Quality Starts and Twins Wins

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.

LHP Jim Kaat

LHP Jim Kaat

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.

Bert Blyleven

Bert Blyleven

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.

Quality Starts versus Wins

 

Twins Quality Start History

YEAR QS RECORD
1972 114 77-77
1967 105 91-71
1968 100 79-83
1966 99 89-73
1963 95 91-70
1973 93 81-81
1978 92 73-89
1974 90 82-80
 1984  90  81-81
 1988  90  91-71
 2005  90  83-79
 1965*  89  102-60
 1970*  89  98-64
 1991*  89  95-67
 1969*  88  97-65
 1971  88  74-86
 1989  88  80-82
 1964  86  79-83
 2008  86  88-75
 2010*  86  94-68
 1976  83  85-77
 1992  83  90-72
 2004*  83  92-70
1980  82 77-84
 1987*  80  85-77
2001  80  85-77
 2003*  80  90-72
2007  80  79-83
 2011  80  63-99
 1962  79  91-71
2009* 79 87-76
 1998 78 70-92
 2002* 78 94-67
 1961  75  70-90
1990 75  74-88
 1985 74  77-85
 1979  73  82-80
 2006*  73  96-66
 1975  71  76-83
 1986  71  71-91
 2000  71  69-93
 1977 70 84-77
 1993 69 71-91
 1996 69  78-84
 1983 67  70-92
 1982 66 60-102
 2014 66 70-92
 1999 63  63-97
 2012 62  66-96
2013 62  66-96
1997 61 68-94
1981 56  41-68
 1995 43  56-88
 1994 37  53-60
 TOTALS  4,266  4,274-4,335

Twins QS data by decade

DECADE QS AVG. QS PER SEASON
1960’s 816 90.7
1970’s 863 86.3
1980’s 764 76.4
1990’s 667 66.7
2000’s 800 80.0
2010’s 356 71.2

I asked Jim Kaat if he would comment on Quality Starts and here is what Jim had to say-

Thanks John,
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.

Jim

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