May 6, 2012

The complete game shutout has gone from being a relatively common occurrence to a rare sight, Shrinking pitch counts and the increased influence of bullpens (to the point where “bullpen” is now a verb, as in “bullpenning”) have combined to make complete games, much less shutout,s rarer than hen’s teeth in a haystack.

In the minors, the need to get as many pitchers as possible on the mound and even lower pitch counts create a confluence of factors that make such performances even rarer, to the point that they largely occur in the seven-inning contests that comprise minor league doubleheaders.

That isn’t to say that nine-inning complete game shutouts don’t happen in MiLB, however. In fact, Steven Wright threw one for the Akron Aeros eight years ago today. He allowed only eight baserunners (five hits, two walks, and a fielding error by 2B Davis Stoneburner) and a caught stealing and three double plays meant he faced only four above the minimum. The major blemish on this stellar effort was a pair of wild pitches, a misstep matched by an uncharacteristic pair of passed balls by C Roberto Perez (matching his total for the entire month of baseball that had passed since Opening Day).

The most impressive part of this performance, however, was the caliber of lineup he pitched it against, most notably SS Many Machado (1-for-3) and 2B Jonathon Schoop (1-for-2 with a walk). This wasn’t some prospect-bereft lineup in a gutted farm system he was facing.

Wright’s major league career has not gone as smoothly. He is currently a free agent after being released by the Boston Red Sox following a tumultuous seven-year tenure at Fenway Park which saw him miss significant time due to injuries and suspensions (for both performance-enhancing drug use and domestic violence – neither of which I nor IBI are condoning by choosing this game to recount) and is unlikely to find a team to sign with for 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery early in the offseason.


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