Monday, August 06, 2007

Tom Terrific

The moniker "Tom Terrific" was bestowed decades ago on the Mets greatest pitcher, Tom Seaver. However I think it's very appropriate that he share that nickname for at least one night with Tom Glavine. Glavine became the 23rd and potentially final member of the 300 win club last night. Glavine pitched 6-1/3 innings and left with a 5-1 lead. The Mets bullpen made it interesting for a short while but managed to close out the 7th inning on a deep fly ball and a 5-3 lead. The Mets added insurance runs in the 8th and 9th innings and Mets took no chances with a five run lead and brought in their closer Billy Wagner to seal the deal.

Tom Glavine now one of only three pitchers to win 300 games and never strike out as many as 200 hitters in a season. Glavine was never a power pitcher. His best pitch is a changeup low and away. His lack of real domination of hitters is probably the reason that despite his impressive win total, he has often been overlooked when discussing the games best pitchers. Glavine will probably always remain the most anonymous 2 time Cy Young award winner ever. During his days with the Atlanta Braves he was overshadowed by his teammate Greg Maddux. Maddux was viewed as the best pitcher in baseball for much of the nineties when he won a record 4 Cy Young awards in a row from '92-'95 (Randy Johnson matched that streak a few years later). Few realize however that Glavine has actually won 20 games (5 times) on more occasions than Maddux has (twice). While Maddux had the gaudier ERA numbers, Glavine actually won more games five times (including '93 when he went 22-6, but Maddux won the Cy Young award with a 20-10 record).

Glavine has always taken a back seat to the great power pitchers of the era. Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and even Curt Schilling were piling up strikeouts and headlines, but Glavine's career numbers prove that he belonged in the discussion all along. He may also be the answer to the trivia question of who was the last pitcher to win 300 games. Baseball made a shift away from the four man rotation in the eighties, meaning that a starting pitcher has few opportunities to win games. A starter in the days of the four man rotation would get approximately 40 starts a year, but today's starters can only expect around 34. Over a 15 year career, that equates to 90 starts. A starting pitcher today is at a huge disadvantage in an attempt to win 300 games. A very good pitcher will win approximately 50% of their starts, which translates to an additional 60 wins or so over a 20 year career for a very good pitcher in a four man rotation. Also given the huge investment that teams make in their pitching, trips to the DL for relatively minor injuries are more likely than they used to be.

Randy Johnson is next in line to win 300 games (he currently sits at 284), but he just had his second back surgery in as many seasons and he would be 44 by the time he is able to pitch again. At this point, it's unclear as to whether he will ever pitch again. Mike Mussina won his 246th game yesterday, but he is 38 and is clearly on the downside of his career. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain his average of 15 wins a season for four more season. I would place his odds of reaching 300 somewhere between slim and none. After Mussina, there doesn't appear to be anyone capable of making a run at 300. Pedro Martinez would have had a chance but injuries appear to have taken that chance away. He has 206 wins and is only 35, but has lost significant parts of three seasons. He has yet to pitch this year and no one knows how he will rebound after this latest arm injury. He would have to average about 16 wins for the next 6 seasons to reach the magic number.

So I offer my congratulations to Tom Glavine. He may not have gotten much press, after all his career hasn't been marked by controversy or scandal. His calling cards have always been consistency and excellence and those aren't exactly the things that make headlines. Glavine never sought the spotlight. He has just gone about doing his job and doing it better than almost anyone. I'll give him his due and dub him Tom Terrific, at least for today. We literally may never see his like again.



Blogger stopmikelupica said...

I would put Johan Santana as a possibility. He got a late start in his career, and is now 28, but if he averages about 15 wins for the next 10 years (very reasonable), then he'll be sitting at 250 at age 38 (like Mussina). If he's able to stay healthy and pitch strong even at that age (like Clemens), he could top 300.

11:37 PM  

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