#Hot Corner

The quality start and its discontents

Hunter Martin

Bruce Miles, mild-mannered Cub reporter, defends the quality start from its detractors:

What's that, you say? Isn't a quality start six innings and three earned runs, for an ERA of 4.50? Sometimes yes, but most of the time, it's a resounding no ... most quality starts are much better than the six-and-three baseline.

[snip]

John [Lowe, inventor of the quality start] rightly points out that a pitcher can pitch poorly and get credit for a victory ... But it's awfully hard, and it rarely happens, that a pitcher pitches poorly and gets credit for a quality start.

Just so. Three days ago, Jeremy Hellickson "won" a game in which he gave up eight runs in seven and two-thirds innings. Here's what Tim McCarver had to say about that:

The term "pitcher wins" drives me nuts ... Who came up with eight runs for seven innings being a win? That means the ERA would be almost 9 ... Pitcher wins. Rubbish.

Just kidding. Here's what he really said:

The term "quality start" drives me nuts ... Who came up with three runs for six innings being a win? That means the ERA would be 4.50 ... Quality starts. Rubbish.

Another prominent critic of quality starts:

Nolan Ryan has used the term "High Quality Start" for games where the pitcher goes seven innings or more and allows three earned runs or less.

If I were a snarky baseball blogger, I'd probably say something like, "We need to differentiate real no-hitters from the ones where the pitcher walks eight batters. Let's call the former 'High Quality No-Hitters' and the latter 'Sorta-No's.'" Luckily for everyone involved, I'm a lot more mature than that.

The quality start is simpler to calculate than pitcher wins and arguably more useful than ERA. What more can one ask of a statistic?

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