Big Unit doesn’t think he’ll be the last to 300
Despite some pretty spiffy arguments to the contrary, so many writers seem to want to say that Randy Johnson will be the last pitcher to win 300 that a certain conventional wisdom to that effect has come into being. That’s fine, but even the guy whose legacy might benefit the most from the end of the attainability of that milestone isn’t having any of it:
With his next win, he’ll be the 24th pitcher in major league history to join the 300-victory club. And it’s fashionable to suggest he’ll be the last of his kind. But if you make that suggestion to Johnson, don’t expect a polite nod. Johnson’s own fossil record suggests that the next 300-game winner could be among us right now, not necessarily ticketed for greatness but toiling to throw strikes.
“I’m not going to say I’ll be the last because everyone overlooked me . . . That was the talk when (Tom) Glavine got there (in 2007). I wasn’t given a chance because of my back surgeries. So I’m not one to say who could or couldn’t. Anything’s possible. Look at me.”
Given the rarity of guys who stink until they’re 26 and then turn into perennial Cy Young candidates, we certainly shouldn’t expect another pitcher with Randy Johnson’s career arc any time soon, but he’s right: if one guy can start late, pitch his entire career in the five-man rotation era and still make it to 300, another one can too.
The rest of the article attempts to profile the next 300 winner. I’ve talked about durability and playing for a good team as being the primary attributes, but I hadn’t considered this one:
He’ll probably spend significant time in the American League. Like most pitchers switching to the National League, Barry Zito was happy to leave the designated hitter behind and face lineups that had fewer power hitters. But Zito soon discovered one of the N.L.'s pitfalls: If you’re trailing 2-1 and you’re due to hit in the sixth inning, you’re probably not going near the bat rack.
In the A.L., an effective starting pitcher can stick around longer and perhaps benefit from a late rally. That might lead to a few extra victories each season.
The A.L. can wear a guy out, but wins are every bit a function of opportunity as they are excellence, and the D.H. league simply gives a guy more opportunities.