A lot of people don’t think he is a great pitcher, but he won 20 games 13 times in 17 seasons. He pitched a lot of innings year after year. He was in the top 10 in innings pitched and completed game 17 seasons. He led the league in complete games nine times. That will help get you to 20. He pitched decently in all those innings as he was in the top 10 in Earn Run Average 14 times, winning 3. The number of wins for individual seasons don’t look great, but he led the league in wins 8 times.
In 1948, the famous saying went around:
Spahn and Sain
And pray for rain.
Highlighting that the Braves won the pennant had only two decent starters despite winning the pennant that year. It is ironic as Spahn had one of his poorest seasons that year. According to WAR the next time he had as poor a season was 1960. Of course, that season is kind of deceptive as he won 21 games despite not pitching as well as usual. A typical season for him was to win 21 games with enough losses to be in the mid-teens.
I have 4 left-handed (Randy Johnson, Spahn and coming up Steve Carlton and Lefty Grove) pitchers in my top 10. I might be a little biased as I am left-handed. It is hard to argue too much against any of these guys being in the top 10 pitchers. Some might have similar credentials, but not many have better.
Some said he was helped by not pitching during WWII which meant his arm wasn’t overused in his 20s. Others said he would have won more games if he was allowed to pitch younger. Spahn was actually on the battlefield and he probably wasn’t thinking about how this was saving his arm as bullets were flying around him. He addressed the fact he could have had more victories, by saying he matured in the Army and was a lot smarter at 25 and 22. He also said he might have retired before 44 and he had pitched in the majors in his younger 20s. I see Spahn as someone who enjoyed life and I don’t think he looked back with any regrets. What happened happened. Seems like a good philosophy to me.