Roy Halladay Next to 300?

David Schoenfield asks the question on ESPN’s Sweet Spot blog. Roy Halladay, who turns 35 in May, has finished in the top-five in Cy Young voting in each of the last four seasons, winning 77 games in that span of time (almost 20 per season). In total, Halladay sits at 188 wins, leaving him 112 shy of the milestone. Schoenfield writes:

As legendary as his workout routine is Halladay’s arsenal of pitches — fastball, slider, cutter, changeup and curveball, all of them plus, none of them straight, all thrown with pinpoint accuracy. This is a pitcher at the top of his game. 

All this makes him a great bet to continue dominating as he pitches into his late 30s. Here are some various average win totals and how close they bring Halladay to 300 wins: 

Six years, 18 wins per season: 108 wins, 296 total (through age 40) 
Six years, 16 wins per season: 96 wins, 284 total 
Seven years, 17 wins per season: 119 wins, 307 total (through age 41) 
Seven years, 16 wins per season: 112 wins, 300 total 
Eight years, 15 wins per season: 120 wins, 308 total (through age 42) 
Eight years, 14 wins per season: 112 wins, 300 total 
Nine years, 14 wins per season: 126 wins, 314 total (through age 43) 
Nine years, 13 wins per season: 117 wins (305 total) 

Those all seems like reasonable results for a pitcher who has averaged 19 wins over the past four seasons. I believe Halladay will do it, proving yet again that while dinosaurs may be extinct, the 300-game winner lives on. 

PECOTA projects 17 wins this year for Halladay, and then 95 between 2013-19 (Halladay would be 42 years old in 2019), putting him exactly at 300 wins. The list of pitchers who have won 15 or more games in a season as a 40-year-old is slim — there have only 35 such occurrences in baseball history. 13 of them occurred in the 1990′s or later, with Jamie Moyer as the most recent example in 2008.

As Saberists have pointed out many times over the years, pitcher wins and losses are highly variable due to run support. For example, despite a 3.29 ERA over the last four seasons, Cole Hamels has won only 50 games and has a winning percentage barely above .500. Halladay would be better served pitching for an offensively-potent team like the New York Yankees (perish the thought). It would also help Halladay’s chances if he moved back to the American League after his contract with the Phillies expires in 2014, as he would no longer be taken out of games for the strategic use of a pinch-hitter.

Additionally, Halladay can’t afford to miss starts due to injury, serious or otherwise. PECOTA’s long-term projections have Halladay making at least 28 starts through 2019, which is expecting quite a lot. Jeff Zimmerman’s research on injuries at FanGraphs shows that one more year of age adds one percent to a pitcher’s probability of landing on the DL, and an injury-laden year adds eight percent. In other words, getting injured once makes it more likely that you get injured again, for obvious reasons.

If Halladay does get to 300 wins, it will be by the skin of his teeth at the end of his career. The smart money is still on Halladay coming up short. He is a Hall of Famer irrespective of his career wins total, anyway.

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4 comments

  1. Bliz

    March 12, 2012 08:37 AM

    Bill, your last point assumes that Halladay is human. We all know that he is infact a superhuman/cyborg/robot/alien/demigod sprung forth from Zeus’ very loins. Other than that, excellent work.

  2. Dan K.

    March 12, 2012 09:40 AM

    What percentage does the chance of injury start at? It can’t be 0% for obvious reasons. Does the starting percentage depend on the player and their workout routine (as it should)? Even if we assume it starts at 15% (for Halladay), though, that only puts him somewhere around 30% in his 40s (assuming no injury).

    I’d still bet on Halladay to be the next to 300 wins. Improbable or not, the man is unreal. He’s in position to make a run at 300 wins even after pitching for the Blue Jays for so long (before they started to be semi-competitors). That says something in itself.

    That being said, you’re right, his win totals bear almost no consequence to his HOF chances (and they should have no effect at all).

  3. derekcarstairs

    March 13, 2012 04:28 AM

    Halladay has averaged 19 wins over the last four seasons. If he averages 19 over the next two seasons, Halladay will enter the 2014 season at 226 wins and just shy of age 37. From there, I think it’s an easy path to 260 wins. I agree with Bill that, to get to 300, though, Halladay would have to grind it out. OTOH, if Doc is anything, he’s a grinder.

    From the Phillies’ perspective, the good news is that the team should have one helluva pitcher for several more years.

  4. blaze

    March 16, 2012 12:27 AM

    Halladay might do it, but for several of the reasons you noted, I would have to contest that CC Sabathia is actually the favorite.

    CC is 5 years younger than Halladay, yet trails by only 12 wins heading into this season. That is due to the fact CC hasn’t really missed a start since 2006, when he managed a career “low” of 28 starts. As you noted, the runs support is key, and it is CC who pitches for the Yankees, of course in the American League, another bonus you mentioned.

    CC has .720 winning percentage and is averaging 19.7 wins per season in 3 seasons with the Pinstripes and has finished top 5 in Cy Young voting 5 of the last 7 seasons, winning in 07. In the last 5 seasons CC has averaged exactly 19 wins and 8 losses a season. There is no reason to think this will end anytime soon, and it is possible he makes these numbers stand up over the net 5 years operating in his absolute peak prime. If so, that would result in another 95 wins which would eclipse the older Halladay somewhere in the 2016 season. From there Halladay would be 40, possibly retired, while CC would be 35 and sitting at 260 wins and if applying the same logic as used for Roy, then Sabathia would have absolutely no trouble reaching 300, and in my opinion, before Halladay.

    Here is the wildcard: Jamie Moyer, who needs just 33 wins to reach 300 and is pitching for Colorado. Is it too much to ask him to make it to 300 by pitching 3-4 more seasons and beating all the young guys to it? hahah

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