In baseball, a complete game (denoted by CG) is the act of a pitcher pitching an entire game himself, without the benefit of a relief pitcher. A complete game can be either a win or a loss.

As demonstrated by the charts below, in the late 1800s, it was common for most good pitchers to pitch a complete game almost every start. Pitchers were expected to complete games they start and to be relieved was seen by many as a mark of failure. As the 20th century went on, complete games became less and less common, to the point where a good pitcher typically achieves only 1 or 2 complete games a season today. To put this in perspective, as recently as 15-20 years ago, 10-15 complete games a year by a star pitcher was not unheard of, and in 1980, Oakland Athletics pitcher Rick Langford threw 22 consecutive complete games.

This change has been brought about by strict pitch counts and new pitching philosophies in general. Most pitchers now try primarily to get strikeouts, which leads to more pitches being thrown and more stress on the pitching arm. Many have come to believe that the risk of arm injuries becomes far more prevalent after a pitcher has thrown 100 to 120 pitches in a single game. Though Hall-of-Famer Nolan Ryan once threw well over 200 pitches in a single game (a 1974 contest in which he pitched 13 innings) [citation needed], it is now rare for a manager to allow a pitcher to throw more than 120 pitches in a start.

Given this, sabermetricians generally regard Cy Young's total of 749 complete games as the career baseball record most unlikely to ever be broken.

The last pitcher in the major leagues to throw as many as 10 complete games in a single season was Randy Johnson, who threw 12 complete games in 1999 for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The last pitcher to throw as many as 15 complete games in a single season was Curt Schilling, who accomplished that feat for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1998. The last pitcher to throw 20 complete games in a single season was Fernando Valenzuela, who did so for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1986. The last pitcher to throw 25 complete games in a season was Rick Langford, who had 28 for the Oakland Athletics in 1980. The last pitcher to throw 30 complete games in a season was Catfish Hunter, who did so for the New York Yankees in 1975.

In 2006, Aaron Harang of the Cincinnati Reds led the NL with six complete games, and C. C. Sabathia of the Cleveland Indians led the AL, also with six. This season, Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays leads the MLB with seven complete games.

Career LeadersEdit

All pitchers above are right handed, except for Eddie Plank.

Active Career LeadersEdit

No active players are in the top 100, all time:

Johnson, Glavine, and Wells are lefties.

Numbers through 2006. Courtesy Retrosheet

Single-season LeadersEdit

All pitchers right-handed except Matt Kilroy and Toad Ramsey.

Other RecordsEdit

  • Jack Taylor completed 185 consecutive games he started between 1901 and 1906.[1]
  • Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger share the record for the longest complete game, achieved when they pitched against each other in a 26-inning marathon that ended in a 1-1 tie on May, 1 1920.[2]

References Edit

See alsoEdit

  • Shutout (Complete game in which the opposing team scores no runs)
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