Bob on the worst “milestone” players – 300 game winners

I just got an e-mail from a buddy who asked “who was the worst 300-game winner?” and I e-mailed back “Early Wynn”.

I thought that the question tied in nicely with my Keltner List For Graders thread as it pertains to milestones, so I thought I’d start a thread with three questions:
1. Who was the worst 300-game winner?
2. Who was the worst with 3000 hits?
3. Who was the worst with 500 home runs?

I’m only going to answer the first one with this post.

I’m already re-thinking my Early Wynn answer. While I know he was the “luckiest” 300-game winner, I’m not so sure he WAS the worst. Wynn was the most undeserving of the 24 pitchers who’ve reached 300 wins. One can take a pitcher’s ERA+ and apply the Pythagorean formula to a pitcher’s Innings Pitched Divided By Nine and come up with Expected Wins. Wynn “should” have won somewhere around 270 games. None of the other 300-game winners is anywhere near 270. Off the top of my head, Glavine is the only other under 300, somewhere in the 295 win range.

Still, I’m not sure that Least Deserving 300-Game Winner is the same as Worst 300-Game Winner. I haven’t looked at Win Shares or WAR or Linear Weights, mainly because I don’t trust their numbers for players prior to 1920, at least as how they compare to post-1920 numbers. Comparing Maddux to Radbourn is a Fool’s Errand with these metrics as far as I’m concerned. I use them often to compare within a generation, but never across eras. They just don’t work well that way.

I decided instead to look at RAH Award Shares as my starting point to answering the question. We’ve only completed the RAH thru 1998, so four pitchers, Clemens, Maddux, Glavine and Johnson, can still add to their totals, but thru 1998 the Top Ten in RAH Award Shares are:
9.346 Grove
8.657 Young
8.587 W Johnson
8.380 Clemens (it looks like he’ll definitely pass Young and Johnson and might catch Grove)
8.167 Mathewson
6.543 Alexander
5.941 Spahn
5.531 Maddux (might catch Spahn, but probably not Alexander)
4.913 Seaver
4.367 Nichols

(Randy Johnson is going to force Nichols out of the Top Ten. He’s currently at 1.926, but from 1999-2004, he’s going to win a number of RAH elections. He’s going to end up in the Alexander-Maddux-Spahn range, over 5.000 but under 7.000.)

The next ten pitchers in RAH Award Shares are

3.333 Keefe
3.267 Clarkson
3.245 Carlton
2.833 Radbourn
2.738 Wynn
2.603 Niekro
2.230 Perry
1.926 R Johnson
1.733 Galvin
1.540 Glavine

And the bottom 4?

1.212 Ryan
1.196 Sutton
0.833 Welch
0.400 Plank

Putting things together (meaning I’m still going with a seat-of-the-pants analysis) I feel pretty confident that Mickey Welch is the #1 worst 300-game winner. I’m also pretty sure that Don Sutton is my clear #2. After that I’m a lot less confident. Eddie Plank, Tom Glavine and Early Wynn would probably round out my Bottom Five, but I’m not sure I know the order. Pud Galvin also would be a reasonable Bottom Five candidate. And I have no clear picture where to rank Nolan Ryan, but it’s awfully close to Bottom Five.

As an aside, there is one more pitcher I consider a 300-game winner: Bobby Mathews, as I include the 1869 and 1870 seasons’ professional games. Mathews, if considered a 300-game winner, would (reluctantly) occupy my #1 Worst 300-Game Winner spot. He was “win lucky” (not to the extent of Wynn, but more like Glavine), and “should” have had around 290 wins if one includes the two pre-National Association seasons. His RAH Win Shares is 1.833.

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