by Joe Giglio
First coined by John Lowe of the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1985, the Quality Start took on a life of its own in the 90’s and early 2000’s. The notion of a pitcher going at least 6 IP and allowing no more than 3 ER became a rallying cry for “deserving” to win or doing a “quality” job.
As runs soared in the mid-90’s and early 2000’s, the statistic actually had some merit. If teams were scoring runs at will, a pitcher that could keep you in the game through six innings had value. However, it’s hard to justify the same criteria being kept in 2012. Runs are down, steroids aren’t as rampant, and power arms are everywhere.
The Quality Start criteria needs to be changed. Here’s a look at Quality Starts through the years, year-by-year ERA’s, and which pitchers made a living giving their team a “quality” performance.
1994-2003: The Steroid Era
Year-by-year league ERA: 4.51, 4.45, 4.61, 4.39, 4.43, 4.71, 4.42, 4.28, 4.40
As you can see by the numbers, the Quality Start had merit. If the average of that decade was around a 4.50 earned run average, a starting pitcher who could navigate six innings of muscled up lineups and match the league average ERA was valuable.
Using the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, the following are lists of the Quality Starters of the Steroid ERA. The first list represents literal quality starts -- the most individual starts over the decade of 6 IP, 3 ER. The second list is the more common Quality Start list -- the most individual starts over the decade of at least 6 IP and no more than 3 ER.
Literal (6 IP, 3 ER): Andy Benes, Pat Rapp, Al Leiter, Esteban Loiaza, Pedro Astacio, Javier Vazquez, Shane Reynolds, Denny Neagle, Kirk Reuter, Darryl Kile, Pat Hentgen, Dave Burba, and Kevin Appier.
Overall QS (6 IP, 3 ER or better): Greg Maddux, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Al Leiter, and Hideo Nomo.
Considering that the league ERA is at 4.04 in 2012, the numbers need to be adjusted. If an inning is added on to the original Quality Start measurement -- at least 7 IP and no more than 3 ER -- a clearer picture can be painted of the better starters in the game. Considering that Carlos Silva’s QS percentage was referenced last decade when the Seattle Mariners gave him $48 million, it’s time for a refining of the numbers.
|Vogelsong has 15 starts of 7 IP, 3 ER or better|
Picture courtesy of US Presswire
Using the Baseball-Reference.com Play Index, the following are lists of the Quality Starters of 2012. Once again, the first list represents literal quality starts. The second lists the most quality starts for the entirety of the season.
Literal (7 IP, 3 ER): 18 starters have recorded at least two outings this year of 7 IP, 3 ER: Ryan Vogelsong, Anibal Sanchez, C.C. Sabathia, David Price, Jason Vargas, Jeff Samardzija, Wandy Rodriguez, Jon Lester, Clayton Kershaw, Tommy Hunter, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Dillon Gee, Johnny Cueto, Chris Capuano, Blake Beavan, and Henderson Alvarez.
Overall QS (7 IP, 3 ER or better): David Price, Felix Hernandez, Ryan Vogelsong, Clayton Kershaw, Johnny Cueto, Justin Verlander, R.A. Dickey, Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner, Kyle Loshe, and Hiroki Kuroda.
As the game evolves more, so will the usage of the quality start phrase. By adding an inning or subtracting a run, we can better gage how pitchers are performing in this time.
Joe Giglio is a sports talk host at WNST in Baltimore, co-host of the Just a Bit Outside podcast on iTUNES, former intramural coordinator at DeSales University, husband, and baseball fanatic willing to argue Jeff Bagwell's Hall of Fame candidacy at a moment's notice. Follow him on Twitter @JoeGiglioSports and check out his blog at joegiglio.blogspot.com.