In this day and age we baseball fans have seen advanced statistics and advanced scouting change the way the game is played. Over the past decade we have grown accustomed to seeing a starting pitcher go maybe 6 innings then see a plethora of relievers, one specialist after another, get the call to get a batter or two out and try to preserve a lead or keep a game close.
It’s not a stretch to witness a televised game where the final 3 innings takes longer to complete than the first 6 innings. Long gone are the days of the complete game. Sadly, fans who have just tuned into the greatest sport of all-time may not even realize how common a complete may have once been.
Here is a list of double digit complete game seasons pitchers have posted throughout the decades:
|| Total CG
If you ever wanted to watch the slow death of a statistic you just did. There was a decrease in every decade but one and baseball has seen it go form 705 pitcher seasons of 10+ complete games in a decade to a single season. Here are a few notes from the research I did on complete games:
**We haven’t seen a double digit complete game season since C.C. Sabathia completed 10 games in 2008. No other pitcher completed double digit games in the 2000s. We have to go back more than a decade to 1999 when Randy Johnson lead the league with 12 complete games to find a pitcher with more than 10.
**We have to go back to Fernando Valenzuela in 1986 to get our last 20 complete game season.
**We then have to go back to 1975 to find that Catfish Hunter was the last to reach 30 complete games and he got exactly 30 and was the only pitcher to accomplish that feat in the decade. We have to go back more than two decades to 1953 to find the last pitcher to complete more than 30 games. Robin Roberts completed 33 games in 1953, one year after completing exactly 30.
**1908 was the last year anyone saw a pitcher complete 40 games. Ed Walsh completed 42 games that year. Jack Chesbro had the highest total that decade with 48 complete games in 1904. That is so rare that the last time we have even seen a pitcher start 40 games was back in 1987 when knuckleballer Charlie Hough accomplished that feat.
**Old Hoss Radbourn is the last to compete 70+ games 73 complete games back in 1884 but the all-time professional record belongs to Will White who completed 75 back in 1879.
So, is there any hope? I don’t see any.
Roy Halladay is the closest thing we have to a complete game artist. He has lead his league the past 4 years in complete games and is leading his league this year as well. If/when he leads the league in complete games he will join Robin Roberts and Warren Spahn as the only pitchers to do so. But it’s not the same. Halladay has never completed more than 9 games in any season (which he has done four times) but he is still the closest thing we have to a complete game artist.
Since 2007 there have been 601 complete games and Halladay has 37 of them. Halladay is so far ahead of the pack that he has as many complete games as the next two pitchers combined. Only 6 pitchers not named Halladay even have double digit complete games in that 4+ year span and only 185 pitchers have even thrown a complete game in that same span.
There were 167 complete games in 2010. During the past offseason you could have gone to Virginia and seen 176 Pablo Picasso originals on display. The art of the complete has become more rare to see than a Picasso original. So, the next time Roy Halladay, who has completed 27% of his starts since 2007, comes to town I will pay full price for the chance to see him perform a beautiful form of art that is almost entirely dead.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and you can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis | Tagged: C.C. Sabathia, Catfish Hunter, Charlie Hough, Ed Walsh, Fernando Valenzuela, Old Hoss Radbourn, Pablo Picasso, Randy Johnson, Robin Roberts, Roy Halladay, Warren Spahn, Will White | 3 Comments »