In today's game the complete game has become somewhat of a lost art, this, in part, is due to several factors in my opinion. One factor is a change in pitching philosophies and strict pitch counts. A second factor is the specialization of the pitching position itself as we now see the closer, the set-up man, and left-handed specialists who are called upon to get left handed hitters out, sometimes only needing to throw a few pitches a night, among others. A third factor is the increasingly higher salaries for young, live arms, and the lack of true dominate pitchers. Teams are not willing to risk running a young pitcher, or any pitcher for that matter out there for the eighth and ninth innings because they simply can't afford to have a guy making that amount of money sitting on the bench or the disabled list with an injury.
Lets take a look at the complete game and how it has gone from the norm to such a rarity that fantasy owners can usually count on winning that category with 1 complete game a week.
In 1975 Catfish Hunter led the league with 30 complete games for the New York Yankees. He is the last pitcher to hit that milestone. The league leader in was Rick Langford of the Oakland A's and he did so with 28 CG's. Let's fast forward to as recent as last season, 2008, when Roy Halladay of the Toronoto Blue Jays lead all pitchers with 9. Its easy to see that as the game has become more and more specialized, starting pitchers are only being called upon to work 6 or 7 innings. The quality start has become the measuring stick for starters instead of the complete game.
Just to really put all of this into perspective, there are no active pitchers in the top 100 all time in career complete games. Randy Johnson leads all active pitchers with 100. Adding to this is that fact that after Johnson's 100, there are 22 former pitchers who have recorded enough complete games in ONE SEASON to jump ahead of all other active pitchers in career complete games. Will White holds the record for complete games in a season when he made 75 starts and completed all of them for the Cincinnati Reds.
The inability of starters to go the distance coupled with managers insecurity about letting them do it are reasons why fans and experts alike agree that Cy Youngs record of 749 career complete games is the record most unlikely to ever be broken.
One final thought, from 1901-1906, Jack Taylor, while pitching for the Chicago Cubs and St. louis Cardinals, threw 187 consecutive complete games. As you can imagine, thats an all time record.