used to signal instant access to the Hall of Fame, much like 3,000 hits or 500 home runs does for a hitter. However, with how today’s game has changed, there will in all likelihood be anyone who ever reaches that mark again, so what is the Hall to do?
Unfortunately, they must lower their standards. With less innings pitched, ERA’s will rise because hurlers won’t throw enough to lower them. Win totals will drop dramatically. And those very few who are built to throw deep into games will be pulled at the slightest hint of trouble without a chance to pitch themselves to a win.
It’s a sad fact, but starting pitching, one of the greatest aspects of the game of baseball, looks to be on its way out as a position or royalty in the game. These guys used to command games. They set the tone. Creeping on the plate? Have fun with a Nolan Ryan heater under your nose.
Sandy Koufax would split your ribs. Partial fault goes to the umpires who are too quick to warn players in today’s game.
Maybe one day we’ll see a shift back toward the starting pitcher, but it doesn’t look to be anytime soon.
Given the topic, here’s a poll question!
Which of these active pitchers have the best shot at only 200 career wins? Current ages and win totals are in parenthesis.
*Tim Wakefield (44, 193)
*Roy Halladay (34, 173)
*Livan Hernandez (36, 169)
*Tim Hudson (35, 168)
*Derek Lowe (38, 159)
*Kevin Millwood (36, 159)
*CC Sabathia (30, 159)