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Ferguson: Dickey's CG a rarity for the 2013 Blue Jays

Scott Ferguson, TSN.ca

7/1/2013 12:05:16 PM

Last Wednesday in St. Petersburg, R.A Dickey tossed a two hit shutout as the Blue Jays blanked Tampa Bay 3-0 to savage the final game of the three-game set at Tropicana Field.

It was the Blue Jays first shutout and first complete game of the season.

That seemed unusual to me, even for a team that is sitting in the basement in the A.L. East at 40-41.

Going back to last season - when the Jays' starting rotation was devastated by injuries - they had five complete games for the entire season, and four shutouts. Brandon Morrow had three of each for a team that finished 73-89.

Safe to say the Blue Jays are well on pace to have their worst totals in both categories ever. Complete games have been on the downswing for years and it is a rare year indeed when even one pitcher in all of baseball hits double figures in the category.

James Shields of the Rays was the last to accomplish the feat in the American League when he hurled 11 in 2011.

In fact, since the Blue Jays' last World Series title in 1993 only four American League pitchers - including Shields - have had 10 or more complete games in a season. The other three were Angels lefty Chuck Finley, Scott Erickson of the Orioles and current Blue Jays bullpen coach Pat Hentgen. The last to do it in the National League was Randy Johnson in 1999.

In 1970, 19.65 per cent of all American League games were complete games. As recently as 2007, that figure had dropped to 2.82 per cent in the American League and 1.85 per cent in the NL.

Dave Stieb was the first Blue Jays pitcher to lead the league in complete games with 19 in 1982. Hentgen led with 10 in 1996. The following season, the Blue Jays had co-leaders in the American League, with Roger Clemens and Hentgen each having nine.

The interesting thing about 1997 is that it was the final year of Cito Gaston's first stint as Manager of the Jays. They had a horrible season, despite getting that kind of quality pitching from Clemens and Hentgen.

Lefty David Wells led in complete games in both 1999 and 2000 with seven and nine, respectively.

Then we get to the incredible run of one Roy Halladay.

He tied for the American League lead in 2003 with nine complete games. Then he held the lead outright in 2005 (five), 2007 (seven), 2008 (nine) and 2009 (nine).

In Philadelphia, "Doc" topped the National League the next two seasons with nine and eight in 2010 and ‘11 respectively.

But - perhaps as a harbinger of things to come - he had no complete games last season. It marked the first year without one in a decade.

He is sidelined right now, rehabbing from shoulder surgery. Halladay won't be back ‘til August at the earliest and there is a chance he won't pitch at all for the Phillies for the rest of the season.

The game has changed so much over the past 20 years, with pitch counts, increased specialization and reliance on relievers and of course the designated hitter that's been around 40 years.

It's hard to discern, what the decrease in complete games really means.

In more cases than not, if you've got a pitcher who can take the ball from first out to last, you've got a leader and you've got an ace.

A Blue Jays pitcher has led the league or tied for the league lead in complete games 10 times over their 36 year history. They also employed former league leaders in Jack Morris, Dave Stewart and Phil Niekro.

Oddly enough, in the five years they won the American league East, pitchers from other teams led in complete games.

The fewest number of complete games to lead a league in any individual year is five, a record shared by Halladay (2005) and Dickey (in his 2012 NL Cy Young season).

For the record, Cleveland's Justin Masterson is leading the American League so far this season with three complete games while Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals is leading the National League with four.

Cleveland enters Monday tied for first in the A.L Central with Detroit, while the Cardinals are second in the NL Central, two games back of Pittsburgh.

There is no question July is make-or-break for the Blue Jays. They play 26 games: 17 at home and nine away.

It's by no means an easy schedule since they have three-game sets with Baltimore and Tampa Bay, a three-gamer with Oakland and their current four-game set with Detroit.

Just the same, with the heavy load of home games this month, the Blue Jays must make up a lot of ground in the Wild Card race, if the games in August and September are going to mean anything.