A pitcher gets credit for a quality start (QS) any time he allows three earned runs or less in a start that lasts at least six innings. John Lowe who was writing for the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time developed and coined the term Quality Start back in 1985.
Most arguments against the QS begin with the statement that a QS equals a 4.50 ERA and an ERA of 4.50 is not seen as top-notch by anybody. If you look up QS on Wiki you can find some strange situations for and against the term QS, for example, in 2000 Mark Mulder goes 6 and 2/3 innings giving up 15 hits, nine runs but only two were earned and so he gets a QS, in 1982 Mike Scott goes the required 6 innings giving up 7 hits, 5 walks, zero strikeouts, allows 7 runs albeit only 3 earned and he get a QS, on the other side of the coin, back in 1974 Gaylord Perry goes 15 innings and allows 4 earned runs and get no QS, same with Randy Johnson who pitches a complete game while striking out 19 but gives up 4 earnies and gets no QS.
Since 1961, the most MLB QS in a single season record is held by White Sox knuckleballer Wilbur Wood who had 37 QS in 41 starts in 1971. Next on the list is Dodger great Sandy Koufax with 36 QS in 1966 (his final season) in 41 starts. The career leaders in QS from 1961-current are Don Sutton with 483, Nolan Ryan with 481, and Greg Maddux with 480.
The Twins top five career QS leaders are Jim Kaat with 253, Bert Blyleven with 218, Brad Radke with 208, Jim Perry with 156 and Frank Viola with 144. The Twins most QS in a season record belongs to Bert Blyleven who had 31 QS in 1972 in 38 starts. That 1972 Twins team had the most QS in a single season with 114 in 154 games, that means that 74% of their games were QS and yet the team finished with a 77-77 record. The others starters that season were Dick Woodson with 26 QS, Jim Perry with 22, Jim Kaat and Ray Corbin with 14 and Dave Goltz with 7. Compare that with the 66 QS in 2014 where the team leader was Phil Hughes with 20, Kyle Gibson had 15, Kevin Correia, had 13, Ricky Nolasco had 10, Yohan Pino had 3, Trevor May and Sam Deduno had 2 each and Tommy Milone put one in the books.
But how close is the relationship of a QS to what really counts, a team victory. If you look at the list that I have provided below that shows the Minnesota Twins QS and the team record you can get a feel for how the two compare. Sure, there are outlier seasons like 1972 when the team had 114 QS and finished the season with a 77-77 record or when the opposite happened in 2006 when the Twins went to the play-offs with a 96-66 record but only had 73 QS. By the way, I don’t remember seeing any Rick Anderson for governor buttons back then.
The Twins historical QS numbers are kind of strange, almost a bell-shaped curve. The Twins have had 90 or more QS in a season 11 times and went to the playoffs zero times. No Twins team with 72 or less QS has sniffed the playoffs either. The Twins have advanced to the playoffs 11 times and their QS were always in the 73-89 range and if you exclude the 2006 season with just 73 QS, the other ten fall between 78-89. Having said all that, in the past 54 seasons the Twins have had 4,266 QS, the team record during that period is 4,274-4,335. 4,266 QS and 4,274 wins over 54 seasons, is that strange or what?
The chart below shows you in a pictorial fashion the relationship of QS and Twins victories. Click on the chart to make it larger.
Twins Quality Start History
Twins QS data by decade
|DECADE||QS||AVG. QS PER SEASON|
I asked Jim Kaat if he would comment on Quality Starts and here is what Jim had to say-
I’m happy to comment on “Quality Starts”. It’s one of my favorite subjects because it is misunderstood. My pitching stats person, Merrianna McCully, has compiled a 25 year profile on QS’s in her book ‘Three Up Three Down’. She kept all sorts of pitching stats for me from 1988-2006…
The MINIMUM DAILY REQUIREMENT,[ like a vitamin pill] is 6 ip. 3 er or less..the actual earned run averages in a Quality start is a little under 2 in the NL and about 2.05 in the American league..DH factor…The IP’s in a QS game will close to 8 innings pitched. The records show that if a team got just a minimum daily requirement for a QS they would win about 2/3 of their games unless they had an extremely ineffective bullpen.