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Is Quality Starts a useful stat? (not really)

Posted by Andy on August 30, 2011

A Quality Start is an official stat assigned to a starting pitcher who goes at least 6 innings while giving up no more than 3 earned runs. Let's take a look at this stat in a bit more detail to see if it's all that useful.

Here is the fraction of all starts going back to 1919 that were Quality Starts, using the definition as stated above:

 

 

Like a lot of pitching stats, this one peaked in the 1960s and 1970s when scoring was quite low. It dropped dramatically in 1987 when home runs were hit at a record pace. In 1993, there was a sudden drop from 53.6% to 50.4%, and the rate continued to fall each of the next 3 years. Over the course of the steroid era, the QS% bounced between 46% and 51%. Then, in 2010 and 2011, as run scoring has dropped again, QS% has increased dramatically to pre-steroid era levels. This year's rate of 54.2% is the highest since 1988's 56.4%.

But are quality starts helping teams win? Here's the percentage of team victories when their starter throws a quality start:

 

The win percentage was around 70% for the first half of the 20th century. It started to drop in the 1960s as more and more quality starts were being thrown (see the first graph). Then in the steroids era, the win % started to climb again. That makes sense--when run scoring was up, if your pitcher was good enough to give up no more than 3 runs over 6 innings, you had a pretty decent shot at winning. The win rate peaked in 1996, reaching nearly 70% for just the second time since 1958 (with the other being the HR-aberrant 1987). But as scoring has fallen off in recent years, the team win % in quality starts has fallen off too. This year's rate of 66.0% very slightly lower than 1981 and 1976's rates, and the last year lower than 2011 was way back in 1972.
If we look at 2011 teams with the most pitchers throwing at least 10 quality starts, it shows that the stat is a bit flawed. Among the leading teams (with 5 such pitchers) are the Reds, Twins, and Pirates, all teams that are near or below .500, with the Twins in particular having a surprisingly poor record despite all the quality starts. Meanwhile the Red Sox have just two pitchers with 10 quality starts and yet are one of the best teams in baseball. Another near-playoff team, the Angels, have just 3 pitchers with 10 quality starts.
The quality start stat is interesting, but only at a surface sort of level.

 

 

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 at 10:10 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

126 Responses to “Is Quality Starts a useful stat? (not really)”

  1. I think quality starts is a much more useful stat than W & L.
    A pitcher can throw a 1 hitter and lose the game 1-0. Its not his fault that his team couldnt score any runs. Conversely, he can give up 10 runs but his team scores 11 and he gets the win.

    The QS is a much better barometer of how well he pitched.

  2. Les, I'd agree with that. See my previous posts on how totally useless W & L are...QS is only somewhat useless.

  3. Andy, wouldn't a quality start be a better tool if it were seasonally adjusted? Averaging three runs in six innings in 1968 would have been a ticket to the bullpen. Why not refine it?

  4. Mike, yeah I guess the issue is that lowering the bar to, say, 2 runs (or I guess that's raising the bar, actually) is a HUGE jump and so it really changes the stat. The bottom line is we might as well just look at ERA+ and IP/start...yeah it's not just one simple number, but those 2 have way less likelihood of major deception.

  5. The qualifiers for a QS seem to be completely arbitrary. If a pitcher went 6 IP with 3 ER for 30 starts, they'd have 30 QS and a 4.50 ERA. I don't think anyone would refer to this pitcher as a "quality" pitcher.

  6. There is some flawed reasoning here. It's not that I think the QS is the greatest stat ever, but you have really cherry picked here.

    Consider: The Reds have way under-performed their run differential and in a normal year, would be in the hunt for a playoff spot.

    The Pirates have 70 QS as a team. The Twins have 68. The Red Sox have 66. This is not an enormous difference. How many pitchers those are distributed over is irrelevant.

    The Red Sox have, in fact, had very mediocre pitching. But, you know, they can kind of hit.

    Like the Red Sox, the Pirates have mediocre pitching. Unlike the Red Sox, they can't really hit. It's almost as if the difference in offensive production explains how they can have similar pitching performances but radically different records.

    The Twins are just terrible, but they work as an example. They have had more QS than they should have, given the performance.

    Again, I'm not a big fan of the QS, but this is not very good analysis.

  7. It's another stat that hasn't kept up with the times... but seeing all those points on the graph in between 65%-70% makes me think that there's some signal amid the noise; overall win% is obviously fixed at .500, so a QS does have a positive effect. Is it possible to tighten up the number, filter out more of the noise?

    I think there's utility in knowing, not just the overall season average of a pitcher's efforts (such as WHIP and ERA+ and k/bb rates), but how often he meets a particular benchmark. A guy with three shutouts and three CG, 6-run efforts has the same ERA as the guy who gives up 2 runs in six IP lke a metronome; but the second pitcher has given the team six legit shots at a victory, vs. three certain wins and three probable losses.

    I've always thought that 3 runs in 7 IP (or 2 in 6 IP) should be the standard.

  8. Jason, that's a fair criticism of my 10-QS table, but I would like to assure you that I didn't cherry pick it. That's the first thing that came to my mind, I searched it in the PI, and then critiqued it here. What's really at fault is the thing I chose to search, which for example created a much larger artificial disparity in the QS between the Twins and Red Sox.

    I just want to assure you that I didn't go cherry picking for a search that damns the QS.

  9. Andy @4, I guess I'd be more inclined to make it 3 runs in 7 innings than 2 in 6. But in either event, your point is taken.

  10. #5 David, that pitcher would have been awesome around 1996 or 2001.

    Remember in those years, MLB ERA was over 5:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/pitch.shtml

    it's all about context...

  11. Mike, of course the beauty of the Play Index is that you can make it whatever you want.

    Most starts in 2011, minimum 7 IP and no more than 2 ER:

  12. Analyzing Quality Starts is a welcome endeavor, and while I'm a QS believer, I do think its definition should be changed. (The simplest worthwhile change would be to measure Runs, not Earned Runs.)

    But why look at teams with the most pitchers who have [some arbitrary number of] QS? That introduces two unnecessary levels of abstraction -- the distribution among a certain number of pitchers, and the arbitrary threshold number of QS per pitcher. Actually, three levels -- because on a team basis, the W% in a QS is highly dependent on their own offense, and obviously the Twins and Pirates are poor offensive teams.

    Because a QS can be anything from 3 ER in 6 IP to a CG shutout, the actual value of smaller groups of QS can vary significantly. Thus, finding that this or that team with a high rate of QS does not have a great W% does not, I think, say much about the QS in general. If you're going to look at it on a team level, you can only reach team-level conclusions.

    Also, when I look at the 2nd graph, what strikes me is that the team's W% in a Quality Start is between 64% and 73% every year.

  13. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    Andy, I know you have already done WAAAY more research into Quality Starts than you wished to, but it would be interesting to see how the best pitchers in any given year compare in QS versus other advaned stats.

    Say, for example, a Top-Ten list of QS in each league listed next to adjusted pitching wins or WAR for pitchers? Then we can se how well QS correlates with reality.

  14. JA, that's a good explanation of Jason's criticism in #6.

  15. Lawrence, well we can look at it for 2011 at least.

    AL:

    WAR for Pitchers s c a p y
    1. Verlander (DET) 7.4
    2. Weaver (LAA) 6.2
    3. Beckett (BOS) 5.6
    4. Sabathia (NYY) 5.2
    5. Romero (TOR) 5.1
    6. Hernandez (SEA) 4.4
    7. Masterson (CLE) 4.3
    8. Lester (BOS) 4.2
    9. Buehrle (CHW) 3.9
    Shields (TBR) 3.9

  16. Only Lester appears on the WAR list but not the QS list.

  17. I think a QS should be 7 or more innings and 3ER or less...that equates to a 3.85 ERA which isn't bad in today's game...6 and 3 is a joke.

