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Opening Day complete games

Posted by Andy on February 14, 2011

From my recent post on Opening Day starts, we saw that Ben Sheets has an Opening Day complete game. Indeed, here are the most recent complete games on Opening Day:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str GSc
1 Ben Sheets 2007-04-02 MIL LAD W 7-1 CG 9 ,W 9.0 2 1 1 0 3 1 104 65 82
2 Jake Westbrook 2005-04-04 CLE CHW L 0-1 CG 8 ,L 8.0 4 1 1 1 3 0 101 72 72
3 Hideo Nomo 2003-03-31 LAD ARI W 8-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 4 0 0 1 7 0 103 70 85
4 Randy Johnson 2002-04-01 ARI SDP W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 6 0 0 1 8 0 130 91 82
5 Bartolo Colon 2002-03-31 CLE ANA W 6-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 5 0 0 2 5 0 98 66 80
6 Jeff Weaver 2001-04-03 DET MIN L 2-3 CG 9 ,L 9.0 6 3 3 3 4 1 115 71 64
7 Steve Woodard 2000-04-03 MIL CIN T 3-3 CG 5 5.0 5 3 3 1 4 1 68 44 48
8 John Smoltz 1997-04-01 ATL HOU L 1-2 CG 8 ,L 8.0 8 2 2 1 6 0 105 71 63
9 Bill Wegman 1993-04-06 MIL CAL L 1-3 CG 8 ,L 8.0 10 3 3 1 6 2 96 65 55
10 Mark Langston 1993-04-06 CAL MIL W 3-1 CG 9 ,W 9.0 3 1 1 3 7 1 125 70 81
11 Terry Mulholland 1993-04-05 PHI HOU W 3-1 CG 9 ,W 9.0 4 1 0 1 3 0 104 75 79
12 Dwight Gooden 1993-04-05 NYM COL W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 4 0 0 1 4 0 101 63 82
13 Tom Glavine 1992-04-07 ATL HOU W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 2 0 0 2 9 0 103 71 90
14 Roger Clemens 1992-04-07 BOS NYY L 3-4 CG 8 ,L 8.0 8 4 4 1 5 0 100 63 54
15 Jack Morris 1992-04-06 TOR DET W 4-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 5 2 2 3 7 2 144 88 73
16 Jose Rijo 1992-04-06 CIN SDP L 3-4 CG 9 ,L 9.0 10 4 4 1 7 2 110 79 57
17 Rick Sutcliffe 1992-04-06 BAL CLE W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 5 0 0 1 6 0 110 65 82
18 Charles Nagy 1992-04-06 CLE BAL L 0-2 CG 8 ,L 8.0 6 2 2 1 2 0 96 58 63
19 Jack McDowell 1991-04-08 CHW BAL W 9-1 CG 9 ,W 9.0 4 1 1 1 10 0 124 90 84
20 Bruce Hurst 1990-04-09 SDP LAD L 2-4 CG 8 ,L 8.0 4 4 4 2 1 1 93 64 57
21 Charlie Hough 1989-04-04 TEX DET W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 5 0 0 2 5 0 128 77 80
22 Jack Morris 1989-04-04 DET TEX L 0-4 CG 8 ,L 8.0 6 4 4 3 8 0 122 72 59
23 Mark Langston 1989-04-03 SEA OAK L 2-3 CG 8 ,L 8.0 6 3 3 1 2 1 109 63 59
24 Don August 1989-04-03 MIL CLE L 1-2 CG 8 ,L 8.0 8 2 1 1 4 0 97 61 63
25 Rick Rhoden 1988-04-05 NYY MIN W 8-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 3 0 0 0 4 0 115 70 85
26 Dave Dravecky 1988-04-04 SFG LAD W 5-1 CG 9 ,W 9.0 3 1 1 1 3 1 90 62 79
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2011.

There are quite a few interesting things about this list.

  • There are a lot of losses on this list, including by Jake Westbrook in 2005 and Jeff Weaver in 2001.
  • There is a tie! I had totally forgotten that in 2000, the Reds and Brewers played a rain-shortened tie on Opening Day. That was also Ken Griffey Jr's first game with the Reds. Pete Harnisch started for the Reds but was relieved after the 4th inning.
  • There seems to be an unusually high number of complete games in 1992 and 1993, with 10 complete games across those two seasons. More on that in a minute.
  • Jack McDowell has the most recent Opening Day CG with at least 10 strikeouts, but there have been 11 more recent Opening Day games with at least 10 strikeouts that were not complete games. Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez are all over that list.

Here are the Opening Day complete games by year:

2010           0
2009           0
2008           0
2007           1
2006           0
2005           1
2004           0
2003           1
2002           2
2001           1
2000           1
1999           0
1998           0
1997           1
1996           0
1995           0
1994           0
1993           4
1992           6
1991           1
1990           1
1989           4
1988           2
1987           2
1986           4
1985           0
1984           3
1983           3
1982           5
1981           3
1980           4
1979           6
1978           6
1977           5
1976           6
1975           8

It's a little surprising that we saw 10 such games across 1992-1993 given that CGs had already become pretty rare by then. It wasn't since 1979-1980 that there had been as many as 10 complete games across two consecutive seasons.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 14th, 2011 at 7:48 am and is filed under Game Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

20 Responses to “Opening Day complete games”

  1. It's interesting to see three games that featured dueling CGs: Wegman-Langston in 1993, Sutcliffe-Nagy in 1992 (the first game ever at Camden Yards), and Hough-Morris in 1989. Looks like that was a game in which Morris had trouble "pitching to the score".

