Recently, former New York Times baseball writer Murray Chass has written a few articles blasting the Quality Start as a means of measuring pitching performance. I have never really given it much thought, but because he seems to hate it, I thought I would take a closer look at what the result of a "quality start" did for a team.
His basic premise in hating the Quality Start is this:
If a pitcher pitches six innings and gives up three or fewer earned runs he is credited with a quality start. Never mind that three earned runs in six innings computes to a 4.50 earned run average; that’s a quality start.
What I find funny about this is the fact that he complained about VORP and WAR...
I have considered WAR and VORP (“value over replacement player;” yes there’s that replacement guy again), and I have a basic problem with them. The replacement player isn’t real; he’s a myth, and I’ve never seen a myth play baseball.
So yeah, using "replacement players" is bad because they're a myth. But Murray saying that 6 innings with 3 earned runs is a 4.50 ERA. Who is this player that throws six innings and gives up 3 earned runs every time and has a 4.50 ERA? I guess they're only myths if Murray Chass deems them to be one.
So I started to wonder, what did the Pirates get out of Quality Starts in 2010? Sure, you can take the entire league and figure out the average, but what about the worst team in baseball? So here's what I found out by going through every game last season on Baseball-Reference.com.
In 2010, the Pirates got 67 quality starts from their starters, throwing 434 and 2/3 innings and giving up 103 earned runs. On average, in quality starts, the Pirates starters went 6.48 innings and gave up 1.53 earned runs. So in those starts, usually the Pirates starters got in to the 7th and gave up less than 2 earned runs. Not exactly 6 and 3.
How did the Pirates do in those games? The Pirates went 39-28. Over 162 games, that would be a record 94-68 and that's with the 2nd most inept offense in baseball last year. The rest of the season, when there was not a quality start, the Pirates went 18-77. At one point in his articles, the creator of "quality start" said that managers just wanted their pitchers to give them 6 good innings. Judging from the 2010 Pirates, it's pretty clear that if you're the manager and getting a ton of quality starts, you're probably going to have a better team than if a team isn't giving you a quality start. Furthermore, I'd rather have a guy go 6 and 3 and stay healthy than go 9 every time out and end up like Mark Prior and Kerry Woods....
And the Pirates starters ERA in quality starts? 2.13. Not exactly 4.50, is it?
So with this kind of information on not just the Pirates, but every major league team easily available for anyone to look through, why write a huge article complaining about the "quality start" when statistics show that if you get a quality start out of your starting pitching, you will have a better chance to win?