  18. Spartan Bill Says:

    After Bill James introduced Game Scores, I started going onto a pitchers game log and ordering the individual games based on GS. I count anything above 60 as a "win". Then I click it again to get the figures in ascending order and anything 40 and under as a "loss". I express the figures in the same manner as a W-L record.

    For example, here are a few selected 2011 figures as an example.

    Weaver 20-3
    Haren 14-4
    Santana 11-3
    Piniero 3-10
    Chatwood 7-8
    Verlander 21-1
    Sabathia 14-3
    Burnett 6-7
    Lackey 4-8
    King Felix 14-3

  19. isn't it more important to compare the winning percentage of the starting pitcher throwing a quality start vs the winning percentage of the team?.... we track the winning percentage of the starting pitcher when he throws a quality starts, and our winning percentage numbers are in the .800 range....

  20. Mark, when it comes to wins and losses, the only thing I care about is what happens to the team, not individual records.

  21. ok.... thats fair, but when you look at the teams wins and losses, you have to bring the bullpen into the equation, don't you?....

  22. Johnny Twisto Says:

    There's no question that a list of quality start leaders will be quality pitchers. David's example at #5 is pointless. Such a pitcher would be as common as the closer who gets 50 saves while allowing 2 runs in each of them, or the guy with 40 homers, each of which are 300-foot pop ups which wrap around the Pesky Pole. I.e., he doesn't exist.

    The question is, does the statistic tell us something which other numbers don't? If I want to know if a pitcher is good, my first choice won't be to check his QS, but his ERA or K/BB or something. But QS are useful in breaking down a SP's season into the discrete building blocks of his season. A 3.00 ERA is fine and dandy, but how many individual games does it contribute to winning? If we see a guy had 25 QS in 32 starts, ok, now we know he made a strong contribution to his team's chances in most of his starts. As we discussed briefly a few weeks ago, it seems there is a slight advantage in being consistently good every game, rather than alternating excellence and crapitude, so in that sense we'd probably prefer the guy with more QS than a pitcher who is otherwise statistically similar.

  23. we also track quality start / no decisons, which should be talked about as well....

  24. What about introducing variances on the quality start like a quality+ start and a quality- start, either making them absolute numbers or fixing them to a team win percentage that they achieve (QS+ is a 70% team winning percentage or more). Just an idea.

  25. It's just a pitching stat. It doesn't tell us anything about the team's hitting, which is, of course, the other side of the equation when it comes to wins and losses. The Twins have a lot of QS and few wins because their hitting is atrocious. The Red Sox have few QS and a lot of wins because they hit really well. (The Angels I can't figure out.)

    It would be no more surprising than picking some other decent-but-not-great stat, like 10+ hits in a game or 0 HR allowed, and finding out that teams win 65-70% of the time when they do it. There would be teams that get 10+ hits or give up 0 HR a lot but have a poor record because their pitching or hitting is poor, respectively. The QS is just better-recognized and tracked that some of these examples.

  26. Spartan Bill Says:

    @Cameron #23

    The only positive I think of about a QS start is that it is unarguably simple enough for the casual fan to understand.

    if you are going to make them do math or understand 3 separate starts you defeat that aspect of it without really bringing anything positive to the table.

  27. I always thought that QS is most useful in terms of "giving your team a chance to win". If you're down 3-0 through 6, that's not all that bad. You're team still has 3 more innings to score 3 runs. Also, I thought it was 6 innings, 3 runs allowed, not 3 ER. If you use ER, then QS gets a little muddied in my opinion because a pitcher can give up a couple of unearned runs and reduce his team's chance of winning.

    I think QS is a good stat for seeing how many individual games a pitcher pitched well enough to win or at least give his team a chance to win with league average offense. A pitcher with a high QS% would be a very reliable pitcher in my mind, as it shows he consistently goes out there a pitches a solid game. He's not going to pitch a shutout one day and give up 5+ runs the next.

  28. Not unlike every argument about the usefulness of a stat, it comes back to one thing: every stat is worthless taken in a vacuum. The number of quality starts or wins or ERA+ or strikeouts or whatever is worthless until combined with other stats (figuratively) to complete a full pitcure.

    When we argue about 'teams should win if x' or 'x isn't worthy of being called quality' it doesn't mean anything. Everything in the game isn't equal, things are unfair, certain players get less fastballs than others, certain times defenses are in the exact perfect spot, sometimes Hunter Pence slips on the warning track and a flyball drops and turns into a hit. We aren't perfect and everything isn't equal, so the best you can do is say using these stats, this guy had a decent year. Quality starts being one of them, or not, it's really your choice. There's never going to be total agreement on something so driven by personal preference anyway. I mean, some people love pitchers that strike more guys out, others don't care how the outs were made... it's really all subjective.

    The point is, QS by itself is worthless, as is every other stat...

  29. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @15/ Andy - thanks. At first, I thought it was odd that Beckett was 3rd in WAR, but only 9th in QS. Then I realized that Beckett was only two QS short of being third in QS, and that he had missed starts being on the DL.

    The correlation looks pretty good overall, but I am not sure how QS compares to other stats.

    @22/ Johnny Twisto - not to "pile on" to your criticism of David in comment #5, but yes David is creating a totally hypothetical situation that would never occur in reality. For example, one could claim that RBI are not useful for evaluating hitters, since a batter could hit an infield groundout with a runner on third and less than two out in every game of the year, and bat .000 but have 162 RBI.

    This is beyond absurd. There are many reasons that RBI are a flawed stat, the above is not one of them.

    If you changed the runs/innings pitched in a QS even a little, the average ERA would be _much_ better than 4.50:

    -7 innings and three runs: 3.86 ERA
    -6 innings and TWO runs: 3.00 ERA
    -7 innings and TWO runs: 2.86 ERA

    QS need to be evaluated in relation to the run-scoring environment. In high-scoring eras, it is quite informative; in low-scoring eras, somewhat less so.

  30. Kahuna Tuna Says:

    -7 innings and TWO runs: 2.86 ERA

    This needs correction. Two for seven in batting is .286, but two runs in seven innings pitched is a 2.57 ERA (.286 * 9).

  31. Are Quality Starts and/or Premium Starts (2 runs/ 7ip) projectable? - Is it reasonable to expect the same number of Quality/Premium starts out of a pitcher from year to year?

  32. I'm not sure what the fuss is about here. QS is just supposed to be an indicator that the starting pitcher gave the team a fairly reasonable chance to win the game. That's all.

    It's not era-adjusted or park-adjusted, and yes a 4.50 ERA isn't a world-beater, but a lot of QS are not of the 6 IP/3 ER variety. It's a good "quick and dirty" estimation of how often the starting pitcher gives his team a decent chance to win the game, and taking it as that and ONLY that, it's a fairly decent measuring stick.

    After all, look how well it corresponds to the WAR table Andy posted.

  33. I remember the amount of eye rolling I had to do circa 1980 when I would read about how many GWRBI Keith Hernandez or Eddie Murray had. Now THERE was a stat that was not really useful.

  34. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @30/ Kahuna Tuna - you're right, thanks for the correction; I must've had ".86" on my mind.

    The essential point is the same, though, that 7 innings and two runs equals an ERA much better than 4.50.

