In 2006, when 16 wins was good enough to lead the National League, it seemed like the 20 game winner was going the way of the Dodo and the Liberal Republican.
But win #20 is making a comeback in 2010… or at least it COULD be.
Now, of course, I know the win total isn’t the end all and be all of a pitcher’s greatness.
I’ve been advocating Felix Hernandez to win the Cy Young Award even though his only has a 10-10 record.
And in my plea to put Bert Blyleven in the Hall of Fame I criticized the emphasis on wins when evaluating his career.
That being said, “20 Game Winner” still has a nice ring to it.
It is kind of like “Oscar Winning Director.” Now is Ron Howard, who won the Oscar, a better director than Alfred Hitchcock, who never won it? Of course not. But it still looks and sounds cool.
And with September now starting, there are a few legit candidates to win 20 and a few long shots.
And if they ALL come through, then we will see the most 20 game winners since 1920.
With about 30 games left, each of these pitchers will get about 5 or 6 more starts. Some will have to run the table… which is unlikely, but you never know…
Let’s break it down and see who is close.
2 More Wins – Currently at 18 wins… would be STUNNED if he falls short.
3 More Wins – Currently at 17 wins… One more good streak and you’ve got it.
4 More Wins – Currently at 16 wins… Keep pitching well and hope the bullpen doesn’t blow one or two.
5 More Wins – Currently at 15 wins… May be a reach, but a dazzling September could send them into the Cy Young stratosphere. NOTHING can go wrong.
6 More Wins – Currently at 14… OK, damn near impossible. But if they go on a winning streak and maybe the manager gives them an extra start down the stretch… maybe?
That is 17 potential 20 game winners (some MUCH more likely than others.)
Now there were no 20 game winners last year.
Since the leagues expanded to 3 divisions in 1994, most teams have 5 man rotations, pitch counts and bullpen specialization that cuts down on the big win totals.
Going backwards from last year, here are the number of 20 game winners for each year back to 1994.
2009 – 0
2008 – 4 (Cliff Lee, Brandon Webb, Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay)
2007 – 1 (Josh Beckett)
2006 – 0
2005 – 4 (Dontrelle Willis, Bartolo Colon, Chris Carpenter, Roy Oswalt)
2004 – 3 (Curt Schilling, Roy Oswalt, Johan Santana)
2003 – 5 (Roy Halladay, Russ Ortiz, Esteban Loaiza, Andy Pettitte, Jamie Moyer)
2002 – 6 (Randy Johnson, Barry Zito, Curt Schilling, Derek Lowe, Pedro Martinez, Bartolo Colon)
2001 – 7 (Curt Schilling, Matt Morris, Mark Mulder, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Jamie Moyer, Jon Lieber)
2000 – 4 (Tom Glavine, Tim Hudson, David Wells, Darryl Kile)
1999 – 3 (Pedro Martinez, Mike Hampton, Jose Lima)
1998 – 4 (Roger Clemens, David Cone, Rick Helling, Tom Glavine)
1997 – 4 (Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Denny Neagle, Brad Radke)
1996 – 3 (John Smoltz, Andy Pettitte, Pat Hentgen)
1995 – 0
1994 – 0
1994 and 1995 were shortened seasons due to the labor strife (although Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina won 19 in ’95… all the more impressive that it was a 144 game season.)
But there were some seasons with quite a few 20 game winners… topping out at 7 in 2001.
Going back even further, here are the last time there were higher numbers of 20 game winners in a season.
(Ron Guidry, Mike Caldwell, Jim Palmer, Gaylord Perry, Dennis Leonard, Ed Figueroa, Ross Grimsley, Dennis Eckersley)
Last time with 9 twenty game winners – 1977
(Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Rick Reuschel, Bob Forsch, John Candelaria, Tommy John, Dave Goltz, Dennis Leonard)
Last time with 11 twenty game winners– 1974
(Catfish Hunter, Fergie Jenkins, Nolan Ryan, Luis Tiant, Mike Cuellar, Steve Busby, Jim Kaat, Gaylord Perry, Andy Messersmith, Wilber Wood, Phil Niekro)
Last time with 13 twenty game winners– 1973
(Ron Bryant, Wilber Wood, Joe Coleman, Jim Palmer, Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman, Nolan Ryan, Bill Singer, Paul Splittorff, Bert Blyleven, Vida Blue, Luis Tiant, Jim Colborn)
Last time with 14 twenty game winners– 1971
(Mickey Lolich, Vida Blue, Fergie Jenkins, Wilbur Wood, Catfish Hunter, Dave McNally, Andy Messersmith, Jom Palmer, Steve Carlton, Pat Dobson, Al Downing, Joe Coleman, Tom Seaver, Mike Cuellar)
Last time with 15 twenty game winners– 1969
(Tom Seaver, Denny McLain, Mike Cuellar, Phil Niekro, Juan Marichal, Fergie Jenkins, Dave Boswell, Mel Stottlemyre, Larry Dierker, Claude Osteen, Bill Singer, Jim Perry, Bill Hands, Dave McNally, Bob Gibson)
Last time with 17 twenty game winners– 1920
(Grover Cleveland Alexander, Wilbur Cooper, Burleigh Grimes, Art Nehf, Fred Toney, Jesse Barnes, Spittin’ Bill Doak, Jim Bagby, Carl Mays, Stan Coveleski, Red Faber, Lefty Williams, Eddie Cicotte, Dickey Kerr, Ray Caldwell, Bob Shawkey, Urban Shocker)
1920, back when Babe Ruth was a NEW acquisition for the Yankees.
Now are all 17 going to come through.
Probably not… but with pitching taking center stage again, I wouldn’t mind seeing a few 20 game winners, even if it isn’t the barometer of greatness it used to be.