Baseball purists will argue all day long about the sad fact that pitchers do not pitch nine innings anymore. Not only has the closer’s role become just as important, if not more important than that of starting pitchers, but there are set-up men and set-up men to the set-up men now. And it’s not necessarily that some guys can’t go nine, it’s just that managers feel the need to save their starters’ arms for a long season and possibly to give them an edge in the postseason.
Well here’s my take. When I see Willie Randolph yanking Johan Santana, one of the game’s best pitchers, after seven innings with a small lead to bring in Aaron Heilman, there is something wrong. And as further proof that times have changed, Cy Young had more complete games than any pitcher in history, with 749 (he completed 217 games in one four-year stretch, and 92% of all of his starts). Meanwhile, the current active leader, Greg Maddux, ranks 355th all-time. That’s more than crazy, it’s simply ridiculous. With that, here is a list of the top 10 active leaders in complete games…..
1. Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres (109)—Even this iron man couldn’t hold a candle to Cy Young, but it’s not his fault he pitches in the era of bullpen specialists. He’s only had one complete game in the last three seasons, but, well, dude is 42 years old. 37 of Maddux’s 109 complete games came from 1992-1995, when he won four straight Cy Young Awards.
2. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (98)—It’s hard to believe the Big Unit began his career twenty years ago, and is still blowing hitters away at the age of 44. In 1999, Johnson had a career high 12 complete games, and also struck out 364 batters at the age of 35.
3. Curt Schilling, Boston Red Sox (83)—Here’s another guy who never had more than 12 complete games in a season, but his longevity (20 seasons) has certainly helped his cause.
4. Mike Mussina, New York Yankees (57)—Mussina has only had 12 complete games since joining the Yankees in 2001. Well, when Mariano Rivera is your closer, you’re pretty much going to take a seat in the ninth inning.
5. Tom Glavine, Atlanta Braves (56)—In 22 seasons, you’d think a crafty lefthander like Glavine would have more complete games, but he’s still managed to win 305 games.
6. John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves (53)—Surely Smoltz would rank fourth or fifth on this list if he didn’t spend three-plus season as the Braves’ closer. But with 154 saves on his resume, we won’t hold it against him.
7. Pedro Martinez, New York Mets (46)—Pedro hasn’t completed a game since 2005, and with his rash of injuries lately, it’s doubtful that he’ll go nine again anytime soon.
8. Livan Hernandez, Minnesota Twins (44)—Is this Cuban export really only 33 years old?
9. Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays (36)—Halladay is somewhat of a throwback, as he’s had 5 complete games already in 2008 in just 11 starts.
10. (tie with Halladay) Kenny Rogers, Detroit Tigers (36)—Rogers has been a steady pitcher his whole career, and his 36 complete games are a testament to his longevity more than anything else. Rogers’ last complete game came in 2005 while with Texas.
Source: Baseball Reference