  35. John Autin Says:

    I would love to eliminate the 3-ER-in-6-IP group from the definition of QS, for two reasons:

    (a) to quiet those who seize on that one small class of QS (less than 8 % of all QS this year) as "proof" that the whole stat is meaningless; and

    (b) because 3 ER in 6 IP actually isn't a good performance in almost any context. Even during the high-scoring period of 1993-2008, a team whose SP allowed exactly 3 ER in exactly 6 IP had a W% of .478, equivalent to about a 77-85 record in a full season.

    Still, I think a discussion of the QS as a stat should include the following facts:

    1. The combined ERA in all Quality Starts this year is 1.94.

    2. In any given year, the top 10 in QS looks an awful lot like the ERA leaders. In other words, the pitcher who repeatedly puts up a bare-minimum QS just doesn't exist.

    Here are the 14 pitchers with at least 20 QS this year -- is there anybody you wouldn't love to have in your rotation?
    -- Verlander, Weaver, Cain, Shields, Romero, Masterson, Kershaw, Haren, Hamels, Lincecum, Kennedy, Hudson, Halladay, Buehrle.

    3. Combined ERA for all Quality Starts of exactly N innings:
    IP......ERA
    6.0 -- 2.60
    6.1 -- 2.64
    6.2 -- 2.24
    7.0 -- 1.87
    7.1 -- 1.88
    7.2 -- 1.64
    8.0 -- 1.27
    More than 8 IP -- 0.66
    (No one has pitched more than 9 IP this year.)

  36. @33...I wonder how much money the GWRBI stat added to player's contracts? I can hear the agent..."He led the LEAGUE in GWRBI's...he's CLUTCH!"

  37. JA, if you have the numbers, can you go ahead and calculate the average number of innings and runs for QS? That's the issue, of course--we focus on the 6 IP and 3 ER, but the actual average IP and ER for all quality starts is significantly better.

  38. John Autin Says:

    @37, Andy -- The average QS this year is 6.91 IP and 1.49 ER.

  39. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Are Quality Starts and/or Premium Starts (2 runs/ 7ip) projectable? - Is it reasonable to expect the same number of Quality/Premium starts out of a pitcher from year to year?.

    I haven't investigated it, but I would assume so. At least, as projectable as anything about pitchers, who are an inherently volatile species. Look at the list in #35 of guys with 20 QS this season. Masterson and Kennedy might be surprises. The others look like they would have been reasonable guesses to make that threshold before the season.

  40. Spartan Bill Says:

    and JA what was the corollary figure non-QS starts?

    thanks

  41. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I was going to parallel #38 with the average totals in a starter's win. But I can't seem to find it easily. It's not on the splits pages, because it's really a double split. I could find it by scrolling through 6 pages of PI results and copying all of them into Excel, but there must be an easier way. I feel like I'm overlooking something obvious.

  42. John Autin Says:

    @41, JT -- If you are overlooking something obvious, I must be overlooking it, too.

  43. @35

    I like this post. Part of it is because I've noticed how the QS leaders are usually the best pitchers because they have the fewest meltdown starts, and partially because you said what I was going to say: that 6 IP 3 ER should be removed from the definition. I think it could be redefined as "a pitching performance of at least 6 IP that results in an ERA under 4." So, 6 IP 2 ER, 7 IP 3 ER, and 10 IP 4 ER, which admittedly doesn't happen often.

  44. John Autin Says:

    ... and, as it turns out, we were overlooking something.

    To get the results down to 1 page, choose "Players with most matching games in a year". It will give you the totals for those games, per pitcher. Still have to copy into Excel, but it's less work.

  45. John Autin Says:

    Average ERA in a SP win this year is 2.00.
    Average ERA in a Quality Start is 1.94.

    It has usually been true that the QS ERA is a little better than the SP-win ERA.

  46. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Apropos of nothing, but I was just playing with the numbers and found it interesting. 9.5% of all MLB pitches this season result in a swing and miss. The leaders, among pitchers who have thrown at least 1000 pitches, are Jonny Venters and Tyler Clippard at 18%, and Craig Kimbrel at 17%. No one else is over 14. The top starters are Brandon Beachy (13.5%) and Michael Pineda (13.3).

    Justin Verlander has the most swinging strikes, 379 (11.2%). Of course he's also thrown the most total pitches.

  47. Johnny Twisto Says:

    JA/45, thanks, I'm an idiot. Forgot that that option would include the stat lines. I thought it would just have the link to the individual games. What is the average IP in a SP win?

  48. John Autin Says:

    Also:
    Average SP Win this year is 6.80 IP, 1.51 ER allowed.
    Average Quality Start is 6.91 IP, 1.49 ER allowed.

    The average QS is simply a better performance than the average SP win.

  49. Paul Hopson Says:

    I hope someone gets this as i live in the uk and want some advice.Some time ago i was given an official royal match ball in its original box . The story behind the ball from the old guy who gave me it is as follows. The old guy was on active service in Italy during WW2 when a group of brits played a group of americans at baseball . The americans won and the matchball was given to the old guy after being signed by the team who where apparently MLB players also on active service . I cant make out a lot of the signatures which include Harry Suitcase Simpson and Roland Gladu to name a couple . Does anyone know if the ball is worth anything as it is wasted with me in the uk and i would love it to go to someone who would appreciate it ?

  50. A QS is supposed to be used to measure an individual's effort, not the team. I don't know for sure, but I imagine those teams you listed with a lot of quality starts but not a lot of wins either have A) bad offense B) bad bullpen

  51. John Autin Says:

    @40, Spartan Bill -- I hope I understood your question:

    The average SP performance this year in a non-quality start is 5.07 IP, 4.20 ER, and a loss.

    SPs in non-quality starts have a .213 W%.
    They've gotten a win in 15% of non-QS, and took a loss in 55%.

  52. Paul @49, that's pretty fascinating. I'd love to learn more about the story behind the ball. Chances are good that it's worth something, although how much is tough to say.

  53. David P Stokes Says:

    The fact is, in modern baseball, if the starter goes 6 innings and allows no more than 3 runs, he's given his team a good opportunity to win the game. That seems a reasonable definition of a quality pitcher--one who pitches well enough to give his team a good opportunity to win.

  54. John Autin Says:

    @49, Paul Hopson -- If the ball is actually signed "Suitcase," something sounds fishy in the story you've been told.

    According to my information, Harry Simpson did serve in the U.S. Army from 1942-46 (though he would have been just 17 years old at the start of that service). But he didn't acquire the nickname "Suitcase" until the late 1950s, when he was traded (or transferred, as you might say) many times in a short span of years. So he wouldn't have signed that nickname on a baseball during WWII.

    Here's the Baseball-Reference biography page on Simpson:
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Harry%20Simpson

  55. John Autin Says:

    @53, David P Stokes -- Two points:

    1. The measure of a Quality Start isn't runs allowed, it's earned runs allowed. Since the ratio of total runs to earned runs is about 1.09 this year, shifting the comparison basis from earned runs to runs would change the threshold to 3.28 runs. It's a significant difference.

    2. This season, when the starting pitcher went exactly 6 IP and allowed exactly 3 ER, the team went 72-102, a .413 W% that equates to a 67-95 record in a full season. Does that still seem like giving his team a good chance to win?

  56. @55 But 6IP 3ER is the LOW end of a quality start, so going by that is rather misleading

  57. John Autin Says:

    @56, Rich -- In my comment @55, I am specifically responding to David @53. I am not conflating "6 IP, 3 ER" with the general caliber of QS.

