FACT: No major league pitcher at least 100 games over .500 in his career has ever failed to make the Hall of Fame.
All 18 eligible starters who fit this profile are in — including six who pitched the majority of their careers in the 19th Century. There are a dozen 300-game winners on the list.
The 100 Plus Club list is dotted with the usual suspects — Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Pete Alexander, Warren Spahn, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer and Bob Feller, just to name a few. Young is the only pitcher close to 200 plus in the won-loss category: he finished his career with a record 511 wins and 316 losses.
Whitey Ford has the best overall winning percentage amongst members of the elite club — 236-106 for .690. Lefty Grove is right behind at .680 (300-141), followed by 19th Century hurler John Clarkson at .649 (327-177).
No Koufax, Ryan, Gibson
Then there are those who didn’t make it, immortals like Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan, Bob Gibson, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell and Rube Waddell.
The 100 Plus Club is due to get some company soon. Recently retired enigma Roger Clemens has a 354-184 record, a .658 winning percentage. He also has a steroid-tarnished resume which may or may not hinder his Hall of Fame chances. Then again, his seven Cy Youngs can only help his cause.
There are five active pitchers with 100 plus stat lines. Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are 300-game winners, and Randy Johnson is just 11 wins away, at 289. Pedro Martinez is 212-95, a point ahead of Ford’s .690 all-time winning percentage.
All four are pretty much considered to be Hall of Fame locks, with 14 Cy Young awards amongst them (Johnson 5, Maddux 4, Martinez 3 and Glavine 2).
And then there’s Mike Mussina, shown above, a man whose career has been full of almosts and near-misses. Mussina has never won a Cy Young award. He has never won 20 games in a single season, never won an ERA or strikeout title, never won a World Series.
Mussina came to the Yankees the year after they won four World Series in five years. He came within one strike of pitching a perfect game against the Red Sox in Fenway Park in 2001. He’s always left at the altar.
The Moose has won 19 games twice and 18 twice. He’s had 17 straight years of 10 or more wins, an American League record. He’s had only two losing seasons in 18 years.
Overall Mussina is 261-150, a .639 winning percentage. But is that good enough?
Hall of Fame candidates are typically voted in for reaching certain milestones, like 300 wins, 3,000 hits, or 500 home runs. Perhaps consistency should count for something as well.
Only time will tell.
Pitchers used to finish what they started.
In 1904, Jack Chesbro started 55 games for the New York Highlanders. He finished 48 of them, winning 41 games. All are major league records.
Last year, Arizona’s Brandon Webb led the National League with 4 complete games; Roy Hallady of the Blue Jays had 7.
Cy Young threw 749 complete games in his career; the current major league career leaders are Greg Maddux with 109 and Randy Johnson with 99.
In 1968, the so-called “Year of the Pitcher,” Juan Marichal of the Giants led the majors with 30 complete games. The Tigers’ Denny McLain became the last 30-game winner, and had 28 complete games.
“Nobody trusted anybody in the bullpen,” said McLain, who wound up 31-6. “Three or four of my losses were 2-1 and 1-0.”
In 1975, Catfish Hunter started 39 games for the Yankees and finished 30 of them, the last pitcher to reach that mark in complete games.
The last hurler to record 20 complete games was the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela, in 1986. Randy Johnson was the last to have double figures in 10 CGs, 12 in 1999.
Complete games have become baseball’s lost art.