Rob Neyer has a good column on how the death of the four-man rotation may spelled the death of the 300-game winner as well. I do have to admit that I got deja vu all over again when I read it. I thought Neyer covered this ground before.
Anyway, he makes an interesting point that he never really resolves:
How many pitchers whose careers began in the 1950s won 300 games? Zero.
How many pitchers whose careers began in the 1970s won 300 games? Zero.
We might have unreasonable expectations because six pitchers -- Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Don Sutton, Phil Niekro, Gaylord Perry, and Tom Seaver -- whose careers began in the 1960s topped 300 victories.
But that crop of pitchers represent (to repeat a phrase) the exception rather than the rule. In the long history of baseball, only 19 pitchers have managed to win 300 games in the major leagues. Rather than look at today's big winners and see a shortage, perhaps we should look at them and see a bounteous wealth.
Well, why? I can see that the use of 5-man rotations may have started to effect pitchers who started in the ''70s and 80s. But why none in the Fifties? And why are there six who started in the Sixties? Does the dearth of hitting have anything to do with it.
He points to the Hall-of-Famers debuting in the '60s getting a decision in a slightly higher percentage of their games. To this he adds, "Over the course of a long career, the difference might cost a pitcher ... approximately 10 wins ... but that's not usually going to make the difference between winning 300 games and not winning 300 games." So what does? Neyer points to five-man rotations for the current and future classes and never again addresses the earlier non-300-winner eras.
I am intrigued. I have a feeling that pitcher-friendly eras breed young pitchers who have the ability to win a good number of games over their careers. That would mean that there would be fewer 300-game winners in the heavy hitting Thirties, for example. I do not know if this is true. I envision studying the effect of hitting (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) for each era and its effects on the ability for a young pitcher to amass a large number of wins over the span of his career. This may be a fun activity to perform during the strike, like when your mom reserved some activities for rainy days when you were a kid. I'll keep you posted.