  58. Richard Chester Says:

    @54

    I remember when Simpson played for the Indians in the early 1950s he was already being called Suitcase. The Wikipedia article about him states that Cleveland sportswriters gave him the nickname which means he could not have had that name during WWII. (I realize that Wikipedia is not always right.) He was the second black to play for the Yankees.

  59. Paul Hopson Says:

    John at 54, sorry to have mislead you the ball is signed Harry Simpson, I have checked the autograph with online images and it appears authentic, I added suitcase . Is this the person Tom Selleck refers to in the Jesse Stone movies? I am trying to identify other signatures on the ball as there are about 20 names some have faded . I have e mailed a guy in the uk called gary bedingfield who wrote a book about baseball in WW2 hoping he can throw some light onto the subject . thanks for the response and i will definitely keep in touch once i know more

  60. You have a nice baseball site.

  61. I know I'm in the minority here but a "quality start" is a more useful stat than anything Bill James comes up with

  62. Give me Game Scores any day. QS is barely statistical popcorn.

  63. here are our top pitchers (thru 8.30) in number of quality starts....
    we use 6.0 ip and 3 runs allowed and not 3 earned runs....
    the qs win % is the winning % for the pitcher, not the team....
    and the qs no decisions are listed as well....

    Player Starts QS QS % QS Win % QS No Dec
    JVerlander 29 23 .793 18 - 2 .900 3
    JWeaver 28 24 .857 15 - 3 .833 6
    CHamels 26 21 .808 13 - 4 .765 4
    MCain 28 20 .714 9 - 3 .750 8
    CKershaw 28 20 .714 16 - 1 .941 3
    TLincecum 28 20 .714 12 - 6 .667 2
    DHaren 28 20 .714 12 - 1 .923 7
    RRomero 27 20 .741 13 - 4 .765 3
    RHalladay 26 20 .769 13 - 3 .813 4
    JShields 27 20 .741 12 - 5 .706 3
    CLee 26 19 .731 12 - 2 .857 5
    THudson 27 19 .704 13 - 1 .929 5
    JMasterson 28 19 .679 9 - 3 .750 7
    MBuehrle 26 19 .731 10 - 3 .769 6
    TStauffer 27 19 .704 8 - 5 .615 6
    MBumgarner 27 19 .704 8 - 6 .571 5
    IKennedy 28 19 .679 14 - 0 1.000 5

  64. sorry folks.... that chart did not come out too good....

  65. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @62/ Chipmaker - When Bill James devised Game Scores (about 25 years ago?), I think it was more useful, because starters pitched longer into games and there were far more complete games (league-leaders still had about 15-20 CG). Now, with seven innings the norm for a starter, and many times starters being pulled after six innings, I think it's harder to compile a high score, and the particular numbers for GS don't have the same meaning that James intended for them.

    Is the average GS even about "50" anymore for a starting pitcher?

  66. Paul @ 49, if the ball was autographed during the war, and the game was played during the war, that would imply integrated baseball in the Army during the war. Does anyone know if that could be true? BRef says Gladou was Canadian. Since Gladou briefly played with the Boston Braves in 1944 before going to Montreal.

  67. @48 It would make sense that a quality start is slightly better than a win for a starting pitcher given that a quality start gives you a better than average chance of winning.

    @62 The average game score for a starting pitcher in 2011 is 51, it has been between 49 and 51 since 1977.

  68. Sorry, @65 The average game score for a starting pitcher in 2011 is 51, it has been between 49 and 51 since 1977. Got mixed up about who i was talking about.

  69. @53 David and @55 JA, I don't see how performance that leads to a .413 winning percentage could equate to "quality". It sets the bar too low and equates mediocre with quality. You could adapt by making the bottom end of the range either 6/2 or at least 7/3.

  70. Lawrence Azrin Says:

    @67, @68/ Cameron - Thanks, I'm also curious how the highest GSs have changed in the last 25-30 years; if less innings/start by starters lead to less very high GSs.

  71. Sorry, I bungled @66. What I meant to say was that Gladou couldn't have been African American if he played with the Boston Braves in 1944, so if he played with Harry Simpson during the war that would imply the Army, or at least the Allies, played integrated.

  72. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Or, you could not get so hung up on the word "quality" and one tiny subset of QS, and accept, as shown over the past 60+ posts, the average QS is a very good pitching performance.

    The QS is what it is. We've had it for 25 years. If you prefer to look at different parameters, great! No reason you can't. But I don't see any reason to change definitions at this point.

  73. Johnny Twisto Says:

    No one with more than 10 QS this season (a mark 112 pitchers have reached) has an ERA of over 3.00 in those starts.

    There are precisely 4 pitchers this season with an ERA of over 4.00 in their QS. They've thrown a total of 5 QS.

    ANY stat has flaws, if you choose to focus on the aberrations. Some Hits are bloopers which fall between two teammates staring at each other. Some Strikeouts come on hanging curves right down the middle and the batter just swings out of his shoes. But if a guy gets a lot of Hits, or a lot of Strikeouts, it's a good bet he earned them. As it is with QS.

  74. Johnny Twisto Says:

    My post #72 was in response to Mike/69, to be clear.

  75. JT@74. I'm not enough of a numbers guy to do this very articulately. I wasn't saying you should dispense with the QS stat, merely try to define it in the context of its time. We do this with almost every other stat, either formally or by mentally adjusting the performance. And those are larger numbers played out over a full season. Here we are taking the tiniest subset, one game, and applying a whole number. I'd feel better if QS exceeded the league average by something substantive. Right now, the reverse is true. 26 teams out of 30 currently have team ERA's of less than 4.50. 19 are under 4.00. If you went to 3 ER in 7 IP, it's 3.86. 14 teams are under 3.86.

  76. Late to the convo, but I was actually thinking about this today. On the radio, someone mentioned that Texas, until recently, had been leading the league in QS. I started to roll my eyes, since I generally think that QS is a silly stat, but then I got to thinking. Looking at it on the team level, I realized that having more QS is obviously better than having less, even if this doesn't necessarily materialize itself into Ws. If I understand the charts correctly, it seems that teams win around 2/3s of QS. That's pretty good. Get a QS every game and you are likely going to the playoffs.

    What we should try to find is where is the break point. X runs in Y innings gives a better than 50% chance of winning but X+1 or Y-1 innings gives less than a 50% chance. I'm not a math genius, but my hunch is that there is a sweet spot somewhere, where the likelihood of winning a game given Rs and IP goes from less than 50% to greater than 50%. That would be a worthwhile number to know, though it likely changes from season to season.

    I think a big problem with QS is people assume it means more than it does. A QS is not a great start or a phenomenal one... it's simply a quality one, one that gives a team a better than 50% chance of winning. If we take it as that, as evidence of quality but not greatness, it's not too bad. If we try to measure greatness with it, such as awarding a Cy Young based on QS, we're getting silly. I continued to think about the thresholds for Great Starts, Exceptional Starts, and Phenomenal Starts, basically adding an IP and subtracting an ER, so that GS = 7IP/2ER, ES = 8IP/1ER, and PS = 9IP/0ER. Nothing too complex, but looking at these different levels would help us make a bit more sense. Maybe Pitcher A has 20 QS and Pitcher B has 15, but if all of Pitcher A's are QS and no more and Pitcher B has 5 GS, 5 ES, and 5 PS, he likely is the better pitcher and doing more to help his team win.

    I will now read the comments where I'm sure all my thoughts have been addressed multiple times over by minds smarter than my own...

  77. QS need to be taken in context and need to blanced one a game by game basis. Look at it this way, the pitcher with most 1-0 losses in history is Walter Johnson--obviously each of those losses was a quality start, so what does that say about the team hitting and the opposition rising to the occasion?

