As the Astros try to hold off the A’s and Mariners in the AL West, Justin Verlander also aims to make some baseball history in his next start.
There are currently 116 pitchers dating back to 1871 that have recorded at least 200 wins during their major league careers. When the Astros play the Mariners on Thursday night, Justin Verlander will aim to be the 117th in major league history. That’s something.
Although the win isn’t a quality indicator to measure performance due to factors outside a pitcher’s control (defense, bad luck, hit sequencing), it is still prominently featured throughout the game. Look up Jacob deGrom‘s numbers from this season, and let me know if he deserves a 6-7 win-loss record. The easy, and best, answer is no.
Remember that major league baseball has a deep history. The sheer bulk of players that have played in the major leagues is quite staggering when you stop and think about it. Last season had, for example, 315 pitchers who’d started at least one major league game. For a broader scope from 1871 through 2017, there have been 5,982 pitchers who’d started at least one major league game. If you apply basic arithmetic, only 1.93% of all pitchers who’d recorded at least one start in major league history reached 200 wins through the 2017 season. And don’t get me started on 300 wins, which may now be an impossible task in today’s baseball.
Anyway, Verlander is aiming to join the 200-win club in his age-35 season. Despite the inherent flaws in using a pitcher’s win as a useful tool of analysis, there is something admirable in this accomplishment. If anything else, it is a testament to how long Verlander has been a quality major league starter.
Win total and ERA by team
2005-17 Tigers: 183 wins; 3.49 ERA
2017-18 Astros: 16 wins; 1.99 ERA
Note that there are better metrics in place for evaluating pitcher performance, but I thought to keep it simple with wins and ERA for this post. More of a snapshot into his career, if you will.
If Verlander picks up the win on Thursday, he would join Tim Wakefield, Chuck Finley, and George Uhle as pitchers with exactly 200 career wins. Charlie Root and Rube Marquard are next on the list with 201 wins. Verlander also has a chance to pass pitchers like Orel Hershiser (204 wins) and the late Roy Halladay (203 wins) this season if everything continues at its current trajectory.
Thursday’s game against the Mariners will be must-watch baseball as Verlander faces James Paxton, one of the best left-handed starters in baseball. Add the quest for 200 along with late season division drama, and this game has the potential to be one of the more memorable ones in 2018.