Surgeries and other medical breakthroughs are allowing pitchers to extend their careers later than ever. But there's still a lot of luck involved as well.
From 2005-08, Webb led all MLB pitchers with 70 wins, and was as good (and durable) a pitcher as there was for a three-year stretch from 2006-08. He took over the ace role from Randy Johnson in Arizona and won the NL Cy Young in 2006, going 16-8, then increased his win total in each of the next two years, going 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA and 194 strikeouts in an NL-leading 236 1/3 innings in 2007, then 22-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 2008. He was second in NL Cy Young voting in 2007 (Jake Peavy) and 2008 (Tim Lincecum).
He pitched in one more game in his career, the season-opener in 2009, before a shoulder injury shut him down, and it turned out it was for good. He attempted a comeback with the Texas Rangers and pitched in four Double-A games in 2011 -- going 0-2 with a 9.75 ERA in four starts -- before the rotator cuff flared up again. He was 87-62 witha 3.27 ERA in his six-plus seasons.
"With retirement, Brandon looks forward to focusing on more time with his family,'' his agent said in a statement, according to ESPN.com. "He would like to thank all the countless coaches, players and friends for their support during his career.''
Webb isn't the only pitcher who announced his retirement in the last couple of days. Kevin Milwood, who bounced around the majors as a decent starter for 16 seasons, announced he was retiring at age 38.