  78. @ 61
    I would bet anything that you don't know half of what he's contributed

  79. John Autin Says:

    Mike L -- To be clear: I have already stated my preference to redefine the QS so as to exclude games of exactly 3 ER in exactly 6 IP.

    Perhaps I have invited confusion by arguing, on the one hand, FOR the validity of the QS in general, and on the other, AGAINST including games of exactly 3 ER in exactly 6 IP. But if you review my comment @55, I'm making the same point that you make @69 -- games of exactly 3 ER in 6 IP generally do not put the team in good winning position. And I am only addressing that narrow issue because a previous comment praised 3-ER-in-6-IP.

  80. John Autin Says:

    @76, BSK -- I have sometimes leaned towards the kind of graduated scale you speak of. But now I think that putting more marks on the ruler just nudges the whole endeavor towards approximating the simpler composite number that is season ERA.

    Keeping the QS in a simple form, but tweaking it to include only the performance levels that give the team a good chance of winning -- say, 60% or better -- would produce a stat that I think is a useful shorthand for consistency, which is something I don't see being measured well by anything else at the moment.

  81. JA @79. Sorry, I should have been more precise in my language. I was commenting on the discussion the two of you were having (and essentially siding with you). I think the QS concept is fine-it's the parameters at the bottom end I disagree with.

  82. Lowell Sun. Lowell, MA May 10, 1944 p.31
    A Rookie a Day
    Roland (Frenchy) Gladu, Braves' third baseman: The only player who came straight from England to land a big league job, Frenchy broke in with Del Bissonette's Quebec team in the Provincial league in 1939, shifted over to Quebec's Canadian-American league in '41 and hit well over .300 during those three years. Then he took a road trip to England with the Canadian army and was discharged just in time to report for spring training. In the season opener he speared a giant liner then smacked a triple for his first hit. The Braves lost but the fans gave Frenchy the Gladu hand.

    Harry Simpson was already known as Suitcase when he signed with Cleveland in Dec. 1949. BR Bullpen has him in the Army from 1942-6.

  83. JA-

    Agreed. I was thinking more about some sort of shorthand more than a formalized stat. As I thought about them, they were almost defiant in nature... "Oh yea, you want to tell me that 6IP/3ER wins X% of the time? Well, my stat, which is 8IP/1ER wins Y% of the time, and Y is much greater than X." It sort of used the "strength" of QS against itself. Then again, this happened in my head while I drove in the car, so who knows what is logical any more.

    Slightly offtopic, but I got to thinking... if you totaled up the W-L records for starters (only for GS, not all the W-L for guys who started part time) and the W-L records for relievers, which would be better? Obviously, the team W-L record totals will be .500, but this isn't necessarily so for starters and relievers (in a given game, the SP for one team might get the win while an RP for the other team takes a lose, making the SPs for that game an aggregate 1-0 and the RPs an aggregate 0-1). Are there any trends in this data? I feel like a simple PI search could tell me, but I'm not quite sure how to do it. More importantly, I'm not sure if the data has any meaning.

  84. I made this same argument on http://www.thenewspeakeasy.com.

  85. Looking at all of the responses on this post it seems to me that most people (myself included) are looking for a way to change the quality start statistic that they see as problematic/not useful. A better way of approaching it would be to create a more statistically valid version of quality start instead of changing the definition of quality start since we have shown that it isn't completely useless. We aren't trying to change the definition of a win or a loss even though those statistics are seen as statistically flawed.

  86. My issue with the quality start is that it has a flat cap of three runs for the start. If someone goes eight or nine innings and gives up four runs, it doesn't qualify as a quality start, although the ERA would be the same, or better, as if the same pitcher went six and gave up three earned runs. Why is there not a distinction there?

    Anyway, I think quality starts are an obsolete statistic at this point. Game score is a far better way of measuring the effectiveness of the starting pitcher.

  87. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I wasn't saying you should dispense with the QS stat, merely try to define it in the context of its time. We do this with almost every other stat, either formally or by mentally adjusting the performance.

    Your points are very valid. I think that "mental" adjustment is the way to go in this case, however. There's just no way we can redefine the QS each season so that this year, it's at least 6.3 IP and fewer than 2.9 ER, and last year it was 6.2 and 3.0. The numbers we're working with don't break themselves up so neatly in an individual game. But yes, we should be aware that in lower-scoring seasons, or parks, QS will be easier to come by.

    What we should try to find is where is the break point. X runs in Y innings gives a better than 50% chance of winning but X+1 or Y-1 innings gives less than a 50% chance. I'm not a math genius, but my hunch is that there is a sweet spot somewhere, where the likelihood of winning a game given Rs and IP goes from less than 50% to greater than 50%. That would be a worthwhile number to know, though it likely changes from season to season.

    That's an easy thing to research with the PI (if you spend a little time on it). However it's not so easy to condense to a single stat. There will be multiple 50% points -- say 6.1 IP, 3 R, and 8 IP, 4 R, and ...... A pitcher might hit a few of them within a game and just keep on pitching. The idea is good, I'm just not sure how best to calculate it as a stat kept over the course of the season.

    But this does remind me of Support Neutral W-L record, which Baseball Prospectus used to calculate. I'll guess they still do, though I don't check the site much so I'm not sure how easy it is to find. Basically, (I believe) it took each pitcher's game-by-game performance and calculated how likely he was to have won each game, based on his runs allowed in his IP, and (I assume) the run environment. So no clear demarcations of WIN/LOSS, Quality Start/Not. Just, allowing 2 runs over 8 IP gives you an 80% (say) chance of winning, so you get credited for 0.8 wins and 0.2 losses. (I may have some details wrong, but I think that was generally the idea.)

    if you totaled up the W-L records for starters (only for GS, not all the W-L for guys who started part time) and the W-L records for relievers, which would be better?

    I actually noticed this today, while searching something else (which I can't remember right now). Both SP and RP this season are almost exactly .500 -- I think relievers were 1 game over, and vice versa. But I think RP, at least in recent years, tend to be a bit over .500. You can easily check this on the league pitching splits page for each season.

  88. @86, Mr. Dave -- I would agree to count 9 IP, 4 ER as a Quality Start. As a practical matter, that almost never happens any more; there have been 2 such games in the last 2 years (by CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee).

    As for 8 IP and 4 ER, including that level would not help shape the definition of QS towards a winning effort; quite the opposite. Compare the records over the past 20 years of teams whose SPs produced the 2 kinds of starts you say are equivalent:

    8 IP, 4 ER -- 169 wins, 285 losses, .372 W%, equates to a 60-102 season record.

    6 IP, 3 ER -- 1,786 wins, 2,017 losses, .470 W%, equates to 76-86.

    The shorter outing gives you a much better chance of winning.

    Why? The difference between the levels is 1 ER in 2 IP. And the average bullpen ERA is well below 4.50.

    If your SP has allowed 3 runs in 6 IP, and you have a choice between taking him out now or letting him go another 2 IP with the guarantee of allowing exactly 1 run, you take him out, unless your bullpen is tired or you have a big lead.

  89. Johnny Twisto Says:

    Very good post, JA. I'd argue that if you had a guy who gave you 8 and 4 every game**, he'd be more valuable than your "average" .372 pitcher, because of all the innings he eats and saves the pen from. Still, while it looks somewhat impressive because we don't see 8 IP all the time, it's obviously not *that* valuable.