  2. Only 2 pitchers have had an opening day CG on their birthday (ironically it was the same date though different year...and none since 1973)

  3. and what's up with 1985?

  4. Although it wasn't a complete game, the best opening day I've ever seen was the 1985 Mets opening day when newly acquired Gary Carter hit a 10th inning home run to win it for the Mets.

  5. My favorite opening day was 1973. Dave McNally threw a CG SHO against Milwaukee (10-0). Brooks Robinson hit 2 home runs and Don Baylor added 2 2B, a 3B, and a HR in his first opening day start.

  6. Seems like '92 and '93 were a kind of "last hurrah" to the opening day complete game.

    The first 19 years on the list, 0 CG once, 1 CG and 2CG, twice each. From '94 on, 2CG once, and every other year 0 CG (10 times) or 1 CG (7 times).

    Talk about a clear demarcation line.

  7. Wow -- Randy Johnson threw 130 pitches on Opening Day 2002.

  8. And Randy Johnson was Hideo Nomo's mound opponent in game #3 on this list. Nomo got through an entire game on 103 pitches, his most efficient CG ever -- better even than his 1-hit, 0-walk game or either of his two no-hitters.

  9. Spartan Bill Says:

    9 of these were 8nIP CG-L's. Most of these guys would not have gone out to pitch the bottom of the 9th if their team had rallied in the top.

    Which brings up a question..why is 8 IP good enough to earn a CG, but 8 hitless innings doesn't count as a no-hitter?

  10. Hideo Nomo must have liked to get quick starts on the season: his game on this list came two years after his Red Sox debut, a no-hitter in game 2 of the season.

  11. Opening Day complete games » Baseball-Reference Blog » Blog Archive...

    [...]I had totally forgotten that in 2000, the Reds and Brewers played a rain-shortened tie on Opening Day. That was also Ken Griffey Jr's first game with the Reds. Pete Harnisch started for the Reds but was relieved after the 4th inning. ...[...]...

  12. nice work.
    thanks for the information.
    I will surely follow all of them.

  13. @7. Randy Johnson actually threw more strikes in 2002 than (for example) Dave Dravecky's total pitch count in 1988. And Johnson faced only 3 more batters.

    Hard to imagine a pitcher getting an easier time of it than Draveky. 24 of 30 Dodger batters had ABs of 3 pitches or less, and 10 of them hit the first offering (including Steve Sax who led off the home 1st with a HR for the Dodger's only run).

  14. Take a look at Jack Morris in '92. 144 pitches. Followed it up 5 days later with 118 pitches in 7 innings of 2-run ball.

    Did it catch up to him? Not by hist won-lost record (10-3 at mid-season, 21-6 at the end). But, he did rack up 5 CG by June 11, and only one more the rest of the way (although, he did have two 9-inning non-complete games in September).

    What a horse!

  15. How does the frequency of CGs on opening day compare to the frequency of CGs on any other day? My hunch is that they would occur more frequently, especially if we look at whatever "modern era" gets us away from the days when guys through 500 CGs a year. My thinking is that guys are pitching on 100 days rest, are amped up, and managers and players alike probably like the idea of something cool happening on opening day. Any way to figure out the CGs per G or something?

  16. BSK It could certainly be calculated. My guess is it's higher than average simply because all aces are pitching. There are lots of possible arguments, though, including the idea that CGs could be lower since all bullpen arms are fresh and available.

  17. I didn't think about the Ace factor, but that definitely would come into play. I considered the bullpen factor, but assumed most managers would go for the big play. Then again, when I used to play video games (meaning, 5 minutes ago), I would usually keep my starters on short leashes, especially early in the year. Get out to a big lead, especially on opening day when your whole pen is ready and you know your next 3 or 4 starters are fully fresh, why not put the SP? Of course, this was in games where the internal algorithms were inherently biased towards protecting pitchers.

    Have I talked enough about video games yet???

    Generally, it'd be interesting to see the frequency of CGs at different points in the year. Since CGs are in large part tactical (as opposed to being purely a function of results on the field, like a SO), it'd be interesting to see if there were any trends. Do they happen more so earlier in the year when guys are fresher? Do they happen later in the year with September call-ups in the opposing line-up and/or managers chasing pennants? How do the dog days of summer impact the frequency? Maybe a month by month look? Again, we'd ideally control for the era, though I don't know where the cutoff would be. Anyone able to run this in a simple manner?

    We could even (possibly?) look at individual managers.

  18. Steve Woodard?

  19. The rate of CGs on opening days could also be lower, however, because managers don't want to make their starters throw 9 innings all of a sudden after only having thrown a few per start in Spring Training. I would think this would mainly apply to recent years, when the idea of saving a pitcher's arm became a real concern.

  20. Malcolm-
    Absolutely. There are a lot of intuitive reasons to assume the rate would be higher, lower, or the same. I'm curious what the data suggests, both about Opening Day and whether there are any other observable trends.