20-win candidates

For the Cardinals, there's not a great deal of drama left. The division title is a fait accompli, and so is Albert Pujols' MVP Award. Fortunately, we've still got those two Cy Young candidates, one of whom is going after his 18th win today. Pinto:

    There aren't many pitchers left with a chance at 20 wins. Adam Wainwright, with 17, may be the only one who reaches the milestone. He takes on the Brewers and Jeff Suppan this afternoon as the Cardinals finish their series in Milwaukee. Despite an ERA under 2.00 at home and almost two runs lower than on the road, Adam is a 7-6 pitcher in St. Louis, but 10-1 away. His 3.77 road ERA is good, and the Cardinals scored 91 runs in his 13 road starts, 7.0 runs per game. Suppan sports a 6.19 ERA in Milwaukee, so this may turn out to be an easy 18th win for Wainwright.

It may. Or it may not. Using past results to predict future results is a dicey thing because, you know, it's baseball. But yeah, there's a real good chance that Wainwright wins No. 18 today.
Even with 18, though, Wainwright's path to 20 won't be easy. Including today's game, he might start five more games. But the last of those would be during the last weekend of the season, by which point the Cardinals will already have clinched first place. He might pitch just a few innings, or he might not pitch at all. Either way, he might need to win three of these next four starts.

Does anyone else have a shot at 20 wins? Wainwright's the only major leaguer with 17 wins. Three pitchers have 16 wins: Chris Carpenter, CC Sabathia, and Justin Verlander.

Carpenter will start four more games, and obviously has to win all of them. In one of those games he'll face Javier Vazquez, who's pitched brilliantly all season. In another, he'll pitch against the Rockies in Colorado.

Sabathia has four starts left, and you have to love his chances against the Orioles, the Mariners, and the Royals. His only tough competition figures to come on the 25th in Boston, where the Red Sox are 46-21 this year.

Verlander's got a decent shot, because he pitches tonight (against the Royals!) and may have four more starts, against the Blue Jays, the Twins, the White Sox, and the Twins again. The Royals are 13th in the league in scoring, while the Twins, Jays, and Sox are seventh, eighth, and ninth.

Ranking their chances? Wainwright (like Carpenter) has to pitch a game at Coors Field. Verlander faces no such impediment, plus he's slightly better than Wainwright (which has to count for something, however little). So I'm going Verlander-Wainwright-Sabathia-Carpenter. And I really hope somebody makes it, because I do like my round numbers.

But we've seen a season with no 20-game winners. It happened in 2006, when Chien-Ming Wang and Johan Santana led the AL with 19, and nobody won more than 16 in the NL. And it'll happen again.