The “complete game” seems to have had the same fate as the black and white TV and phones with cords. In 2010, Roy Halliday led the Major Leagues with 9 complete games on the way to the National League Cy Young Award. Entering his 14th season in the Major Leagues, Halliday tied his career best 9 complete games in a season. It was the 4th time he had 9 complete games in his career. (Baseball-reference.com)
Robin Roberts. They sure don't
make them like they used to.
Just to give you a little historical perspective, let's take a look at Robin Roberts, another Phillie pitcher and Hall of Famer, who had a 19 year career. Roberts finished with 12 years where he had at least 10 complete games. 6 of those seasons he had 20 or more complete games and in three of those years he had over 30 complete games. The most amazing stat for Roberts is that between two seasons (1952-1953) Roberts had 28 consecutive complete games! (Baseball-reference.com) Are you kidding me?!
The game surely has changed with regard to what we expect from starting pitchers.
Although finishing games seems to now be more uncommon at all levels, there are some things pitchers can do to be able to pitch deeper into games and possibly complete them. Being an overpowering, strike throwing pitcher is certainly the best way but for all other mortals, here are some tips:
More first pitch strikes. A pitcher who is good at this should be around the 70% mark with first pitch strikes. Throwing low strikes early accomplishes a goal that I'm a big fan of: get the batter to put the ball in play within three pitches. Do that and your pitch totals will start to drop making it more likely you will pitch later into games. As Crash Davis said ...
Don't try to strike everybody out. Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.
Be careful how much you
throw out in the pen.
Monitor your warm-up. A good phrase is "don't throw a game in the bullpen." Some pitchers do this. Some are perfectionists and can't seem to leave the bullpen before a game until all their pitches are just where they want them. A pitcher has to understand that it's ok if all their pitches are not at 100% when leaving the pen. Nobody wins or loses in the bullpen. There are plenty of times when a pitcher has nothing in the pen and throws a gem once the game starts. The opposite is true as well. It is more important to develop a "feel" for all your pitches instead of mastering all of them in the pen. If you are not sure how many pitches you are throwing in the pen, have someone chart them. A teammate of mine once threw 81 pitches in the pen prior to the game. I know because the pitching coach told me to count them. That's almost an entire game! Work to cut down the number of pitches it takes to be properly warmed up. Any pitches you save means more pitches you can throw later in the game. Don't skimp on your pre-game warm-ups but do not overdue it either.
Use pre-inning pitches as needed. The rules state that a pitcher gets 5 pitches between innings and 8 if it's the first inning or the pitcher has just entered the game. There is no rule that says a pitcher must use all those pitches. On most warm summer days/nights I would hope to throw only three pitches between innings and have the catcher throw the third one down to second base. If I felt I needed more, I'd use them but if my arm was loose there was no need to throw them just to throw them. I'd rather save them for later. On another note, hitters hate this which is another reason to do it. No sooner have they put their glove down and put on a helmet does the ump say "we need a batter." When batters feel rushed, the pitcher has the advantage.
Get off the field
and sit down!
Stay on the mound. I wrote about the advantages of staying on the mound when you pitch in a post called Pitching Mistakes. Click HERE to go back and read how it helps pitchers.
Sit down. Between innings, go right to the bench and sit down. Conserve as much energy as you can. Get a drink, put on a jacket or wrap a towel around your arm and sit down. Save your energy for later in the game.
It may be tough to throw a complete game but utilizing all these tips might just add an inning or two to your starts.