Membership in MLB’s 300-Wins Club Is Probably Closed

Given baseball's changes, pitchers may no longer reach even 200 wins

Two-time Cy Young winner Blake Snell on the mound.
Two-time Cy Young winner Blake Snell isn't even close to 100 wins.
Joe Sargent/Getty

Short of 200 wins prior to his age-40 season, knuckleballer Phil Niekro reeled off double-digit wins in seven of his next eight seasons, including 21 in 1979 and 17 in 1982, and wound up finishing his career in MLB’s 300-wins club with 318 career victories when he was 48 years old. (Niekro is also the first and only member of the 300-wins club to toss a complete game shutout during his 300th victory.)

A five-time All-Star with a final record of 318-274 and a 3.35 ERA, the late Hall of Famer never won a Cy Young Award, but trying to hit Niekro’s knuckler was like “trying to eat Jell-O with chopsticks,” according to five-time All-Star Bobby Murcer.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Blake Snell, 31, has only been an All-Star once, but he’s already won a pair of Cy Young Awards (2018 with the Rays and last year with the Padres) and also led both the AL and NL in ERA. However, Snell isn’t just short of 200 wins, let alone 300. Already nine years into his MLB career, Snell only has 71 wins to his name and is averaging a measly 12 wins per season (to go along with 10 losses).

Snell’s situation is emblematic of a growing reality in Major League Baseball that may force us to change how we view and evaluate what makes an elite pitcher in today’s MLB: wins are a dying breed. Why? “Thanks to a combination of less usage for starting pitchers and an uptick in arm injuries — particularly Tommy John surgery — the up-and-coming group of 20-something pitchers has been slow to develop,” according to the Associated Press.

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The last pitcher to enter the 300-wins club was lanky lefty Randy Johnson, who gained entrance in 2009 at the age of 45 and only won three more games in his career to finish with 303 victories. He may be the last member to gain entrance as the only active pitchers who have a realistic shot at 300 wins, Justin Verlander (260 career wins), Zack Greinke (225), Max Scherzer (214) and Clayton Kershaw (210), all have a long way to go. Verlander is also 41, Greinke is a free agent, and Scherzer and Kershaw are both hurt.

The next pitcher on the active wins list, 2023 Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole, only has 145 wins and has already pitched 11 years in the majors. He’s also 33 and hasn’t taken the mound this season for the Yankees due to an elbow injury that hasn’t required surgery…yet.

Assuming Cole manages to come back healthy and regain his Cy Young form for a Yankees team that will almost always be competitive, he’s got a decent chance at notching more than 200 victories. But he’s got almost no shot at 300 wins — and no one else does, either.

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