What is a Complete Game in Baseball?
A complete game in baseball is when a single starting pitcher pitches an entire game from start to finish, going all nine innings. This is a rare feat in modern baseball, as teams typically use a combination of starters and relievers to finish the game. This article will explore how rare it is to have a complete game in baseball, the reasons why they are so rare, and the players who have achieved the feat.
How Rare is a Complete Game in Baseball?
A complete game in baseball is an incredibly rare occurrence. According to statistics from the 2019 MLB season, out of the 2,427 games played, only 60 complete games were recorded. This means that only 2.48% of games were completed by a single starting pitcher.
The rarity of the complete game has been steadily decreasing since the 1980s. In 1985, 75 complete games were recorded, a total of 3.77% of all games. By the 2000s, this number had decreased to only 33 complete games, only 1.36% of all games.
Reasons Why Complete Games are Rare
There are a few reasons why complete games are so rare in modern baseball.
Starter Pitch Counts
The main reason for the decrease in complete games is the increasing pitch counts that starters are allowed. In the 1980s, it was common for starters to pitch up to 120 pitches in a single game. Now, it is rare for a starter to pitch over 100 pitches, as teams prefer to have their starters remain healthy and have a longer career.
Specialization of Relief Pitchers
Another factor is the increasing specialization of relief pitchers. Teams now have a variety of different types of pitchers, such as long relievers, middle relievers, and closers. This has allowed teams to more effectively use their bullpen to finish games.
Increased Use of Analytics
The increased use of analytics has also played a role in the decrease in complete games. Teams are now able to more accurately predict when a pitcher is tiring, and are more likely to pull them from the game before they can complete it.
Notable Players Who Have Achieved the Feat
Despite the rarity of the complete game, there have been some players who have achieved the feat.
Perhaps the most notable player to have achieved the feat is Nolan Ryan. Ryan holds the record for the most career complete games, with a total of 293. He also holds the record for the most complete games in a single season, with 11 in 1973.
Randy Johnson is another notable player who has achieved the feat. Johnson recorded his 100th career complete game in 2004, and finished his career with 135.
Justin Verlander is the most recent player to have achieved the feat. Verlander recorded his 100th career complete game in 2019, and currently holds the record for the most complete games in the 2010s with 44.
In conclusion, a complete game in baseball is an incredibly rare occurrence. Out of the 2,427 games played in 2019, only 2.48% were completed by a single starting pitcher. The rarity of the feat is due to the increasing pitch counts that starters are allowed, the increasing specialization of relief pitchers, and the increased use of analytics. Despite its rarity, there have been some notable players who have achieved the feat, such as Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, and Justin Verlander.
- Baseball Reference. (2020). 2019 MLB Pitching Leaders. Retrieved from baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2019-pitching-leaders.shtml