Can Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw dominate in his 30s like he did in his 20s?
Kershaw turns 30 on March 19th. He enters the 2018 season (and his 30s) with 144 career wins and only 64 losses, a .692 winning percentage. Kershaw’s career in his 20s was one of the best in MLB history. Consider this:
- Kershaw is one of only 34 pitchers in baseball history to have 140 or more wins in his 20s.
- Kershaw’s .692 winning percentage is the second-best all-time of the 171 pitchers who won 100 or more games in their 20s. Whitey Ford was 105-40 (.724 winning percentage) in his 20s, the highest winning percentage in this stat.
Kershaw is one of three active pitchers who won 140 or more games in their 20s. C.C. Sabathia won 157 in his 20s, while Felix Hernandez won 143 in his 20s. (For the record, Sabathia has won 80 in his 30s; Hernandez has won 17.)
As I stated in the opening paragraph, the question will be can Kershaw, now age 30, match the success he had in his 20s. Can he reach 200 wins? How about 250? Or 300?
Looking at the 31 non-active pitchers who reached 140 or more wins in their 20s, it’s interesting to note that not all had success in their 30s. In fact, nine of the 31 did not reach 200 career wins after posting 140+ before hitting their 30s. Others flourished in their 30s… some even winning more games in their 30s than their 20s. For example, these pitchers with 140 or more wins in their 20s won more in their 30s than their 20s;
Pete Alexander (won 160 in his 20s; 213 in his 30s)
Roger Clemens (won 152 in his 20s; 202 in his 30s)
Greg Maddux (won 150 in his 20s; 205 in his 20s)
Tom Seaver (won 146 in his 20’s; 165 in his 30s)
There have been 11 pitchers who won 140+ in their 20s who won less than 40 games in their 30s. Unfortunately, some of these pitchers passed away during their baseball careers. For others, injury or other performance factors played a role in them not matching their win totals from their 20s. Those 11 pitchers are:
Dizzy Dean, 3 wins in his 30s… 147 wins in his 20s
Addie Joss, 5 wins in his 30s… 155 wins in his 20s
Wes Ferrell, 18 wins in his 30s… 175 wins in his 20s
Hal Newhouser, 22 wins in his 30s… 185 wins in his 20s
Ken Holtzman, 23 wins in his 30s… 151 wins in his 20s
Don Drysdale, 32 wins in his 30s… 177 wins in his 20s
Fernando Valenzuela, 32 wins in his 30s… 141 wins in his 20s
Chief Bender, 36 wins in his 30s… 176 wins in his 20s
Lefty Gomez, 36 wins in his 30s… 153 wins in his 20s
Dave McNally, 36 wins in his 30s… 148 wins in his 20s
Dwight Gooden, 37 wins in his 30s… 157 wins in his 20s
One final note: There are only two active pitchers under the age of 30 who have accumulated 100 or more wins. Rick Porcello sits at 117 career wins. He dies not turn 30 until after the end of the 2018 season. Madison Bumgarner has 104 career wins and doesn’t turn 30 until August 1, 2019. He certainly has an outside chance of reaching that 140 career wins in his 20s.
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When you think of 20-game winners in the majors, most of the time you probably think of a fireballin’ pitcher who strikes out a lot of batters. That is not, however, the case all the time. In fact, there have been several pitchers who have won 20 or more games in a season who did not depend on the strikeout for their success.
In MLB history, there have been 132 pitchers who have won 20 or more games in a season with fewer than 100 strikeouts that season. The interesting thing about this stat is that 125 of those pitchers accomplished this prior to 1970. Only seven pitchers have won 20-plus games with less than 100 strikeouts since 1970.
The all-time leader in this odd statistic is Cincinnati hurler Slim Sallee who had only 24 strikeouts in 1919 with 21 victories in the books.
Here are the seven pitchers who tallied fewer than 100 K’s when they were a 20-game winner.
Pitcher, team, year
Tommy John, NY Yankees, 1980, 78 strikeouts/22 wins
Ross Grimsley, Montreal, 1978, 84 strikeouts/20 wins
Dave McNally, Baltimore, 1971, 91 strikeouts/21 wins
Bill Gullickson, Detroit, 1991, 91 strikeouts/20 wins
Ed Figueroa, NY Yankees, 1978, 92 strikeouts/20 wins
Randy Jones, San Diego, 1976, 93 strikeouts/22 wins
Bob Forsch, St. Louis, 1977, 95 strikeouts/20 wins
Since 2000, there have been only three times where a 20-game winner had less than 130 strikeouts in that season. Jamie Moyer did it twice; in 2001 with Seattle when he had 119 strikeouts in a 20-win season, and two years later with the Mariners when he had 129 K’s in a 21-win season. The other pitcher on the list is Derek Lowe; he won 21 games in 2002 with Boston and had 127 strikeouts that season.
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