Offbeat Baseball Stuff

Randy Johnson won the 299th game in his career over the weekend. That has led to several columns from around the country saying that we should savor his next win because Randy Johnson may be the last 300-game winner in MLB. The logic behind that assertion is that baseball has changed markedly in the last 20 years. Gone are the four-man rotations for starting pitchers; everyone uses a five-man rotation now meaning a top-shelf starter will probably get no more than 35 starts in a season. Add to that the slavish devotion that many pitching coaches have to “pitch counts” and that many managers have to seventh/eighth/ninth inning pitching mixtures. These actions serve to remove starters from games that they might win if they are allowed to hang around another inning or two. Thus, you have created a situation where there are only a few 20-game winners in any given season. For the art history majors out there, a pitcher needs to win 20 games for 15 seasons to get to 300 wins.

I agree it will be more difficult for young pitchers just coming to MLB today to get to the 300-win mark, but I think the analysis I just presented in Cliff Notes form above is too simplistic. And, here is the statistic that makes me think this is not the last time anyone will see such an achievement:

    Randy Johnson won 250 of his games after his 28th birthday.

So, who is to say that one of the really good young pitchers of today (Johann Santana, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez) cannot do it? Keep your eye on Hernandez; he is only 23 now and he already has 44 wins with a team that has been anything but a powerhouse for most of the time he has been in the major leagues. Heck, do not discount Roy Halladay either. Yes, he is 32 but if he can do what Randy Johnson did and pitch effectively into his early 40s, he can get from his current 139 wins awfully close to 300 wins. In addition, CC Sabathia is 29 years old with 121 wins and he has made 30 or more starts in all but one of his seasons in MLB. It will be more difficult to amass 300 wins these days; but it is not impossible.

I also read that the first 300-game winner in MLB was James “Pud” Galvin back in the 1880s. According to a story in the Style Section of the Washington Post by Paul Farhi, he got his nickname because someone said that he reduced opposing batters to “pudding”. True or not, that has to be a better justification than any you might come up with for how Willie “Puddin’Head” Jones might have gotten his nickname. The story in the Post says that Galvin may also have been the first baseball player who was a juicer; he took – via injection I presume – something called Brown-Sequard Elixir. According to a Google search, this elixir contained a fluid prepared from the testicles of guinea pigs and dogs.

Since José Canseco was not around to let us know if indeed Galvin shot this stiff into his body, we can only go on hearsay. Nonetheless, such a concoction injected into one’s bloodstream should increase the testosterone levels there since the testes of most mammals contains a goodly quantity of those hormones – - albeit not the exact human hormone. Galvin probably could not pass a drug test today…

One more Galvin stat that is amazing. He won 364 games in his career and pitched 646 complete games. That number of complete games, however, only puts him second on the all-time list and he trails the leader in this category by a huge margin. For his career, Cy Young won 511 games and Cy Young pitched 749 complete games. Here is some perspective for you:

    Cy Young pitched 103 more complete games than the guy who is second all time on the list.

    Randy Johnson – our soon to be 300-game winner – has thrown only 100 complete games in his career spanning 22 years.

Since I am on a track of fascinating facts here, allow me to pass along a note that a reader sent to me. He observed – correctly – that I enjoy interesting statistical quirks or accomplishments from the past and so he gave me this tidbit:

“Stan Musial had 3,630 hits in his career.

“Stan Musial had 1815 hits at home and 1815 hits on the road in his career.

“Interesting? Yes. Important? No.”

Milton Bradley had a career batting average of .280 coming into the 2009 season. In 32 games this year, he is hitting .188 with only 4 HRs and 9 RBIs. Looking at those numbers, I wonder if Cubbies’ fans are beginning to think that MLB should start testing for PDDs – - Performance Decrement Drugs?

The Minnesota Twins will get a new stadium in 2010; it will be called Target Field assuming that the economy does not tank completely. Unlike the HHH Metrodome, this will be an outdoor stadium; there will be no more domes used as homes by MLB teams; retractable roofs, yes; domes, no. I have a humongous preference for baseball as an outdoor sport played on summer evenings. Having said that, this also means that the Twins will be hosting games in Minneapolis/St. Paul outdoors in April and possibly in the first week of November should they make it to the World Series. As much as I prefer “outdoor baseball”, the description of the weather conditions for a game should never need to include the wind-chill factor.

Finally, a rhetorical question from Jim Armstrong in the Denver Post:

“So, when ManRam comes back, does he carry a glove or a purse out to left field?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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Comments

  • Ric  On May 26, 2009 at 7:27 am

    What about the Rays and Tropicana Field?

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On May 27, 2009 at 10:07 am

    Ric:

    My bad…

    Geez, the Rays made it to the World Series last year and I still don’t “check them off” when I take a mental lap around the major leagues. That is a level of disrespect that the team does not deserve. I’ll go and sit in the corner for a while now…

    Good catch here.

  • Rich  On May 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Speaking of Randy Johnson winning 250 games after his 28th birthday, I read somewhere that Warren Spahn didn’t win any games until he was twenty-five years old. He also missed a few years due to his service in World War II. He finished with 363 wins. Maybe if the high leg kick came back into pitching style we’ll see a few more three hundred game winners.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On May 27, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Rich:

    If we saw more strong armed pitchers who came to the majors without a prediliction for arm injuries, we might see more 300-game winners. I think it was Nolan Ryan who said that pitchers today never learned as a kid to throw a lot of pitches every week as he did.

    It is sort of like the situation in horseracing today. Breeding has focused on speed to the exclusion of all else for about the last 25 years and now throughbreds are much less able to race often and tend to be injured far more frequently than did their grandsires and great-grandmares. Baseball pitchers today come up through baseball systems overseen with pitch counts. Maybe that’s great; maybe that’s counterproductive with regard to strong and long-lasting MLB pitchers.

    Quien sabe?

  • Ed  On May 28, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Actually, according to Tom Seaver, Ryan was on a count in the Mets system. Seaver said they counted pitches, but everyone did not have the same yank-em number, and they were higher than today’s. IIRC Seaver said his was 125, Koosman’s was 135, and Ryan 145. That apparently went out with the Angels, because when you sent nearly 600 guys to the plate to not hit the ball, that meant a LOT of pitches… (300+ ks, 200 walks)

  • Peter  On May 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    >

    Interesting that this rare typo is in a reference to “a fluid prepared from the testicles of guinea pigs and dogs.”

  • Peter  On May 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Uh, the part of your rant that I quoted in my comment was somehow clipped. Sorry.

    The typo to which I refer was “Galvin shot this STIFF into his body.”

    Believer me, it was much funnier before I had to leave another comment in clarification.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On June 2, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Peter:

    INdeed it was a “typo” and not anything intentional. I am not a good proofreader by any means and “stiff” will get by a spell checker every time…

    Ed:

    By today’s standards, a pitch count of 145 for a young pitcher would be astronomical. In some of the short season leagues, some pitchers have 75-80 pitches and they are gone for the day.

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