Complete Game Data

This morning we revisited yesterday’s action, noting that three different pitchers recorded complete games in the same day, a particularly odd feat given the rarity of pitchers finishing what they start these days. Curious as to just how rare it was for three CGs to take place in the same day, I coded my Retrosheet database for complete games, summed the occurrences together and grouped by the date in order to generate a list of the total number of such outings for each day from 1954 to the end of last season.

Looking for 3+ complete games from 1954 on returned 2,038 different days. As we discussed earlier, however, complete games were much closer to the norm in past generations. Change the initial year to 1964 and 1,561 days are returned. That figure is practically halved when the initial year is adjusted to 1974, with 861 days. From 1984-2008 there have been 245 days with 3+ CGs and just 46 days in the post-strike 1995-2008.

Strictly probing this decade, there have only been 13 dates from 2000-2008 in which three or more complete games were recorded. Twelve of these days included exactly three full outings while one, 9/6/2002, featured four complete games. The last 3+ CG day took place on 8/20/2008, when Mike Pelfrey, Brett Myers, and Kevin Millwood all went the distance.

Here is the complete list for 3+ CG days this decade, including Easter Sunday 2009, with the pitchers in parenthesis:

7/23/2000 (Pedro Martinez, Denny Neagle, Andy Ashby)
8/08/2000 (Russ Ortiz, Albie Lopez, Brian Moehler)
8/20/2000 (Randy Johnson, David Wells, Pedro Astacio)
9/21/2000 (David Wells, Dustin Hermanson, Jeff Suppan)
5/25/2001 (Hideo Nomo, Kerry Wood, Greg Maddux)
7/29/2001 (Steve Sparks, Freddy Garcia, Rick Helling)
9/06/2002 (Brad Radke, David Wells, Andy Benes, Kevin Millwood)
9/26/2002 (Jeff Suppan, Randy Johnson, Esteban Loaiza)
4/18/2003 (Barry Zito, Aaron Cook, Bartolo Colon)
4/15/2005 (Derek Lowe, Bruce Chen, Aaron Heilman)
5/22/2005 (Aaron Sele, Matt Clement, Mark Prior)
4/27/2008 (Vicente Padilla, Paul Maholm, James Shields)
8/20/2008 (Mike Pelfrey, Brett Myers, Kevin Millwood)
4/12/2009 (Aaron Harang, Kyle Lohse, Josh Johnson)

As you can see, before Padilla/Maholm/Shields accomplished this feat in April of last season, nearly three years had gone by since the occurrence of 3+ CGs in the same day. What is even more interesting, and perhaps disappointing in a sense, is that yesterday could have seen even more complete games. Imagine if Erik Bedard and his 8.1 innings were left in, or if Johan Santana and his 98 pitches toed the rubber for just one more frame (the Marlins were at home so there was no 9th inning for the Mets in the field). In that scenario, 5 CGs would have been recorded on the same day, a feat that has not occurred since 6/24/1995.

With the way things are going these days it may very well be another three years before yesterday’s activities are repeated, which is kind of sad. I’m not advocating a return to the pitcher usage patterns of the 1920s, but it is a bit annoying when pitchers like Bedard do not finish their games and a reliever records the final one or two outs, or when a pitcher gets lifted after hitting the supposedly magical benchmark of 100 pitches thrown. Things are unlikely to change very much–save for members of the Texas Rangers–but hopefully this data sheds some light on just how rare the complete game derby on display yesterday happens to be.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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We were 2 Bedard outs away from matching that 4 spot of CGs.