Checking the pitching leaderboard for the American League, we see Rick Porcello second to Masahiro Tanaka in wins. Rick's ten wins may be partially due to good run support and luck, but they are also a product of his continual development. In the past, he has seen misfortune more often than not, and a stretch like this was bound to come along. He now has 71 wins in his 5+ year career.
Those 71 wins place Porcello tied for 59th among all active pitchers in career wins. He passed Anibal Sanchez earlier this year. With two more wins he will pass Gavin Floyd and Dontrelle Willis (which means Baseball-Reference.com considers Willis "active" though he pitched less than an inning in the minors this year). The top of the leaderboard is mostly pitchers age 35 and over. Tim Hudson leads with 212 and is 38. Mark Buehrle is third at 196, but is 35. The youngster is 33-year-old CC Sabathia with 208, and he is facing long-term health questions. Justin Verlander's last win moved him into 8th place with 143 wins, and he is "only" 31.
The sabermetric community tends to ignore wins when not being downright hostile to the statistic. When we look at long career, where run support and other variables tend to even out, they help us measure long term success. When we see think of a pitcher with 300 wins we think "Hall of Famer", not "lucky".
In the past ten years we saw Randy Johnson (303), Tom Glavine (305), and Greg Maddux (355) hit the 300 win mark. It will be a long time before we see another, if ever. The game would need to radically change. Rick Porcello had such a young start at age 20, could he possibly join the club?
Rick has averaged 13 wins a year. If he wins seven more this year, he is at 78. Fourteen more seasons takes him through age 39. If he maintains 13 wins per seasons, he will have 182 more wins for a career total of 260 wins. Jack Morris only had 254 wins, with up to 37 starts a year and nobody counting his pitches.
Let's dream a little. How about ten more wins this year, for a 20 win season? That sounds possible with oven half the season remaining. Let's make that his career year. What if he maintains improvement averaging 15 wins a year through age 40. Then he has 81 at the end of this year, and 306 for his career total.
There will be an injury in there somewhere. Could you believe a career like this:
The back of his baseball card would show 300 wins, punching a ticket to Cooperstown.
Who else could even come close? Justin Verlander is at 143. Nine more seasons of 16 wins would be 287. Jered Weaver is Verlander's age, and 23 wins behind. Felix Hernandez has 119 wins at age 28. Twelve more seasons of 16 wins would be 311. Clayton Kershaw has 85 wins at age 26. Fourteen more seasons at 15 wins would be 295. Madison Bumgarner has 58 wins at age 24. Sixteen more seasons at 14 wins would be 282.
If had to bet on any of these, I would take King Felix followed by Kershaw, Verlander, and Porcello. Rick belongs on the list.
Then again, if I had to bet on whether any active pitcher will win 300, or none at all, I would take none at all. Not until four man rotations return, or pitchers are pulled earlier with leads (5 innings, 80 pitches, and a 5 to 1 lead) and then regularly pitch in relief for an inning or two between starts. I do not expect this to happen, but I never thought I would see third basemen in short right field either.