Blog Entry

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

Posted on: August 13, 2008 7:34 pm

I think one of the biggest changes in the sport of major league baseball over the past century has become the role of the starting pitcher.  I'm sure managers, like they have for the past 100 years have wanted their starters to go out and pitch the whole game and bring the team to victory, but a starting pitcher in 1907 was at least 12 or times more likely to go the distance in a game than a starter in 2007.  What I decided to do to illustrate how complete games have declined over the past century, I took a look at the league leaders by team in complete games for every tenth year from 1907 to 2007.  The results are interesting

1907 - (152 games played) St. Louis AL 129 CG,    (153 games played) St. Louis NL 127 CG

1917  - (152 games played) Boston AL 115 CG,*  (153 games played) Boston Braves NL  105 CG   *=Babe Ruth led the AL with 35 CG.

1927  - (153 games) Chicago White Sox, AL 85 CG, (154 games) Pittsburgh NL 90 CG

1937  - (154 games) NY Yankees, AL 82 CG,  (152 games) Boston Braves NL 85 CG

1947  - (154 games) Detroit Tigers, AL  77 CG, (154 games) Boston Braves NL 74 CG

1957  -  (154 games) Chicago White Sox, AL 59 CG,  (154 games) Milwaukee Braves NL 60 CG

1967  - (162 games) Minnesota Twins, AL 58 CG,  (162 games) S. F. Giants NL 64 CG

1977 - (162 games) Baltimore Orioles, AL 65 CG (J. Palmer, 22), (162 games) Houston Astros, NL 37 CG

1987  - (162 games) Boston Red Sox, AL 47 CG, (162 games) LA Dodgers 29 CG

1997  - (162 games) Toronto Blue Jays, AL 19 CG (162 games) Montreal Expos 27 CG

2007  - (162 games) Toronto Blue Jays, AL 11 CG (162 games) Arizona Diamondbacks, NL 7

I'll comment about how I feel and my beliefs on this later.  I just want to let you know that of all these league leaders in complete games listed that those teams finished the season everywhere from last in the league to World Series champions, so as far as attaching importance on who throws the most complete games is sort of moot. 

Anyway, happy reading, and please discuss what you think.     


Since: Apr 4, 2008
Posted on: September 18, 2008 7:51 am

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

You're welcome Powdr, it was my pleasure to share it.

Since: Dec 27, 2007
Posted on: September 17, 2008 3:05 pm

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

KidDude, I just read the blog you were speaking about, "Sports Appreciation Day" by sadurtimes.  Thanks for the link, I never would have known the story without you sharing with the rest of us.

Since: Apr 4, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2008 9:49 am

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

If you ever take a look at minor league statistics, you'll find that complete games are becoming just as rare, maybe even moreso than in the major.  If you don't develop your starters to go  the distance, you can't expect them to have the gas left in the tank to go the distance.  Its like organizations just won't let a pitcher finish a game when it looks obvious to the view that they can.  I've seen starters pulled after 7 and 8 innings with 5-1, 7-0 and 8-2 leads.  20-30 years ago you wouldn't see that happen.   Look at the make-up of major league rosters now.  Major league teams have a minimum of 6 relief pitchers and some teams have as many as 8.     

Since: Jun 29, 2008
Posted on: August 18, 2008 8:51 am

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

milwaukee has a bunch but its all sabathia

Since: Dec 7, 2007
Posted on: August 18, 2008 12:34 am

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

Great topic.  I called a Royals post-game show a few years ago with my pet theory on why complete games are declining.  Many of the ideas discussed above were mentioned.  My possible answer was the shrunken strike zone.  Pitchers today throw more pitches because Umps have made the strike zone smaller.  It is not unusual to see pitchers be near 100 pitches in the 6th inning.  When the strike zone was bigger and the mound higher, batters had to swing at more pitches.  Now, the advantage is for the batters, and it shows in higher hurler ERA's.  When you have to pump a pitch right down the middle to get a call, more often than before, hitters get the advantage.  Combine this with all the aforementioned reasons, and less complete games are the result.

Since: May 14, 2008
Posted on: August 17, 2008 9:02 pm

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

     I read this blog yesterday morning, then watched (via my fantasy team) Roy Halladay go out and pitch one.  If I'm not mistaken, that's his eighth of the season.  If he can do it, I don't see why other pitchers can't. 

