Where, oh where, has baseball’s complete game gone?
The 30 Major League teams made it through the month of May with one complete game.
Hats off to Walker Buehler of the Los Angeles Dodgers who managed to finish what he started one day against the Arizona Diamondbacks, throwing a complete game three-hitter with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
His effort violated the unwritten rules of New Age Baseball where algorithms and analytics limit pitchers’ innings and pitches. The data gurus allow starting pitchers to throw five, maybe six innings and around 100 pitches before alarms start going off in the bullpen.
Tylor Megill of the New York Mets sailed through five innings against Philadelphia the other night without allowing a hit. That was quite enough for him, though, and it triggered a bullpen parade of four relief pitchers. When they were done, five Mets pitchers had walked six batters, struck out 10 and thrown 159 pitches.
And together they owned the second no-hitter in franchise history.
Mets fans cheered the accomplishment as well they should. Baseball purists, however, smiled benignly, preferring the old fashioned one-man no-hitter to the more modern multi-arm version.
Gone, it seems, are the days when the manager handed the baseball to his starter and then had the starter hand it back after nine innings. That’s fuddy-duddy, old school baseball, not the swell modern version.
Complete games are becoming fossils, dinosaurs in a game that once celebrated that achievement. Last season, there were a total of 11 complete games sprinkled among four pitchers. In 2020, no pitcher had more than two.
That’s embarrassing when you consider some of the best pitching duels in baseball history. There was, for example, Warren Spahn against Juan Marichal one day in 1963. The game was scoreless through nine, 10, 11 innings when Alvin Dark, manager of the Giants, asked Marichal if he’d had enough. “As long as that old SOB stays out there,’’ he said of Spahn, who was 42 at the time, “so am I.’’
The game ended in the 16th inning when Willie Mays homered for a 1-0 Giants victory, one of 244 complete games Marichal had in his career. Spahn had 382. Marichal threw 227 pitches that day. Spahn threw 201.
Imagine pitchers accumulating those kind of numbers today.
No pitcher has ever thrown more complete games than the legendary Cy Young, who had 749 of them. Now you know why pitchers have an award named after him.