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Kyle Hendricks tosses 81-pitch shutout

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In an age of heavy bullpen usage, complete games are rare. Shutouts are even more rare. Complete game shutouts with fewer than 100 pitches have always been rare. So rare, in fact, that a friend of HardballTalk — Jason Lukehart — has invented a fun stat called “The Maddux,” to memorialize the feat.

How about a complete game shutout with only 81 pitches? That’s pretty rare too, but Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs just tossed such a game this afternoon, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0.

In so doing, Hendricks became the first dude in nearly seven years to throw a nine-inning shutout with so few pitches. Aaron Cook of the Red Sox needed 81 to beat the Mariners on June 29, 2012. Hendricks’ was just the eighth nine-inning shutout with 81 or fewer pitches since they began keeping track of pitch counts in 1988.

Even more insane is that Hendricks not only did it efficiently, he did it slowly:

These days even the old coach throwing BP is sitting mid-90s, so maybe the Cardinals simply didn’t know how to hit such “gas.”

Hendricks surrendered only four hits along the way. He didn’t walk a batter. He only struck out three guys too, which is crazy in this day and age. But it also means fewer pitches, yes? And it’s not like the Cardinals sent out a crappy lineup today either. It was all their A-guys, as you would expect in the first game of a rivalry series between two teams battling for the NL Central title. They just got shut the heck down.

Work fast, throw strikes. It’s a formula that has worked for as long as there has been baseball. If only more guys did that.

MLBPA proposes 114-game season, playoff expansion to MLB

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ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that the Major League Baseball Players Association has submitted a proposal to the league concerning the 2020 season. The proposal includes a 114-game season with an end date on October 31, playoff expansion for two years, the right for players to opt out of the season, and a potential deferral of 2020 salaries if the postseason were to be canceled.

Passan clarifies that among the players who choose to opt out, only those that are considered “high risk” would still receive their salaries. The others would simply receive service time. The union also proposed that the players receive a non-refundable $100 million sum advance during what would essentially be Spring Training 2.

If the regular season were to begin in early July, as has often been mentioned as the target, that would give the league four months to cram in 114 games. There would have to be occasional double-headers, or the players would have to be okay with few off-days. Nothing has been mentioned about division realignment or a geographically-oriented schedule, but those could potentially ease some of the burden.

Last week, the owners made their proposal to the union, suggesting a “sliding scale” salary structure. The union did not like that suggestion. Players were very vocal about it, including on social media as Max Scherzer — one of eight players on the union’s executive subcommittee — made a public statement. The owners will soon respond to the union’s proposal. They almost certainly won’t be happy with many of the details, but the two sides can perhaps find a starting point and bridge the gap. As the calendar turns to June, time is running out for the two sides to hammer out an agreement on what a 2020 season will look like.