MLB Pitchers: The Decline of 200 Career Wins

José Berríos turns 30, highlighting pitching trends in MLB

by Zain ul Abedin
MLB Pitchers: The Decline of 200 Career Wins
© Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

On Monday, José Berríos turned 30 a relatively nondescript milestone for the landscape that is Major League Baseball. Berrios, a two-time all-star who started with the Minnesota Twins and now pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays, had seen that happen months before his 30th birthday, as he held the distinction of being the active leader in career wins for a pitcher under the age of 30, with 88 victories.

That was a significant difference because the absence represented the dearth in today's game of young, promising, full-blown pitchers. That trend was driven by various reasons, with the most important ones probably reduced starting pitcher usage and an increase in arm injuries, particularly Tommy John surgeries.

He has just discovered that, more often than not, the teenage Berrios has been thrown off guard by him. "That's wild. I didn't know he wasn't 30 yet," commented D-backs pitcher Zac Gallen. The current leader among under-30 pitchers is Colorado's Germán Márquez, with 65 wins, though he's recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Cleveland's Shane Bieber, next with 62 wins, is also sidelined by the same surgery. Boston's Lucas Giolito, with 61 wins, is out following elbow surgery.

Future of 200 Wins

Wins leader among Active NL Starting Pitchers Under 30: Corbin Burnes: 49 Dylan Cease: 48 Walker Buehler: 47 Logan Webb: 46.

It is in that place where this kind of generational shift in pitching raises questions about what the future of the 200-win milestone may be. Once benchmarkers for Hall of Fame consideration, that status the 200-game winner may be on its way to history.

Veterans like Justin Verlander with 260 wins, Zack Greinke with 225, Max Scherzer with 214, and Clayton Kershaw with 210 are all nearing retirement. New York's ace is Gerrit Cole, 33, with 145 wins, in the mix but is now on the injured list with an elbow injury.

Gallen is the face of this modern challenge. He pitched the Diamondbacks to the World Series last season but has just 44 career wins at age 28. Gallen, who has never won more than ten games in a season, likely needs to get to about 150 wins to have a prayer of induction.

Reflecting on the changing standards, Gallen said, "It used to be 300 wins, 3,000 strikeouts. Now, it's probably closer to 200 wins and 2,000 strikeouts. Even 2,000 strikeouts might be a struggle. Giolito is the under-30 leader with 1,077 punchouts.

Gallen vividly remembers the days when pitchers like Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Roger Clemens hit 300 wins. "The next 20 years will be a bridge gap," Gallen said. "You might see some outstanding players get overlooked for the Hall of Fame because they don't have the counting numbers." Still, the most basic statistic, the win, is paramount while wading through all of these advanced metrics, of which many are available: WHIP, ERA+, FIP, SO/9.

Miami Marlins pitcher Braxton Garrett threw a complete-game shutout a week ago against the Diamondbacks. I found it utterly incongruous in this day and age. Much-ballyhooed teammate Sandy Alcántara the supposed workhorse won the NL Cy Young in 2022 with 228 2/3 innings.

Yet, the heavy workload carries risks, highlighting why Alcántara isn't pitching this season. The evolving game underscores the challenge for future pitchers to achieve the milestones once considered standard for greatness.