Surly, 10 feet tall and now a 300 game winner. Congratulations to Randy Johnson, who besides being a guaranteed Hall of Famer, is also the pitcher who’s had the strangest journey to 300 wins. It’s amazing he pulled it off. Remember that Randy had something like 60 career wins by the time he was 30. THIRTY! A career is usually at least half way done by then!
Anyway, below you’ll find a post I’d written toward the end of last year in anticipation of Randy notching #300 this year. Thought it was appropriate to re-post now. Enjoy!!
For those of you not keeping track, Randy Johnson is at 289 wins and counting. That IS mind blowing! I think the man is about 113 years old. He used to chart pitches for George Herman Ruth before he switched to hitting home runs.
That lame joke aside, Johnson is a great pitcher for sure and he’s on the verge of doing something I never thought I’d see him achieve. He’s about to join the hallowed 300 win club. At 5-7 and with a plus 5.00 ERA, he’s not having a great year, but unless his back or arm gives out, you have to figure he’ll end up with about 295 or so wins by season’s end. Being that close, can anyone see Johnson not coming back to get 300?
It’s truly amazing that Johnson has a shot at all. Getting to 300 usually requires that
- a pitcher starts out young
- doesn’t miss a lot of time
- wins big early and often
Johnson has played by his own set of rules. To get a better idea of how amazing his journey to 300 has been, let’s compare Randy Johnson to two of his contemporaries – Roger Clemens (who for this article we’ll avoid discussing the influences of possible steroids or HGH usage) and Greg Maddux.
STARTING OUT YOUNG
Randy Johnson didn’t become a full time starter until he was 25 years old. Even then, he wasn’t an instant hit. He went 7-13 that year.
On the other pitching hand, Roger Clemens started 20 games as a 21 year old, 15 as a 22 year old and then went onto to full time ace status at the age of 23 when he went 24-4. Maddux got started even earlier than Clemens. His first full season was as a 21 year old. He really got rolling the next year when he won 18 at 22 and 19 games at the age of 23.
So basically, Clemens was an ace at 23 and Maddux at 22. Three long years later Randy Johnson would finally be a full time starter and sport a losing record. So, to say the least, Johnson was slow getting out of gate to 300.
DON’T MISS TIME (AND STARTS)
If you can’t be an early achiever than it’s even more important to be durable once you do get your pitching act together if you want to hit 300. In his long career, Randy Johnson has been durable. But he’s also missed significant time. In ’96 (at age 32) he made just 14 starts. In ’03 (at 39) he made only 18. And last year (at 43 – OK so he’s not 113. I swear I read that somewhere on the net!), Johnson made only 10 starts. Combine all that with the strike shortened ’94 season and figure Randy’s lost something like 65 starts to injuries and strikes.
Comparing Johnson’s durability to Clemens and Maddux, you’ll find that Johnson comes up short to them on this count too. Since becoming a full time starter and not counting the strike year or his rent-an-ace half seasons in Houston and New York, Roger Clemens has only started less than 29 games in a season once. That was way back in 1995!
All three guys are durable compared to most pitchers, but Randy trails both Clemens and Maddux in this category too.
WIN EARLY AND OFTEN
We touched on the first part of this 300 Win Club requirement in the STARTING OUT YOUNG section. Randy was slower out of the gate in terms of winning big than Clemens or Maddux. In fact, Johnson didn’t win more than 15 games in a season until he was 29! I’m too lazy to research it, but I have to believe there’s no other 300 game winner who didn’t win at least 15 games in a season before he was 29. Even more incredible, Johnson didn’t rack up a 20 win season until he was 33 years old, when most other pitchers are already on their way out of baseball!
Contrast that with Clemens. He had two 20 win seasons under his belt by the time he was 25. Remember, at 25, Randy Johnson was 7-13! As for Maddux, he’s famously ONLY had two 20 win seasons but he put them up back to back at age 26 and 27.
So, if Johnson didn’t win early than he must have won often, right? Let’s take a look.
Randy Johnson has three 20 win seasons including a career best 24 wins in 2002 as a 38 year old. Clemens has six 20 win seasons. Maddux has only two 20 win campaigns but he’s also got eight other 17 plus win campaigns to his credit. Perhaps the ultimate model of consistency, Greg Maddux reeled off 17 straight 15 plus win seasons in his fantastic career.
But, Johnson is no slouch in this category. The big lefty has ten seasons of 17 plus wins including his three 20 win campaigns.
So just what is Randy Johnson’s formula to 300 wins? Looking at his career, you’d have to say:
- Start late but win a lot
- Pitch until you’re at least 45
- And save your best years for the second half of your career
On the final point… Johnson’s best years were arguably at 37 and 38 years old when he went 21-6 in 2001 and 24-5 in 2002 for Arizona with sub 2.50 ERAs each year. It’s those two years that helped him catch up in the race to 300.
Congratulations in advance to you, Mr. Johnson. May you pitch til you really are 113 years old!