what is a quality start in baseball ?
The concept of a quality start has gained popularity in baseball as it provides a useful metric to evaluate starting pitchers. A quality start is defined as a minimum of six innings pitched with three or fewer earned runs allowed. Unlike a win-loss record, this statistic does not penalize pitchers for receiving low run support from their team. If a pitcher allows only one run but his team fails to score, his quality start percentage increases, whereas his win percentage decreases with a loss.
what is a quality start in baseball
However, one limitation of the quality start statistic is that allowing three earned runs over six innings equates to a 4.50 ERA. Currently, there are approximately 100 Major League Baseball pitchers with an ERA at or below 4.50. Surrendering an average of four and a half runs per game is not particularly impressive, considering that the majority of teams score above that threshold (63%).
Moreover, the quality start metric may not favor pitchers who pitch deep into games. For instance, if a pitcher completes nine innings but gives up four runs, their ERA would be 4.00, which is lower than the 4.50 earned from a six-inning, three-run start. However, the complete game would not be considered a quality start according to the traditional definition.
Given the choice, which type of start would be preferable for a pitcher? Is it better to have six innings with three earned runs or a complete game with four earned runs? The answer may vary based on individual perspectives and circumstances, but it raises questions about the true meaning of a "quality start."
quality start meaning
Considering that 77% of teams this season have averaged more than four runs per game, it could be argued that a quality start should be recognized when a pitcher holds the opposition to 3.5 runs or fewer. Why reward a pitcher for a start in which they allowed the opposing lineup to perform as they have throughout the season?
Ideally, a quality start should highlight exceptional performances that deviate from the norm, such as holding a team below their average run production. Giving up a run every other inning, as is the case with a six-inning, three-run start, does not seem particularly "quality."
In summary, a quality start in baseball refers to a starting pitcher who throws at least six innings and allows three or fewer runs. While this stat helps evaluate pitcher performance, it does not guarantee a win. The term originated from John Lowe, a sportswriter, and has evolved to encompass various scenarios. Distinct from a complete game, a quality start requires a minimum number of innings, but both achievements can overlap. However, the 4.50 ERA associated with a quality start may not be impressive, considering the run-scoring trends in the league. Ultimately, the debate surrounding the significance of a quality start continues, prompting further examination of its value compared to other metrics, such as ERA.