Monday, August 11, 2014

2014: COMPLETE GAMES #76, #77, #78, #79, #80, #81...

We've been extrapolating the 2014 complete game total for four months now, noodling around with the concept as part of a look at baseball's "endangered species" (and let's take time to bow/scrape to our "sponsor," that august but shadow-frought meta-enterpreneurial collective "Fright Quotes R Us")...

...but we hadn't taken the time to examine the underlying pattern in the recent CG data to see if delving into even smaller sample sizes could prove informative. We will do that in this entry...eventually.

But first let's note that August has started out with a bang (feel free, however, to substitute your own loud noise or representation of same here...) with 10 complete games in the first ten days of the month.

Our old pal Johnny Cueto returned to the CG column (#76, 8/5) with a five-hitter against the Indians as the Reds score a 9-2 win. It was Johnny's fifth CG of the year, and his first since 5/15.

On that same day, the Rangers' Colby Lewis went the distance (#77) with a six-hit shutout as Texas routed the White Sox, 16-0. Colby is vying for the slot on the CG list that is more than a bit unseemly: he's in the running for "pitcher having the worst season who threw a CG." And an "FQRU" to you, too, Mr. Lewis...

The Royals' August surge has been fueled in part by starting pitcher performances--with two of these being complete games. Jeremy Guthrie (#78, 8/7) was in the thick of things as the Royals cleaned up in interleague play (the hapless D-Backs and the struggling Giants), constituting a turnaround from his subpar work in recent weeks. And nominal staff ace James Shields (#81, 8/9) contributed a four-hit shutout a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, Madison Bumgarner (8/8, #80) became only the fourth pitcher in 2014 to have back-to-back CGs--but, like Jordan Zimmerman earlier in the year, his second route-going game resulted in a loss (again, to the white-hot Royals).

And finally, the A's received a plum performance from latest acquisition Jon Lester (#79, 8/7), who threw a three-hit shutout at the Twins. Lester's next start will be against those streaking Royals later this week.

So the long chase for record-breaking scarcity continues...and these ten CGs in the first ten days of August makes us wonder just how likely is it that the 2014 season will come in under the low mark (108) set in 2007. (Remember, we've removed CGs under eight IP for our count, so looking at Forman et fils will give you different numbers.)

The chart at right is an attempt to at least anatomize (if not answer) the question. Monthly totals for CGs are displayed: high totals for each month (covering years 2007-14) are shown in orange; low totals are shown in green.

When we do the arithmetic, we find that 31% of all CGs in 2007-13 occurred during the last two months of the season. If 2014 matched that average, the total of CGs for the year would come in at 103. The current extrapolation for the year, however, based on the current ratio of CG/G, works out to 112.

Looks like we may go right down to the wire...