     I can understand the guys that bring the heat ie; Randy Johnson or  Johan Santana, but some of these "finesse" pitchers should be able to go 9 plus.

Since: Mar 24, 2007
Posted on: August 14, 2008 10:13 pm

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

  Kid this is a very good topic. I have been asking this question for a good ten years or so. I realize the importance of the "closer" role, and as a Mets fan the recent weeks have proven this to be important. I do however question the pitch count that has been implemented into the starters of today.

  After reading through your list I noticed that the pitchers completing games did not as you stated affect the chance for a team to win. I have a train of thought on this, business. Like all major sports the game has become such big business, lets face it billions corporate dollars are at stake, that the teams forget about the game. Recently Johan Santana threw CG and it was the first by a Mets of the year. I know that was only because the entire bullpen and two starters had been used the night before. Even todays starters are getting fed up with the pitch count and would like to have more complete game opportunities.

  Now with all of that said this is still not the biggest issue, it has now filtered down to little league baseball. What this is going to do is put young pitchers into a mind set that they are a starter, middle reliever or a closer and can anyone really say what role the are or could be at the age of twelve. I do not believe that to be possible. Well those are my thoughts on the subject I am sure I will be back to offer up more inane thoughts of useless information.

  Kid I want to thank you for your kind words on my blog also and I am very touched that a little piece of my life seems to have meaning to more than just myself.

Since: Apr 4, 2008
Posted on: August 14, 2008 8:30 pm

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

Thanks for the comments and kind words husker, MrRSB, Lazer, cub and Hubie.

You probably think that I just research and post, but I read alot of stuff in MLB General and read most of the blog entries of those on my favorites list.  MrRedSox Baller has a great blog covering the 100 greatest major leaguers all time and I suggest you all to read it when you can.   This being said, I read the best written and most touching blog entry in the four months that I've been on Sportsline earlier today which I wish to give you all the opportunity to read and comment on.  It's a tie to a touching human interest story and baseball, please give this the time to read...

I promise its worth your time to read.

Since: Nov 24, 2006
Posted on: August 14, 2008 5:57 pm

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

Kid - as usual, your research is impeccable.

Lazer - real nice observations as well, especially #4 and #6.

I get a chuckle when I see how managers handle their starting pitchers these days.  While I'm sure they are huge investments, they coddle them so much - 100 pitch counts, etc etc etc.  Why, back in the day, some pitchers had extra inning complete games - I mean, wasn't it just 1991 that Smoltz and Morris had their 10 inning duel in the World Series?

Those pitchers back in the 30's and 40's and 50's and 60's were poster children for how to not take care of themselves.  Throw 25 complete games, all after staying out till 4am at the bars, smoking and drinking.  Funny thing was, they rarely got injured.  Maybe with the advent of scientific training, today's pitchers are more fragile than ever.  I dunno, it just makes me go hmmmmm.

I remember when Dennis Leonard started a game back in the 70's, he almost always finished it.  Seems like one year he threw nearly 300 innings in 40 starts - I miss the 4 man rotations. I miss the 8 man pitching staffs - you had 4 starters and 4 relievers, no long, middle, set up, situational lefty, or closer.  The only time the other 4 guys got in the game was when it was a blowout.  It really does add to the length of the game, bring in a guy to pitch to one hitter - by the time he trudges in from the pen and throws his warmup tosses, he's wasted 5 minutes of my time.

What do I know, only what I think.


Since: Aug 13, 2007
Posted on: August 14, 2008 11:45 am

The Complete Game - A Dying Art

One of the reasons for the lack of complete games, and we see it in Denver with Clint Hurdle is overmanaging. He tries to baby the SP by taking him out so he won't get the loss and leaving the game in the hands of the relievers.

Pitch counts-with the amount of money these guys make they don't want to overwork them but if you start in the minors having these guys throw 150 pitches it can be done. But SP'ers in the minors are babied more than in the majors so a lot of these guys have never thrown a complete game in the minors either.

Actually Lazer back in the 40's (after the war) and the 50's there were a lot more minor league teams per franchise. I am pretty sure.

One other reason is that kids throw more pitches in little league than just fastballs which takes it's toll on the young arms. If a guy can throw a fastball where he wants to he doesn't need a trick pitch. Just ask Greg Maddux.

Thanks for the info KidDude.

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