    **I guess such a pitcher might fall into the club of unicorns I cited in my post #22.

  90. #88, JT -- I think it's harder than it seems to assess the value of that unicorn, the 8-IP-4-ER-every-time pitcher. More valuable than a .372 W%? Probably. Much more valuable? That would depend on the assumptions you make about the rest of the rotation, the bullpen, and the potential value of carrying an extra position player in place of a reliever. Assuming the league average in all those things, I still think you're not winning half his starts.

  91. @88 - JA, the crux of my argument with wanting 8 innings and 4 earned runs to count is that it is the same ERA. I don't think that the overall won-loss percentage of the start factors in. Also, if the pitcher goes eight, gives up the four runs and keeps the team in the game, wouldn't that be quality? It keeps the team from having to dig into the bullpen and possibly put inferior pitchers out there when the game may be in question. I'd say that being able to rest a bullpen, or cause it not to be used all together, would be valuable if the ERAs are the same.

  92. How about mister Wizard

  93. Johnny Twisto Says:

    JA/90, I'll agree that in 2011, you're not winning half of his starts.

    I don't know how valuable he is. That's something I don't know if sabermetrics has addressed accurately. How valuable is a mediocre innings eater? I don't even know if such an animal really exists, but if he does I suppose his name is Livan Hernandez.

    Actually, the entire concept of positions and roster spots has not been (to my knowledge) adequately analyzed. Can an "innings-eater" save a spot in the bullpen. *Does* he? And what is the value of a Ben Zobrist, who can be moved to almost any position and play it well? I really don't know how to quantify such things, but they certainly have value.

  94. I like quality starts but agree it's a little arbitrary.

    First let me say to the guy who posted "pitchers who go for 6IP and 3ER every outing suck", as a Yankees fan I have to tell you a guy who would always go 6 and never give up more than 3 would be worth 15 mil a year. On a crappy team, that same guy is probably not worth anything but to a team with offense, that's a pretty good win chance. The yankees don't fail to score 4 runs very often and the back of their bullpen is... excellent. Is it too soon to point and laugh at Andy for that Rivera thread yet? The guy didn't allow an earned run for the rest of the month (6 appearances) and his strikeout rate is above his own lofty standards lately.

    I liked the stuff proposed in 76. I can expand on it. Basically, you do it like win probability added. Take whatever outing the pitcher has, say 7.1IP, 4 ER and judge the odds of an average team winning the game when the pitcher leaves with that performance. You could use that percentage in several ways, but the data would be similar to calculate to WPA. If you want to know how many starts the guy gave his team a >60% chance to win, that's just plug and chug. I like the W>60 L<40 idea too. You could use that if you want. You can also use WPA based on the given year's data or a larger data field, whatever.

  95. Taking the RE24 type approach (I love me some RE24), there are basically 24 situations per 9 innings giving a total of 216 discrete cases for when a pitcher leaves without pitching 9 innings. We should have the average chance of a team winning when each of those 216 states comes up, right? Whichever one the hypothetical starter achieves, that's their "Quality Percentage" for the day.

  96. @91, Mr. Dave -- Call me crazy, but when teams lose 63% of a certain type of start, I think that's relevant. It's no good to look at the performance in the abstract and say, well, it looks pretty good. You have to ask, Does it help the team win? And the answer is, no.

    And I question your assumption about "inferior" pitchers, and the value to a team of a SP going 8 IP instead of 6. Given the way team rosters are currently constructed -- last I checked, almost every team carried 7 relievers -- and the fact that composite reliever ERA is lower than that of SPs, you would have to show specific circumstances in a specific game to show that there was any significant value to those 2 extra IP, in and of themselves.

  97. Rough estimates from the two graphs.

    In 1930 there were 42% quality starts. Over 100 games (200 starting pitchers), that was 84 QS. The team winning percentage for those 84 starts was 72, which is about 59-25. With a 42% expectation of a QS, how many games would both starters have a QS - 18, thats 18 team wins and 18 team losses of the 59-25. That leaves a record ot 41-7 for the QS starter when only 1 pitcher has a QS, 7-41 for the non QS starters and a record of 34-34 for the games where neither had a QS. Teams with non QS starters are 41-75. The team 41-7 record for QS vs nonQS is 85%.

    In 1968 there were 62% quality starts. Over 100 games (200 starting pitchers), that was 124 QS. The team winning percentage for those 124 starts was 66, which is about 82-42. With a 62% expectation of a QS, how many games would both starters have a QS - 38, thats 38 wins and 38 losses of the 84-42. That leaves a record ot 44-4 for the QS starter when only 1 pitcher has a QS, 4-44 for the non QS starters and a record of 14-14 for the games where neither had a QS. Teams with non QS starters are 18-58. The team 44-4 record for QS vs nonQS is 92%.

    In 2011 there were 54% quality starts. Over 100 games (200 starting pitchers), that was 108 QS. The team winning percentage for those 108 starts was 66, which is about 71-37. With a 54% expectation of a QS, how many games would both starters have a QS - 29, thats 29 wins and 29 losses of the 71-37. That leaves a record ot 42-8 for the QS starter when only 1 pitcher has a QS, 8-42 for the non QS starters and a record of 21-21 for the games where neither pitcher had a QS. Teams with non QS starters are 29-63. The team 42-8 record for QS vs nonQS is 84%.

    It is NO surprise that the two graphs should show opposite trends. As the % of quality starts go up, it is more likely that both pitchers in the game will have a QS with an overall team record of 1-1 dropping the overall % of wins in a quality start down. So a QS does help a team win!!! If your team's starter has a QS and the other doesn't it looks like the winning % is higher than what is expected at first glance of the two graphs. The league scoring average this year is 4.15. If the starter holds them to 3 runs and the bullpen does its job, it maked sense that the WP should be high, UNLESS it's a low scoring game, then it's a tossup..

  98. To me a QS is a game to game experience. Has the bullpen been overused recently? Does the team even have a quality bullpen to begin with? Is it a slug fest for both teams? ect ect

    For those who actually watch games, has anyone noticed whats occured over the last 2 yrs? The pitcher has regained the high strike, as well as, the inside strike. It's difficult to wrap a calculator around that subtle change I bet...LOL

  99. Back to the apparent inferiority of 8 inning 4 run outing as opposed to the 6 inning 3 run outing. What's the probability of a team scoring at least two runs in the final three innings of a game?

  100. "Quality Start" came about when "mop-up guys" became "middle-relief specialists." Last night, the Cardinal starter held the Brewers to one run in seven innings. They then used four pitchers to get the final six outs. Ugh. Bring back the complete game.

  101. @100, Steve; That's because LaRussa is a genius. If he were of lesser intelligence, it would have been three relievers to get the last six outs (six outs by three relievers would be a "QBPA"-a Quality Bullpen Appearance).

  102. @99 I don't know the answer to your question, but I picked 5 dates from this year and looked at the box scores in both leagues. In 55% of the games, the game was undecided after the end of inning 6, meaning (to me) that at that point or some point after that there was a tie or a 1 run difference or a lead change. 45% of the time, a team had a lead of two or more after 6 innings and it never dropped lower than 2.

  103. @100 Jackson, RHP, started the 7th, but when they brought in Kottaras a LHB as a PH for the pitcher, they substituted Rhodes, a LHP, which brought in Josh Wilson, a RHB as a PH. Then he switched to Jason Mott a RH to face a righty(out), lefty(hit), righty(out). Then he brought in Rzepezynski a LH to face Fielder a lefty. Then he brought in Salas a righty to face 3 righthanders, all 3 of which have a higher % this year vs RHP, but RHB only hit 0.169 vs Salas, LHB hit 0.198. Kotsay, LHB, pinch hit for Hairston, RHB, hitting into a double play to end the game.

