Ya Win Some, Ya Lose Some. Or You Win 300.
There’s a lot of talk that we may never see another 300 game winner in the game of baseball, at least not in our lifetime. The other night we saw Joe Nathan record his 300th save (albeit amongst much controversy), but everyone celebrated. It seems like we celebrate 300 wins with much more pomp and circumstance than when we celebrate 300 saves. Should it be this way?
There have been 24 300 game winners since 1888. There are also 24 300 game savers, but this is only since 1982 (saves did not become an officially recognized statistic until 1969). Just based on this data it appears as though its much easier to record a save than a win, but is this accurate? Is 300 wins really more impressive than 300 saves?
What conditions must be in place to record a win?
10.17 WINNING AND LOSING PITCHER
(a) The official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher that pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, unless
(1) such pitcher is a starting pitcher and Rule 10.17(b) applies; or
(2) Rule 10.17(c) applies.
(b) If the pitcher whose team assumes a lead while such pitcher is in the game, or during the inning on offense in which such pitcher is removed from the game, and does not relinquish such lead, is a starting pitcher who has not completed
(1) five innings of a game that lasts six or more innings on defense, or
(2) four innings of a game that lasts five innings on defense, then the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the relief pitcher, if there is only one relief pitcher, or the relief pitcher who, in the official scorer’s judgment was the most effective, if there is more than one relief pitcher
(c) The official scorer shall not credit as the winning pitcher a relief pitcher who is ineffective in a brief appearance, when at least one succeeding relief pitcher pitches effectively in helping his team maintain its lead. In such a case, the official scorer shall credit as the winning pitcher the succeeding relief pitcher who was most effective, in the judgment of the official scorer.
Let’s look at 300 game winners. Tom Seaver made 656 appearances, 647 of which were starts. He won a total of 311 games. Win #300 came in his 19th year of playing (he played 20 total).
Randy Johnson made 618 appearances – 603 starts. Won 303 total. The Big Unit’s 300th came in his 22nd, and final, year of play.
Let’s put in place the assumption that a win can only be achieved by a pitcher who starts the game (I am aware that is inaccurate, but pitchers aiming for 300 wins are more likely to be a starting pitcher). With this, a chance for a win comes every 5 days. Let’s approximate that without injury or a postseason appearance a pitcher will make 32 starts in one season. Just to make 300 starts would take 9 seasons. Even a phenomenal pitcher with 20 wins in a season, you’d have to assume they’d have 20 wins every season for 15 consecutive seasons just to have 300 wins (or 15 wins a season for 20 seasons). That is A LOT to factor in, all of which are huge assumptions, including the possible length of a player’s career.
On the other hand, what constitutes a save?
10.19 SAVES FOR RELIEF PITCHERS
A save is a statistic credited to a relief pitcher, as set forth in this Rule 10.19.
The official scorer shall credit a pitcher with a save when such pitcher meets all four of the following conditions:
(a) He is the finishing pitcher in a game won by his team;
(b) He is not the winning pitcher;
(c) He is credited with at least 1/3 of an inning pitched; and
(d) He satisfies one of the following conditions:
(1) He enters the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitches for at least one inning;
(2) He enters the game, regardless of the count, with the potential tying run either on base, or at bat or on deck (that is, the
potential tying run is either already on base or is one of the first two batters he faces); or
(3) He pitches for at least three innings.
From the number of conditions that need to be in place for a save to occur, it seems like recording a save is more difficult.
Let’s break down Joe Nathan’s record. As of 5pm PST April 9 Nathan has 651 MLB appearances. 29 starts. 51 wins. 300 saves. Nathan’s career has barely begun it’s 13th year.
Mariano Rivera? 1053 appearances. 10 starts. 76 wins. 609 saves. It took him into his 9th season to achieve 300 (in 2004) and its been 9 more years and 300+ more saves since then.
Pitchers attempting to record saves are making more appearances per season than a pitcher attempting wins, thus giving them more chances to record said save. But, because of the uncertainty of the situation they may enter into, there is no telling if they will actually have more opportunities than a starting pitcher (not without extensive research that I don’t have the attention span for). Let’s say a pitcher aiming for 300 saves makes 67 appearances in a season and 50% of those are saves. It would still take 4.5 seasons to reach 300 appearances and 8.9 seasons to reach 300 saves.
So is 300 saves a big deal? Should we be celebrating 400? 500? Or is 300 too great a number?
Is 300 wins too many to realistically aim for in this era? Should we be celebrating 200*?
I personally feel that 300 saves is a more impressive milestone than 300 wins. Please understand that I am not telling which feat is more impressive. I’m questioning which is harder to reach based on present day circumstances and whether or not we should change the threshold that defines greatness. As long as announcers and teammates are celebrating win/save #1 as if it’s win/save #300, I’ll celebrate every game and even every pitch. As far as what number of saves/wins we should commemorate, I’m not quite sure.
*If we celebrate 200 Halladay MIGHT get there by season’s end (yes, I do understand he’s currently at 199, but he’s all over the place).
On a side note, there is a really awesome Etsy shop (etsy.com/shop/TheShayskiShop) that sells a variety of handmade t-shirts, including a really awesome Mets/Jets mashup shirt. The owner/designer/everything, Shay (yes, he is a Mets fan), was kind enough to give me a coupon code to share with you all. If you enter ‘MELISSA’ at checkout, you will receive 20% any item in his shop.
Posted on April 11, 2013, in 2017, MLB and tagged 300 saves, 300 win club, Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Randy Johnson, Relief pitcher, Starting pitcher, Tom Seaver, Win–loss record (pitching). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.