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.