CC Sabathia: The next 300 win pitcher?

Hannah Foslien

CC has reached 200 wins at an historic pace, joining nine other pitchers to do so by their age 32 season since 1920. How many of the other nine have reached the 300 win milestone?

CC Sabathia won his 200th career game this week against the Minnesota Twins, becoming the 114th pitcher in major league history to do so. While wins are an overrated stat for pitchers, the fact is that they become a pretty good barometer of how good a pitcher was over his career. We all know that CC has been a top of the rotation guy for most of his major league career. Now that he has won 200, what are his chances to reach the 300 win milestone?

CC seems to be positioned quite well. Catfish Hunter was the youngest to reach 200 wins in the modern era (post-1920), at just over 30 years and five months. CC was not too far behind Hunter, reaching 200 wins just before his 33rd birthday (July 21). Since 1920, there have only been ten pitchers that have reached 200 wins through their age-32 season:

Name Before Age 33 Wins Before Age 33 fWAR After Age 32 Wins After Age 32 fWAR Total Wins Total fWAR
Bob Feller 230 64.1 36 5.8 266 69.9
Catfish Hunter 222 33.5 2 0.3 224 33.8
Robin Roberts 221 62.2 65 16.1 286 78.3
Jim Palmer 215 44.5 53 7.3 268 51.8
Don Drysdale 209 66.3 0 0 209 66.3
Tom Seaver 203 73.9 108 23.8 311 97.7
Juan Marichal 203 59.7 40 10.2 243 69.9
Greg Maddux 202 73.9 153 40.4 355 114.3
Hal Newhouser 200 62.7 7 0.2 207 62.9
CC Sabathia 200 60.6 ? ? ? ?

It sure doesn't look like it is beneficial to have an early start to 300 wins. Of the nine other pitchers who reached 200 wins by their age-32 season, only 2 of them notched 300 victories - Greg Maddux and Tom Seaver. Drysdale, Hunter, and Newhouser were basically done after their age 32 season, totaling 9 wins between the three of them (seven by Newhouser), and Drysdale never pitched after his age-32 season. This group averaged 52 wins after age 32, with a median of 40 wins. Their average career total was 263 wins, with a median of 266 wins.

Most of these pitchers pitched a ton of innings during their younger years, which could be a contributing factor in how quickly they declined. The group averaged 3071.1 IP, with a median of 3049.2 IP. CC, at 2688.1 IP is the lowest of the group, falling 104 IP behind Marichal and 743.2 IP behind first-place Don Drysdale. This is a reflection of the attempt to limit the number of innings pitched by starters, especially young ones, in the last few decades. Still, CC has always been one of the league leaders in innings pitched, reaching the 200 IP mark seven times, including the past six years, and five times he has reached the 230 IP mark. Since his debut in 2001, he is second in innings pitched, behind only Mark Buehrle.

Hopefully, this means that CC will be able to stick around and be productive longer than most of the other pitchers on this list. CC has averaged 16 wins per season over his career. At that pace, he would need only six more seasons to collect his 300th win, putting him in his age 38 season, and having him win his 300th sometime after his 39th birthday. If he plays through his age 40 season, he would only need to average about 12 wins each season to reach 300 victories.

There have been thirteen 300-game winners since 1920. How did they stack up to CC in pre-33 wins, and how many wins did they collect after age 32? Let's take a look:

Name Before Age 33 Wins Before Age 33 fWAR After Age 32 Wins After Age 32 fWAR Total Wins Total fWAR
Warren Spahn 145 41.4 218 39.5 363 80.9
Greg Maddux 202 73.9 153 40.4 355 114.3
Roger Clemens 182 76 172 63.9 354 139.9
Steve Carlton 191 60.8 138 42.4 329 103.2
Nolan Ryan 167 48.4 157 58.1 324 106.5
Don Sutton 190 57 134 28.8 324 85.8
Phil Niekro 81 21.9 237 58.5 318 80.4
Gaylord Perry 134 46.3 180 57.8 314 104.1
Tom Seaver 203 73.9 108 23.8 311 97.7
Tom Glavine 173 41.5 132 22.4 305 63.9
Randy Johnson 104 33 199 77.3 303 110.3
Lefty Grove 171 49.6 129 43.7 300 93.3
Early Wynn 144 26.3 156 36.2 300 62.5

These 300 game winners averaged 161 pre-33 wins, with a median of 171 wins. This falls short of the pace set by CC. However, this group stands out with their post-32 wins, averaging 163 wins, with a median of 156 wins. In fact, 12 of these 13 pitchers are in the top 22 in post-32 wins since 1920, with Tom Seaver bringing in the rear at 41st since 1920. If CC was to match this pace, he would end up near Warren Spahn's lefty record of 363 wins, which is also the record for wins in the modern ball era.

CC Sabathia has had a great career, and has matched an historic pace in reaching 200 wins in his age 32 season, becoming one of ten pitchers since 1920 to achieve that accomplishment. However, of the other nine, only two ever won 300 games - Tom Seaver and Greg Maddux. Winning 300 games seems to be more dependent on how well you pitch and earn victories in your thirties and forties, rather than how you do in your twenties. In fact, of the 13 pitchers since 1920 with 300 victories, five hadn't even reached 150 wins by the end of their age-32 season. Only one of the 13 was outside of the top 22 in wins after age 32. As tempting as it is to believe that Sabathia will win 300 games, it may be safer to bet the under in this particular instance.

So, will CC win 300 games? How many wins do you think he will retire with? Vote below.

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