Quality. 749 comments

When the quality start stat first started gaining traction, I didn’t like it.

Six innings or more with three or fewer earned runs. Really? That’s a quality start?

If you went six innings of every game and gave up three earned runs, you’d rack up an ERA of 4.50.

I don’t consider that a quality pitcher.

The quality start stat seemed to lower the bar on starting pitching. It made going six innings an acceptable goal for a starting pitcher. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

The complete game is nearly a thing of the past. Bullpens have ballooned to as many as eight pitchers now. Someone, after all, has to pitch all those innings the quality starter isn’t.

The trend isn’t changing. The four-man rotation has given way to five. A starter is pulled the minute he gets to a hundred pitches. Anything longer than six innings and you are putting your starter in grave risk of breaking something. Like a sweat.

Combine all these trends, and it’s easy to understand why a starting pitcher gets so many no decisions.

How can you get a win anymore? You leave a game with thirty-three percent of it left to be played. That’s plenty of time for an opposing team to come back. Especially when the game is now in the hands of a second-tier pitcher, one who is coming out of the pen because he’s not good enough to start.

In 1987, starting for the Houston Astros, Nolan Ryan led the National League in ERA at 2.70, and was in the top five of Cy Young voting. His record that year? 8-16. His manager, over-reacting to an earlier Ryan injury, put Ryan on a strict pitch count. He left a lot of games with a lead, and his bullpen blew it.

The way the game is managed today, with pitchers being coddled, the win is not nearly as dependable of a way to measure a starting pitcher’s worth as it used to be.

I’m not saying a W isn’t important. But it’s so much harder for a starting pitcher to get that it’s hard to know how what it means. A win is almost an oddity.

That’s why I have come around on the quality start stat. As difficult as it is to admit, the QS is the new W. It’s the new measure of a starter’s domination. Maybe the most accurate.

And with Nick Martinez’s seven innings and just three earned runs allowed, Texas Rangers starting pitchers have now gone ten games in a row with a quality start, according to Cody Stavenhagen of MLB.com.

That hasn’t happened since 1978, back when starting pitchers did something pitchers today don’t do. They pitched the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

Weird, huh?

Ferguson Jenkins was on that 1978 staff. (By the way, Jenkins pitched 16 complete games in 1978, his rotation-mate Jon Matlack threw 18. Today, that manager would be fired.) The Rangers do not have a Fergie Jenkins. But they do seem to have five no-name guys who are hanging in until the re-enforcements arrive. (Please, nobody tell them the re-enforements probably aren’t coming.)

It’s not the most noteworthy starting staff. But the Texas Rangers have a quality starting staff.

Too bad they aren’t allowed to pitch those last critical innings when most games are on the line. Because the Ranger bullpen they turn the game over to can not be labeled quality by any measure.