    All of this to protect a 2-1 lead.

  104. @99, Mike L -- I'm not seeing how your question arises from comparing "8 and 4" with "6 and 3." Why focus on the probability of scoring two runs over the last three innings? Can you clarify? Thanks.

  105. Slightly off-topic, related to 100, but god almighty do I hate LaRussa. Ugh.

  106. @104 John-forget it. I was looking at your stats for the W% of those at exactly 6/3 and exactly 8/4. Just one follow up question. Are those stats through six innings, and through eight innings?

  107. @15 I looked at the game logs for the 4 pitchers with 5 or more losses. Their teams were 51-28 team in their quality starts. In 24 of those losses the opposing pitcher also had a QS.

  108. Listen, the whole "6 IP and 3 ER is a 4.50 ERA and that isn't quality" argument doesn't really fit here. With 6.1 IP and 2.7 ER per game... 3.98 ERA. With 7 IP and 2.5 ER per game... 3.21 ERA. The average QS is somewhere between those.

  109. @104 John-I need more sleep. Simple question needed to be better phrased. The win loss stats for those 6/3 and 8/4-were those stats from the point in which the pitcher was removed, or through the end of the inning? So, if someone pitched the 8th, did you count the batting stats in the bottom of the 8th if it was a home game.

  110. @88 I don't know about the validity of comparing win percentage for 8 innings, because within that you have a subset of complete game losses for the visitors.
    @109 This will include any stats in the 9th inning for that pitcher as it goes by outs recorded.

    From 1992 to 2011
    Losses for the visiting team when starter pitches a complete game with exactly 24 outs (8 innings) and ER allowed
    19 (0)
    122 (1)
    213 (2)
    186 (3)
    126 (4)
    52 (5)

    Team record and starting pitcher ER when starting pitcher goes 8
    1222-157 (0)
    1651-504 (1)
    1057-622 (2)
    496-492 (3)
    169-285 (4)
    49-129 (5)

    The home team wins 41% (97-138) of the games when the starter goes exactly 8 and gives up 4 ER.
    The visiting team wins 33% (72-147 with 126 complete game losses).
    Of course, some games may be on both lists.

  111. This is in reference only to the 5 Minnesota pitchers with 10 QS. Performance in QS is comparable to the ML average.

    In 2011 Minnesota has 50% quality starts vs the ML 54% for their top 5 pitchers. The team winning percentage for those 62 starts was 68% (42-20) vs the ML 66%. 15 of their 20 losses (75%) were to a team with a pitcher with a QS. I estimated the ML average would be 78% (29/37) of the QS losses would be to a team with a QS starter.

    Their team record is 11-51 (18%) when they do not have a QS, far below the league average of 32%.

  112. The win-loss record for the 5 Minnesota starters (not team record) is a combined 26-7 if they go at least 7 innings. 13-42 if they exit before that.

  113. JA @104
    If you start with a baseline that the starter will give up either three or four runs (forgetting the bullpen for a second), then, at minimum, you know you will lose every game in which your team scores two or fewer runs (three, in the 4/8 guy). So, 6/3 or 8/4 is an irrelevant pick em-nothing that happens after they leave changes the outcome. By the same token, if your offense is cooking and scores a large number of runs before they leave, unless your bull pen implodes, again, once again, the difference in their performances is largely irrelevant and nothing that happens after they leave changes the outcome. The swing in outcomes comes largely in the games that are decided by a small number of runs. I asked about 2 runs in 3 innings because a) that's the minimum number of runs his team must score after he leaves for a 6/3 pitcher to change an outcome in a game he's down by one run, and b) that's the probable minimum number of runs they need to score to change the outcome if he leave with a one run lead (but the bullpen gives up at least one run in the next three innings). The 8/4 guy is a little more set in-not only has he given up one more run, but his team has only one inning to make it up, so it's much harder to change the outcome.

  114. This is in reference to the entire Red Sox pitching staff. Of the 134 games played, there were 66 QS (49% vs the ML average of 54%) and comparable to Minnesota.

    Their record in QS is 50-16 (76% vs ML average of 66%) with 12 of the losses to a team with a QS. They were 32-36 (47%) in non quality starts, 15 points above the ML average).

    Beckett and Lester 50 Starts, 36 QS (team record 29-7), 14 NQS (4-10)
    Rest of team 84 Starts, 30 QS (21-9), 54 NQS (28-26 !!!)

    Andrew Miller has 10 Starts, 3 QS (3-0), 7 NQS (6-1)

    The team has a winning record, in starts, for all 7 pitchers starting 7 games or more.
    The Red Sox and the Yankees are the only teams in the AL with Runs scored minus allowed is greater than 1. Minnesota is the only team in the AL where allowed exceeds scored by more than 1.

  115. Read a bit of this thread and now I'm going to say something similar to something I've probably said before, and if someone in the thread has already come up with a similar idea then I'm sorry about stepping on toes.

    QS is a fine stat but its limitations are specific to its inability to distinguish between a "gave your team a chance to win" performance and an excellent performance, as we all know.

    My solution for "fixing" the usefulness of the QS stat is not to alter it, but to complement it:

    ULQS - Ultra Low Quality Start
    LQS - Low Quality Start
    MQS - Medium Quality Start (most similar to QS)
    HQS - High Quality Start
    UHQS - Ultra High Quality Start

    I had something else written when I thought I figured out a nice little easy ratio and innings requirement for each of the five listed above. I will go from best to worst.

    UHQS = IP:R = 4.5 or greater (min. 8IP)
    HQS = IP:R = better than 3 but less than 4.5 (min. 7IP)
    MQS = IP:R = better than 2 but less than 3 (min. 6IP)
    LQS = IP:R = better than or equal to 1.4 but less than 2 (min. 5IP)
    ULQS = IP:R = less than 1.4 (min. 5IP, however, regardless of runs allowed, a start of less than five innings is always a ULQS)

    Now to throw out some hypothetical starts and see how it looks. As you can see, I don't use thirds of an inning, because in the end even though this is a lot it should be simple to figure out. Thus, for the purpose of simplicity, you always drop the thirds of an inning off, rounding down to the nearest complete inning. Thus each tier of QS is a little tougher to reach.

    Start of 9IP: 0-2R = UHQS, 3R = HQS, 4R = MQS, 5-6R = LQS, 7+R = ULQS
    8IP: 0-1R = UHQS, 2R = HQS, 3-4R = MQS, 5R = LQS, 6+R = ULQS
    7IP: 0-2R = HQS, 3R = MQS, 4-5R = LQS, 6+R = ULQS
    6IP: 0-3R = MQS, 4R = LQS, 5+ = ULQS
    5IP: 0-3R = LQS, 4+R = ULQS
    4IP and below = ULQS.

    I used 1.4 as the line between LQS and ULQS because 1.5 makes 7IP 5R an ULQS and I'd prefer it as a LQS. Other than specific IP/R scenario, 1.4 and 1.5 as the line is identical.

    I know that's rather lengthy and not easily digestible, and perhaps not quite spot on for everyone, but to me the real value in expanding and stratifying the QS stat (it could be distinguished into three or seven layers, or whatever, not five like I've done) would be that it would be a nice table to be able to spit out to make a good comparison of how a pitcher's performances compared to other excellent (or poor) pitchers, and the league average.

