MLB standings ordered by last time starter threw a complete game shutout

Joe Ryan, Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Joe Ryan, Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Twins starter Joe Ryan is the latest MLB pitcher to throw nine innings of shutout baseball.

Complete game shut outs do not happen all that often anymore in MLB, but Joe Ryan did just that on Thursday for the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins.

Ryan went the distance in Minnesota’s 6-0 shutout victory over the Boston Red Sox. He allowed only three hits and struck out nine with his 112 pitches. His best outing of the season improved his numbers on the year to an 8-4 record in 15 starts with a 2.98 ERA, an 0.910 WHIP and 100 punch-outs on the campaign. Somebody has to win the AL Central, so it may as well be the Twins.

In the wake of Ryan’s gem for Minnesota, here is how many days it has been since each MLB franchise last saw its starting pitcher throw nine innings of complete-game, shutout baseball.

Even though 16 of 30 franchises have done it in 365 days or fewer, Ryan’s performance is still a rarity in this day and age of big-league baseball.

MLB standings based on last time starting pitcher threw complete game shutout

While Minnesota leapfrogged the Houston Astros as the most recent American League team to do it, the most recent National League club to get a performance out its starting pitcher quite like this was the Chicago Cubs from Marcus Stroman. He went the distance for the North Siders on May 29 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays in their 1-0 shutout victory over potentially the team to beat in the AL.

And that is where this gets really, really interesting… By far and away, the MLB franchise with the longest active streak between nine-inning starts of shutout baseball would be Tampa Bay. Despite being a small-market club, the Rays have been exceptionally well-run for the better part of two decades now. They might win it all this year, but what gives with them being so far behind here?

Well, a lot of it has to do with the innovative pitching philosophy of skipper Kevin Cash and their front office. Tampa Bay is synonymous with using an opener. This means the Rays will often trot out there a relief pitcher to give them two innings and change before bringing somebody else in. Other teams use openers out of necessity, but no franchise has made it work for them like Tampa.

Ultimately, the numbers have to make sense for a starter like Ryan to go the full nine now. It has everything to do with pitch count. Starters typically get pulled when they are at or approach 100 pitches on the day. If they are really cooking, they might get closer to 120, but that is only if they are throwing something akin to a no-hitter. Even then, managers do pull their starters all the time.

Congratulations to Ryan on pitching such a gem, and may Tampa Bay throw one before we all die!

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