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The Myth of the Quality Start

By Mark Ashby Vaughan

It is not uncommon that when a starting pitcher is removed from a game you will hear a baseball announcer refer to the pitcher as having given his team a “quality start.” The qualification for this “quality start” designation is that the pitcher threw six innings and gave up three or fewer runs.

But is giving up three runs in six innings really quality?

Giving up three runs in six innings equates to a 4.50 Earned Run Average (ERA). As of June 5, 2011 there were 290 MBL pitchers who had an ERA of 3.99 or less. There collective win-loss record is 620-462 for a .573 winning percentage which would get a team 92 wins over the course of a 162-game schedule. That’s probably enough wins to put a team into the playoffs and a chance for a World Series ring.

As of the same date, there were 41 pitchers with an ERA between 4.00 and 4.50. There collective win-loss record is 88-119 for a .425 winning percentage. No team with a winning percentage that low has ever gotten into the playoffs.

Considering, too, that as of June 5, 2011 all MLB teams averaged just 4.21 runs scored per game, giving up 4.5 runs per game isn’t going to win you any championships.

Conclusion, the “quality start”, as currently defined, is a myth.

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