Rethinking ‘quality’ when it comes to Red Sox starting pitching

wade miley oakland main.jpg
In seven starts this season, Red Sox starter Wade Miley is 2-4 with a 5.60 ERA in 35 1/3 innings pitched. Getty Images/Thearon W. Henderson

Sometimes it can feel like there are far too many statistics in baseball. On the other hand, a case still be made that there aren’t enough stats. Despite all the numbers and acronyms, there aren’t enough stats that adequately explain things.

For example, won-lost records, unless they are extreme (22-6 or 4-17) convey very little about a pitcher’s performance. That is why the concept of the “quality start” was created.

Quality Start
A quality start is when the starter has at least six innings pitched allowing three earned runs or less. The stat was well intentioned, but the problem is obvious: in this day and age, the pitcher who gives up three runs in six innings has an ERA of 4.50 and we all know that doesn’t signify “quality.” Also, the pitcher who throws eight innings and allows four runs has a 4.50 ERA as well, but he is not credited with a QS.

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This is why a few years ago I developed the “Ultra Quality Start.”

Ultra Quality Start
The ultra quality start is awarded when a pitcher throws at least seven innings and allows two earned runs or less. The ERA for a pitcher who has pitched seven innings and allowed just a pair of earned runs is 2.57, which probably should have been the metric for a quality start.

I then felt, if we have two tiers for excellence in pitching, we should have two tiers to define the absence of meritorious service in a start.

Lack of Quality Start
I call a game when a pitcher throws no more than 5.2 innings and allows 3+ earned runs, a lack of quality start (LQS). A pitcher who permits three earned runs in 5 2/3 IP has an ERA of 5.19. That certainly bears no resemblance to quality in this age of reduced hitting.

Bad Start
Then there is the bottom rung. I “calls like I sees it” and a game when a pitcher throws no more than 4.2 innings and allows 4-plus earned runs is a bad start (an aptly abbreviated BS). When a pitcher who permits four earned runs in 4.2 IP and has an ERA of 8.57, that’s BS.

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Now let’s take a look at how the Sox staff fits into these four categories

Quality Starts
The Padres pitching staff leads the majors with 24 quality starts, followed by 23 by the Nationals. The American League leaders are the Angels with 22. The Sox staff has 17, 17th in baseball.
Zack Greinke leads the majors with eight QS.

The Red Sox have 17 Quality Starts, with a team record of 10-7 in those games.
Clay Buchholz – Five Quality Starts – He’s 2-1, the team is 2-3
Joe Kelly – Two Quality Starts – He’s 1-0, the team is 2-0
Justin Masterson – Three Quality Starts – He’s 1-0, the team is 1-2
Rick Porcello – Five Quality Starts – He’s 4-1, the team is 4-1
Wade Miley – Five Quality Starts – He’s 1-1, the team is 1-1

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Ultra Quality Starts
The Tigers and the Reds lead the majors with 12 ultra quality starts. The Sox staff has five, tied with the Royals (with their bullpen, they don’t worry about starters going deep) for 26th in the majors.

Max Scherzer, leads the majors with six UQS.

The Red Sox have five Ultra Quality Starts, with a team record of 4-1 in those games.
• Clay Buchholz – Two Ultra Quality Starts – He’s 1-0, the team is 1-1
• Joe Kelly – One Ultra Quality Start – He’s 1-0, the team is 1-0
• Rick Porcello – Two Ultra Quality Starts – He’s 2-0, the team is 2-0

Lack of Quality Starts
The Blue Jays lead the majors with 16 lack of quality starts. The Sox are in a pack of five teams tied for fourth with 12 LQS each.

Drew Pomeranz, Travis Wood, Ross Detwiler and Jeremy Hellickson lead the majors with five LQS.

The Red Sox have 12 Lack of Quality Starts, with a team record of 2-10 in those games.
• Clay Buchholz – Two Lack of Quality Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 0-2
• Joe Kelly – Three Lack of Quality Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 0-3
• Justin Masterson – Three Lack of Quality Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 1-2
• Rick Porcello – Two Lack of Quality Starts – He’s 0-1, the team is 1-1
• Wade Miley – Two Lack of Quality Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 0-2

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Bad Starts (BS)
The Blue Jays and the Red Sox lead the majors with eight each.

Drew Hutchison leads the majors with four BS.

The Red Sox have eight Bad Starts, with a team record of 1-7 in those games.
• Clay Buchholz – Two Bad Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 0-2
• Joe Kelly – One Bad Start – He’s 0-1, the team is 0-1
• Justin Masterson – Three Bad Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 1-2
• Wade Miley – Two Bad Starts – He’s 0-2, the team is 0-2

So there you go
Now you have more stats to complain about.

While you may not like the results, you have to admit that they are significantly more instructive than W-L records.

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