  116. For the American League
    7 of the 8 teams with a winning record have 72 or more QS vs 2 of 6 with losing records
    8 of 8 winning teams have 48 or more QS wins vs 1 of 6 losing teams
    8 of 8 winning teams have 15 or more nonQS wins vs 3 of 6

    For the National League.
    5 of the 6 winning teams have 73 or more QS vs 4 of 10 losing teams
    6 of the 6 winning teams have 45 or more QS wins vs 2 of 10 losing teams.
    2 of 6 winning teams have 20 or more nonQS wins vs 6 of 10 losing teams

    All the winning teams in both leagues have at least 66 QS, 45 QS wins, 15 nonQS wins, and 67 total wins. If any team had even one parameter lower they had a losing record. All the teams had winning records in their quality starts. 7 of 14 of the winning teams were above 70%. 5 of 16 of the losing teams were below 60%.
    Redefining a QS will likely toss out more losses than wins, so the differences between the teams will likely be more dramatic.

  117. RE: Wins and Losses

    I call BS for anyone that believes W & L are useless. Tell me a pitcher doesn't change his philosophy when he has a 5 run lead and when it's tied. While he does not want to give up a hit, walk or run anytime, he approaches each batter differently in those situations. With it tied, he might be less likely to throw a fastball to certain hitters. With a 5 run lead and no one on, he is more likely to challange the hitter. The pitcher that can last longer into games and gut out the Win is what I want on my team. Forget about ERA its about pitching to a situation. He is not in a vacuum.

  118. One more comment and I'm done.

    This year there were 2032 games, 4064 starting pitchers
    There were 2206 Quality Starts.
    QS starters were 1457-749 meaning 72% of the games were won when the winning team SP had a QS.
    If the starting pitcher went less than 6 innings, but gave up less than 3 ER, the team record was 266-266
    If the starting pitcher gave up 4 or more ER, his team was 309-1017.
    Overall in nonQS the record was 575-1283 meaning 63% of the games were lost when the losing team starter did not have a QS.

    You can tweak the definition of QS and it might make a difference at the team or pitcher level, but I think that the 72 vs 63 we have here is a good indication that a QS is a good stand-alone global indicatior of the potential for a win at the league level, but to go down to the team level, you need to use both QS and nonQS wins and losses as a factor in overall team success and to go down to an individual pitcher contribution to the team record, you also need to take into account QS losses to a team when the opposing pitcher has a QS, because the rest of the team needs to do their job.
    The ML average is 4.15 runs per game. If both starters give up 3 ER in 6-7 innings(ML ERA 4.04), and the the relief pitchers give up 1 ER in 2-3 innings(ML ERA 3.64), and the defense doesn't allow any unearned runs, we've got a 4-4 tie game. If the pitchers do better or the offense bombards the relievers or the fielding falls apart briefly, it's still a QS win and a QS loss.

  119. @117 Agreed Not just the pitcher but the manager will play differently when the game is out of hand in either direction.

  120. I'm back.
    I'd like to respond to #55, the lowest end of a QS, when a starter gets 3 ER in 6 IP.
    The record today is 75 team wins 103 team losses. The SP has a record of 49-65 with 64 no decisions, 26 wins and 38 losses went to the relievers, so I think we can get away with saying the SP got them in a position to win in 49+26+38 games 113 of the 178 (63%). So let's look at the 65 losses. Starting pitchers were 45-53 with 6IP, 3ER, 0 unearned. In 16 games he gave up 1 or more unearned runs so we can say four factors played a role in his being charged with the loss. He gave up at least 3 runs and possibly costly defensive errors occurred and possibly his team could not score at least 3 runs and possibly the relievers did not prevent runs from scoring. The Dodgers lead the league with 6 games with the SP going 6 innings with 3 earned runs and 0 unearned runs and charged with the loss. The final scores were 3-0, 7-0, 3-1, 3-0, 6-0, 3-2. Of course in all 6 games the opposing SP had a QS. These go into the he could not put them into a position to win category. It's likely a lot of those 65 losses came when the opposing pitcher had a QS. Toronto lead with 4 games where the pitcher got the win. The opposing starting pitcher did not have a QS. The final scores and scores when the pitcher left the game 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 (6-3), 10-3 (10-3), 7-3(7-3) : a team effort. These go into the he put them into a position to win category.

    What if we took these games out of the QS category and into the nonQS category? The 72% - 63% values @118 become 68% and 68%.

  121. Johnny Twisto Says:

    The pitcher that can last longer into games and gut out the Win is what I want on my team. Forget about ERA its about pitching to a situation.

    Provide evidence of pitchers who do this. Thanks.

    Must be nice to pitch with all those 5-run leads.

  122. @120 makes a very obvious but easily overlooked point: QS has a much higher correlation to victory when one pitcher posts a quality start and the other DOES NOT! If both pitch quality starts, of course the outcome will not be highly correlated. A pitcher cannot control (NL hitting excluded) the performance of their opponent. QS overall percentage would inherently not be overly high since in a large percentage of games, I'm going to guess 15%, both starters put up quality starts!

  123. @121...With all due respect, what's there to prove? Just because one can't wrap a pencil or a calculator around something doesn't mean it's not true. There are situations within the game itself that aren't easily explained away by "pure" stats. Wouldn't that be a fair assessment?

  124. Here's a sample of 14 games (CIN, DET, KC) where the pitcher pitched 6 innings, 3 ER, 0 unearned runs and had a no decision. They are included in the 64 no decision games which I argued should be included in the starter put his team in a position to win category. Someone may argue that if he left the game as a losing pitcher it shouldn't be counted, but the fact that he did not receive the loss means his team scored 3 runs during the game to offset his 3. A Y means the opposing pitcher had a quality start. He had the lead in 3 of the 5 games when he faced a nQS pitcher.

    Outcome, Score when pitcher left
    Wins
    7-5 (3-3) Y tie game
    6-3 (3-3) N tie game
    4-3 (0-3) Y offense came alive
    5-3 (0-3) N offense came alive
    6-5 (4-3) N Blown Win

    Losses
    4-5 (3-3) Y tie when he left
    3-5 (3-3) Y tie when he left
    3-6 (3-3) Y tie when he left
    3-5 (2-3) Y his team tied the game
    3-4 (3-3) Y tie when he left
    5-6 (2-3) Y his team tied the game or took the lead
    5-6 (5-3) N blown win
    3-6 (0-3) Y his team tied the game
    5-7 (4-3) N blown win

    In reference to post 122 Good points and what should also be obvious is that the probability of a QS team win vs a nonQS team is higher than graph 2 indicates in fact the graphs should show opposite trends. If QS were 100% graph 2 would be 50%.

    With respect to your 15% estimate, I don't know what the number is, but with a ML probability in 2011 that a pitcher will have a QS of 54%, the probability that both will have one is 29% (0.54*0.54), 50% for only one and 21% neither. 100 games, 200 Starts, 108 QS (29 times 2 + 50 times 1 +21 times 0). Since those double QS games (more likely as QS% increases) are counted as a win and a loss in chart 2 at the initial post, you should see a trend where if graph 1 drifts up or down for a few years, graph two should drift in the opposite direction, you see that in the last 5 years, 1950-1970, a four year period in the mid 40s, the 3 initial years, 1991-1996 and a few other spots. Graph 2 is noisy, so I'm only looking for a good trend over a few years.

  125. Johnny Twisto Says:

    what's there to prove?

    That a pitcher's W-L record can consistently outperform his run support vs runs allowed, because he's giving up runs when it doesn't matter.

    So: which pitchers do this?

  126. @125...about every pitcher known. I believe you are reading way more into @117's statement. He didn't state "consistantly" only that it does occur. Of course, he would have to be the one to argue this point, I'm just "guessing" as to what his statement meant.