Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Truly Remarkable Feat

300 wins. Nice round number, but not a huge number.

Unless you consider what it takes.

You'd have to win 20 games a year, for FIFTEEN YEARS. Most pitchers don't last that long in the big leagues, let alone enjoy that kind of success.

Randy Johnson of the Giants is about to join the 300-win club, and what a long, strange trip it's been. I saw Johnson pitch for the Montreal Expos 20 years ago (he outlasted them, didn't he?). Tall, gangly, and wild as a March hare: in 29 innings that year, he walked 26 batters. But he also struck out 26, and that sizzling fastball that seemed to come from behind him couldn't be ignored.

It took The Big Unit a few years to figure it all out, and when he did, well, look out. Feast your eyes on his career stats, and pay particular attention to those 4 years in Arizona, 1999-2002. 4 straight Cy Young awards and some crazy strikeout totals.

Johnson no longer has the smoking fastball. Some nights, he has trouble harnessing the crackling slider. But when he's right, as he was in win #299 over Atlanta, he's still pretty impressive. Just ask Chipper Jones, the future Hall of Famer whom Johnson abused in three at-bats.

A stat popped up during the game that made me blink. In fact, I hit "rewind" on the TiVo to make sure I read it right. In the 22nd year of his career, Johnson can point to a .198 batting average by lefthanders hitting against him. It's a stunning number, and of course, it doesn't reflect the big-named lefthanded hitters who took the day off when Johnson was the opposing pitcher.

Soon, The Big Unit will win his 300th. He's on the downhill side of his career. He knows it, but he's fiercely proud of what it took to reach these heights. He should be.

No comments: