When Early Wynn won his 300th (and final) game in 1963, many expected he would be the last 300-game winner. After all, since 1924, only he, Warren Spahn and Lefty Grove had reached the mark. Wynn himself believed this, often referring to himself in interviews in those terms.
Nineteen years later, Gaylord Perry won his 300th game, beginning a run of 300-game winners who had started their careers soon after Wynn had finished his -- Perry, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Phil Niekro, Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan all won their 300th games over an eight-year span.
When Ryan became the last of that generation to reach the magic mark in 1990, many opined that he'd be the last 300-game winner. That generation had grown up pitching in four-man rotations, often pitching close to (or exceeding) 300 innings per season. By 1990, pitchers worked in five-man rotations and didn't carry the same workloads.
Of course, a new generation of pitchers would reach 300 wins -- Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson. Again, many skeptics believed that would be it. "This generation's fans can be reasonably certain of having witnessed the last pursuit of this kind, and that now the 300-game winner will follow dinosaurs, dodo birds and 59-cent Big Macs into extinction," wrote Tom Singer on MLB.com as Johnson approached his 300th win.
Singer wasn't alone in his thoughts. "You don't want to say never, but this could be it, with Randy," Glavine told Singer. "It wouldn't surprise me if there's not another. We're not developing 250-, 270-inning pitchers. When you throw 250, 270 innings, it gives you a better chance to get a win. It's tough to get a bunch of wins if you're going five or six innings. There are many pitchers who have the talent to win 300 games. But I'm not sure you're going to see the durability you saw a generation ago."
I'm here to tell you that we will see another 300-game winner, and that Roy Halladay will be the next to reach the milestone.
Jamie Moyer, if he pitches again, is the active leader in wins with 267. But after that comes Halladay with 188. Considering he turns 35 in May and needs 112 wins, it may seem easy to dismiss his chances.
Looking back at those last two generations of pitchers, here is where they stood through their age-34 season and their win totals over the rest of their careers:
Randy Johnson, 143-79 (160 wins)
Tom Glavine, 208-125 (97 wins)
Greg Maddux, 240-135 (115 wins)
Roger Clemens, 213-118 (141 wins)
Nolan Ryan, 189-174 (135 wins)
Don Sutton, 217-170 (107 wins)
Phil Niekro, 110-94 (208 wins)
Tom Seaver, 235-133 (76 wins)
Steve Carlton, 225-160 (104 wins)
Gaylord Perry, 177-144 (137 wins)
So Halladay has more wins than three of the pitchers and just one fewer than Ryan. The Bill James formula for predicting 300-game winners gives Halladay a solid 49 percent chance of reaching 300. Even leaving out the extreme case of the knuckleballer Niekro, the other nine pitchers averaged 119 wins the rest of their careers.
Maybe you're reluctant to compare Halladay to Johnson or Ryan, two guys who maintained their overpowering fastballs into their 40s, or even Clemens and his alleged extracurricular help. So let's compare Halladay to where Glavine and Maddux stood as they turned 35.
Maddux's age-34 season was 2000, when he went 19-9 with a 3.00 ERA for the Braves, finishing third in the Cy Young vote. Glavine's age-34 season was the same year and he went 21-9 with a 3.40 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young vote. Halladay went 19-6 with a 2.35 ERA in 2011, finishing second in the Cy Young vote. Here are each pitcher's rate stats for those seasons:
Maddux, 2000: 1.5 BB/9, 6.9 SO/9, 249 IP, 153 ERA+
Glavine, 2000: 2.4 BB/9, 5.7 SO/9, 241 IP, 135 ERA+
Halladay, 2011: 1.3 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9, 233.2 IP, 164 ERA+
Maddux and Glavine never again received Cy Young votes, although each had two more excellent seasons before starting to lose steam. Granted, they were pitching at the end of the "steroid era," so offensive production was at a different level than we're seeing now, but just looking at the rate stats, we can see Halladay is at a different level than those two at this age. He had better control even than Maddux and a much higher strikeout rate than either. Maddux had already started to decline from his 1992 to 1998 peak when he compiled a 2.15 ERA; Halladay remains at his peak.
And no offense to Maddux or Glavine, but those two didn't have a workout routine that compares to Halladay's legendary program. Jarred Cosart, now with the Astros, was a 19-year-old prospect when he showed up early to spring training in 2010, Halladay's first season with the Phillies. He found himself working out with the Phillies' new ace. "I tried to do all the reps, but I realized I couldn't finish a Roy Halladay workout," Cosart said.
As legendary as his workout routine is Halladay's arsenal of pitches -- fastball, slider, cutter, changeup and curveball, all of them plus, none of them straight, all thrown with pinpoint accuracy. This is a pitcher at the top of his game.
All this makes him a great bet to continue dominating as he pitches into his late 30s. Here are some various average win totals and how close they bring Halladay to 300 wins:
Six years, 18 wins per season: 108 wins, 296 total (through age 40)
Six years, 16 wins per season: 96 wins, 284 total
Seven years, 17 wins per season: 119 wins, 307 total (through age 41)
Seven years, 16 wins per season: 112 wins, 300 total
Eight years, 15 wins per season: 120 wins, 308 total (through age 42)
Eight years, 14 wins per season: 112 wins, 300 total
Nine years, 14 wins per season: 126 wins, 314 total (through age 43)
Nine years, 13 wins per season: 117 wins (305 total)
Those all seems like reasonable results for a pitcher who has averaged 19 wins over the past four seasons. I believe Halladay will do it, proving yet again that while dinosaurs may be extinct, the 300-game winner lives on.
Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.