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Welcome to Snyder's Soapbox! Here I pontificate about a matter related to Major League Baseball on a weekly basis. Some of the topics will be pressing matters, some might seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things and most will be somewhere in between. The good thing about this website is it's free and you are allowed to click away. If you stay, you'll get smarter, though, that's a money-back guarantee. Let's get to it.

I love so much about the modern game of baseball and my complaints are usually on minor matters. These last few years (decades?), however, there is definitely something that has become more and more glaring. It might be more a longing feeling of nostalgia than anger or bitterness or anything. 

This thing I speak of is the long-standing, mainstay, workhorse, main character of a starting pitcher. 

There's been plenty written about the rash of injuries we've seen among pitchers in the last several decades and I'll be writing plenty about that in the coming weeks. In this space today, I'll not be pointing any fingers or anything like that. I realize there are reasons that the workhorse ace has mostly fallen by the wayside. 

I'm just sad about it. Consider this soapbox more melancholy than accusatory. 

It was just last week when Phillies starter Ranger Suárez was working on a shutout and the feeling truly started to creep in. I wanted the shutout for my fantasy team, first of all, and the second Suárez got over 100 pitches, I got worried he would get pulled. He did not and finished the game. It was really cool. 

The next night, Red Sox starter Tanner Houck threw a shutout and there was, of course, earlier in the season, the Ronel Blanco no-hitter.

That's three complete games for the season so far. Honestly, coming into the year if you told me to pick over or under 2.5 complete games, MLB-wide, through April 22, I'd have taken the under. 

It's rare enough to see starting pitchers getting into the eighth inning these days. 

We've seen just about four weeks of the 2024 season and there have only been 13 outings where a starter went at least 7 1/3 innings (via Stathead). The Phillies had four of those last week, by the way, so that was cool to see. It was also against the Road Rockies and White Sox, so those outings basically have asterisks by them. 

There have been 52 instances that a starting pitcher completed seven innings, but that's still relatively low in terms of the history of baseball. 

Again, let's leave out any possible explanations as to why this is happening, but let's look back at how progressively the complete game has withered away. 

  • Last year, only eight pitchers had at least two complete games. Sandy Alcántara and Jordan Lyles tied for the MLB lead with three apiece. 
  • Twenty years ago: In 2004, Livan Hernández led the league with nine complete games and eight others had at least four. 
  • In 1984, 12 pitchers had at least 11 complete games, topping out with Charlie Hough's 17 and Mike Boddicker's 16. 
  • In 1954, Robin Roberts completed 29 games! Six pitchers did so at least 20 times. Twelve did so at least 16. 
  • In 1924, a century ago, Burleigh Grimes and Dazzy Vance tied for the MLB lead with 30 complete games. And they were teammates! It's pretty funny to imagine a pair of teammates combining for 60 complete games in a season. For perspective, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have 38 combined career complete games. Anyway, in 1924, 14 pitchers had at least 20 complete games. 

The league as a whole is averaging about 5.2 innings per start -- 5.2, not 5 2/3. Unsurprisingly, after their beating up on the weaklings last week, the Phillies lead the majors in innings per start at six. Seven teams are averaging less than five innings per start for the entire season. 

Less than five on average! 

In going back 20, 40, 70 and 100 years, here is how much things have changed on that front: 

  • In 2004, starters averaged 5.9 innings per start, so basically just six. 
  • In 1984, the average was about 6 1/3 innings. 
  • In 1954, it was 6 2/3. 
  • In 1924? It was roughly seven innings. Seven of the 16 teams averaged seven innings per start. 

This season, we're very likely to end up with zero of the 30 teams averaging even six innings per start. In fact, the last time any team over the course of a full season averaged six innings per start was 2018 (Cleveland). And a century ago, nearly half the teams got seven. 

I'm aware that some of this is due to injuries, openers, not letting lesser starters see an opposing lineup the third time through, etc. It all makes sense. 

I'm just saying that it is very pleasing to see a starting pitcher getting outs in the seventh, the eighth and especially the ninth inning. That why my excitement on outings like Suárez's complete game is also a bit laced with sadness. It's a combination of "this is so cool!" with "I wish this happened a lot more often."