More and more as time goes on, the win statistic is becoming less and less relied upon when it comes to determining how good a pitcher is performing over the course of any given season. Given, there are many better stats to look at — ERA being the most comprehensive one — to determine whether or not a pitcher is having a good year, but the win isn’t completely worthless as some suggest.
After all, to receive the individual win, the pitcher had to place their team into position to pull out the victory in the ballgame. Although pitchers can still record a win after giving up 8 runs, as long as their team scores more runs in that given game (that’s what makes the pitcher-win controversial), the win is still something that a pitcher strives to notch each and every time out on the mound.
But not since 1968 has the baseball world seen any pitcher been able to record 30 or more wins. It was in that year that the Tigers’ Denny McLain tallied 31 wins in his campaign that saw him going on to win both the Cy Young award and MVP. You simply don’t see pitchers having seasons such as that one anymore. But if things continue as they have so far, it could in fact happen once again this season.
In order to have a chance of breaking the nearly 50-year drought of thirty wins in a season, a pitcher needs to be nearly perfect on the year. Back when Denny McLain recorded his milestone season, it took him 41 starts, as opposed to the 32-34 starts pitchers receive in today’s game, making perfection a necessity.
With that in mind, there are four pitchers who I feel have the only remaining shots at the coveted 30-win season this year: Rick Porcello, Jordan Zimmermann, Chris Sale and Jake Arrieta, who have all won every single start they’ve made this season.
Porcello is the least likely of the four to keep up the win streak, in my mind. While he’s had a decent season in a struggling Red Sox rotation, he’s also been the beneficiary of timely run-support. Porcello gave up ten total earned runs over his first three starts, but has settled down recently, not allowing a single earned run since April 20th. Even so, I don’t see his win-streak continuing.
As with Porcello, Zimmermann isn’t very likely to keep up his perfect start to the season, but that isn’t meant to take away anything from the start he’s had this year. Posting a 0.55 ERA over his first five starts, Zimmermann is truly breaking out as one of the top pitchers in the game. But despite playing in a Tigers uniform — the same as McLain back in 1968 — I don’t see another 30-game winner in Detroit.
Chris Sale has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the recent history of the sport, but I’m not convinced that he can hold things together to record a 30-win year. Even so, sitting at 6-0 on the season, with a 1.66 ERA, Sale is continuing to impress the baseball world with how good he is, and he’s seemingly only getting better. Perhaps he will end up proving me wrong when all is said and done.
However, if I had to put money on which of the four pitchers on my list I feel has the best shot at 30 wins this year, I would go all in on Jake Arrieta. There is no other pitcher in baseball who has been more dominant than Jake Arrieta since the second half of last season. After picking up another win on Tuesday night, Arrieta becomes the first Cubs pitcher since Mordecai Brown in 1908 to begin the year 6-0. That’s absolutely amazing when you think about it.
Despite the great starts the aforementioned starters have gotten off to in 2016, a 30-win season is obviously very difficult to achieve. Given all of the obstacles pitchers have to overcome in getting there, the odds of it happening yet again aren’t all that great. But even so, my pick to accomplish the feat, Jake Arrieta, has already defied all logic by going 17-0 over his last 19 regular season starts, dating back to last season.
The odds of that happening weren’t great either.