In search of a 20-game winner

I am not necessarily looking to confuse my readers, but now that I wrote in yesterday's blog that a starting pitcher's win total is no way to tell us if that pitcher is any good, let's talk about wins.

I'm wondering where all the 20-game winners have gone?

The Orioles haven't had one since Mike Boddicker went 20-11 in 1984.

From 1968 through 1980, the O's had at least one 20-game winner every year. In 1971, they had four 20-game winners in Jim Palmer, Pat Dobson, Mike Cuellar and Dave McNally.

Jeremy Guthrie led the O's in wins with 11 last year and with 10 each in 2008 and 2009. Since Mike Mussina was an 18-game winner in 1999, the most wins by an O's pitcher is 15. Rodrigo Lopez won 15 games each in 2002 and 2005 and Erik Bedard did it in 2006.

Meanwhile, 20-game winners have almost become a thing of the past in the majors. There were none in 2006 and 2009 and just four last year.

So, the O's had four that did it in one rotation in 1971, and the sport has had a total of four in both leagues combined the last two seasons.

One clear reason for this is the five-man rotation. While in Jim Palmer's day, a starter could get 40 starts in a four-man rotation, now most get 33 or 34 in a five-man if they never miss an outing.

If you won half your starts in Palmer's era, you could win 20. Do that now and you win 16 or 17 games.

Here are the number of 20-game winners in the Majors over the last eight seasons.

2010: 3 in MLB, 1 in AL
2009: 0 in MLB
2008: 4 in MLB, 3 in AL
2007: 1 in MLB, 1 in AL
2006: 0 in MLB
2005: 4 in MLB, 1 in AL
2004: 3 in MLB, 2 in AL
2003: 5 in MLB, 4 in AL

It has become very difficult for any pitcher, even the best of the best, to win 20 games. In fact, there were 14 pitchers that won 17 or more games in all of baseball last year. That's 14 for 30 teams, so less than one 17-game winner for every two clubs.

Another reason for the drop in individual win totals is that pitchers are in the game for a shorter length of time in this era than in Palmer's day, when a complete game was commonplace. Maybe now, pitchers are just not around to get a decision on many nights.

I miss all the 20-game winners.

What do you make of all this, and has 17 wins become the new 20?

For a bonus question today, what has been the biggest surprise and/or disappointment for you in O's spring training this year and what are you looking to see the club or a player accomplish in the remaining games?

Thanks: It was great to see another nice crowd last night at Hightopps in Timonium. We got some more great questions and comments from the fans and had a rather animated and spirited discussion of O's baseball.

We will be at Hightopps to meet and talk with fans next on April 1st at 6 p.m. Yes, that is the night of the O's season opener at Tampa. Come on out to Hightopps on opening night!

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