What is a quality start in baseball ? In 1985 Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter John Lowe created the stat known as the quality start. A quality start is defined as a start in which the starting pitcher pitches six full innings and allows three earned runs or less.
The advantage of this statistic is that it does not punish a pitcher who suffers from a low run support the way a win-loss record does. If a pitcher allows one run but his team is shutout, his quality start percentage will increase, but his win percentage would decrease with the loss.
The problem with this statistic is that six innings pitched and three earned runs results in a 4.50 ERA. There are 100 pitchers in Major League Baseball right now that have started a game and have an ERA at or below 4.50. Giving up four and a half runs per game is not that impressive considering the majority (63%) of teams score above 4.5 runs per game.
This statistic is also unfavorable to pitchers who pitch deep into the ball game. If a pitcher pitches six innings and gives up three runs, they get a quality start with an ERA of 4.50. However, if they pitch a full nine innings and give up four runs, they would have an ERA of 4.00, but not get the quality start.
Which start would you rather have your pitcher turn in? The start with six innings pitched and three earned runs? Or the complete game with four earned runs? ERA of 4.50 of 4.00?
Which is truly a “quality start”?
Considering the fact that 77% of teams this year are averaging more than four runs per game, a quality start should be rewarded for a pitcher that holds a team to 3.5 runs or fewer. Why award a pitcher for a start in which he allowed the opposing lineup to do what they have done all year long?
A quality start should be received when the pitcher does something that is not the norm. Such as hold a team below their run average.
I do not seen anything “quality” about giving up a run every other inning, which is what happens when you pitch six and give up three…
Quality start explained
A quality start in baseball is a statistic assigned to starting pitchers that pitch six full innings and allow three earned runs or less. It is called a quality start because starting pitchers are expected to prevent runs and get opposing hitters out. So, the statistic of a quality start measures a combination of those two critical factors.
The term “quality start” was credited to Philadelphia sportswriter John Lowe in 1985. He thought there should be a way to measure if a starting pitcher was doing their job well.
Quality start vs. complete game
The difference between a quality start and a complete game is that they have different requirements. For a pitcher to earn a quality start, they do not have to complete the entire game, but they can only allow three earned runs or less. For a pitcher to achieve a complete game, it does not matter how many runs are scored; they simply need to pitch the entire game for their team.
So, by definition, a pitcher can throw a complete game and a quality start simultaneously, but only if they allow three earned runs or fewer.
However, a pitcher can be awarded a quality start without throwing a complete game. The starting pitcher only needs to complete six innings to qualify for a quality start.
Criticism of the quality start statistic
Critics of the quality start statistic have several complaints, but most often, it is because some believe the requirement of 6 innings and 3 earned runs or less is not a good measurement of a quality start.
Most agree that the quality start is an important statistic, but many disagree about what the standard should be. Because of this, other categories were created, such as the ultra-quality start, the mega-quality start, and the dominant start.
In addition, the quality start statistic would allow a pitcher to have a 4.50 earned run average (ERA). By most standards, that is not considered a good ERA for a starting pitcher. It is because of this that critics of the quality start statistics have pushed for the more challenging standards mentioned below
What qualifies as a quality start?
For a pitcher to qualify for a quality start, they must be the starting pitcher and complete no less than six full innings without giving up more than three earned runs.
Is a quality start an official stat?
Yes, a quality start is an official statistic in Major League Baseball. A starting pitcher earns a quality start by completing at least six innings and allowing three earned runs or less. Some critics believe the standards for the statistic should be changed, but regardless, it currently stands at six innings and three earned runs.
How many innings in baseball is a quality start?
A quality start in baseball must consist of at least six full innings, but does not have a maximum number of innings required. For example, if a starting pitcher throws eight full innings and only gives up a maximum of 3 earned runs, that would also be considered a quality start. It does not have to stop at just six innings. However, any less than six innings pitched would not qualify as a quality start regardless of how many runs were allowed.
What is the average quality start in baseball?
On average, a quality start in baseball lasts exactly six innings 63% of the time. The other 37% lasts seven or more innings. It is worth noting that this percentage has been trending downward for the past five seasons. With increased importance placed on pitch counts, player health, and specialty pitchers, it is less common for starting pitchers to complete six full innings. Just five years ago, the ratio was 50/50 for quality starts going over six innings.
What is an ultra-quality start?
An ultra-quality start is an unofficial baseball statistic awarded to starting pitchers who complete seven full innings and allow no more than two earned runs. The concept of the ultra-quality start was conceived in the 1980s by critics who believed that the standards of the six inning/3 earned run quality start were not difficult enough.
What percent of quality starts are wins?
In the 2021 Major League regular season, there were 1,584 quality starts recorded. Of those, 864 resulted in a victory for that team, which equals a 54.5% winning percentage for pitchers who earned a quality start last season.
Do unearned runs count against a quality start?
No, unearned runs do not count against a quality start. This means that if a batter reaches base on a fielding error or a passed ball and eventually scores a run, that run will not count against the quality start standard of 3 earned runs or fewer.
One example happened in July of 2000 during a regular season game. Oakland A’s starting pitcher Mark Mulder pitched over six full innings and gave up nine runs, but because only 2 of them were considered earned runs, Mulder was awarded a quality start. The A’s lost that game.
Essential statistic for pitcher performance
The quality start statistic is recognized as an essential method to measure starting pitchers. What makes this particular category so controversial is that many believe that the standards to achieve a quality start are too simple and need to be more difficult.
While the standards are debated, baseball experts agree that the concept of a quality start should remain part of the game. Check out the video below presented by NYU on the relevance of the quality start in the national pastime.
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