How Hard is 300 wins? Ask King Felix.

April 14, 2014

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300 wins and 3000 hits have long been the benchmarks for a hall of fame player.  Hit well enough, hit high enough in the order, play enough years, and avoid taking a lot of walks, and a hitter can reach 3000 hits without much help from his teammates.  It is a largely team-independent stat.  The player who goes 3-4 in a 8-0 loss is credited with 3 hits in exactly the same way as the player who goes 3-4 in a 4-1 win.

Seattle Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo (30) and...

The King on his throne.

Wins, on the other hand, are a completely different beast.  A league average starting pitcher can rack up a lot of wins with a talented team backing him up, whereas an ace on a horrible team can struggle to get wins.

Case in point is Felix Hernandez of the Mariners.  King Felix made his major league debut just before his 20th birthday.  He had racked up 1846 innings in just over 8 full seasons.  His ERA+ of 127 (on a scale where 100 is average and higher is better) is tied with Justin Verlander for 3rd best amond active pitchers, trailing only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainright.  He has 39.5 career pitching WAR (Baseball Reference), ranking him 7th among current pitchers.  The 28 year old is the only sub-30 player in the top 12 (26 year old Kershaw is 13th and 29 year old Matt Cain is 14th).

The one black mark of the King’s reign?  Only 113 career wins.  To put this in persepctive, Kyl Lohse – a slighly below league average pitcher – has accumulated 131 wins in 350 more innings pitched (along with just 19.9 pitching WAR).  Hernandez is averaging a pedestrian 13.25 wins per full season.  At his current pace, he’d reach 300 wins during the 2028 season, just shy of his 42th birthday.

One of the most dominant pitchers of our era, racking up a tremenous workload, and putting his team on his back every fifth day, would need to keep up his dominant pace until his early 40s to reach 300 wins.  Put another way, being on a bad team can make reaching 300 wins almost impossible – yet the dominance of such a pitcher should still be should be celebrated.  We need to celebrate King Felix’s dominance and look well beyond the simple stat of wins.

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