There are several statistics available to measure a pitcher's effectiveness
and contributions to the team. ERA, WHIP ratio, Won-Loss record, Game
Score, Win Shares, Walk:Strikeout ratio and a slew of other stats that are both
confusing and difficult to compute. My personal favorite is the Quality
Start, a simple measurement of how many times a pitcher has given his team a
good chance to win the game.
The Quality Start (QS) is based around a few fundamental principles.
Namely, that a team should be able to score at least three runs in a game (which
the average team does) and that a starting pitcher should be able to go deep
enough into the game where the bullpen doesn't have to do all of the work.
With that, a pitcher has thrown a Quality Start when they meet the following
- They throw at least six full innings
- They allow three or fewer earned runs
That's it. No fancy calculations, no confusing metrics, just two
requirements. The idea is that if a pitcher lasts long enough into the
game and allows just three runs, he's given his team a good chance of winning
the ballgame. Which is what a starting pitcher is supposed to do.
And it's not even asking that much. If the pitcher throws the
"worst" possible QS, a six-inning, three-earned run game, they'll come
out with an ERA of 4.50 for that game. An ERA of 4.50, while respectable,
isn't going to win any ERA titles, and it's probably a little worse than league
average. So, if anything, the qualifications for a QS are a little lax.
So what's this got to do with our beloved Yankees? Below is a table
containing every Yankee pitcher that has started at least three times along with
the number of Quality Starts they've thrown and what percentage of their total
starts that accounts for. After that I've listed the top five pitchers in
baseball in those categories.
So what can we learn from these numbers? The Yankees aren't getting
enough out of their starting pitchers. Javier Vazquez has been superb,
give the Yankees good innings more often than not and keeping his team in the
game. Kevin Brown (when healthy) has been good and Jon Lieber (when not
serving up meatballs) has been fine as well. But Mike Mussina has been
terrible. By the All-Star break last season, Mussina already had 13
Quality Starts, nearly three times as many as this year. That's just
And take a look at the Yankees' other starters. Jose Contreras, while
pitching slightly better lately, has been almost as bad as Mussina and Brad Halsey, as promising as he's looked, hasn't thrown a QS in four tries.
The simple fact is this: pitching wins championships. And the other
simple fact is this: good pitching always beats good hitting. Sure, the
Yankees are going to win a lot of games where their pitchers have allowed five
or more runs. They've been doing it all season as a matter of fact.
QS% should directly correlate with Win percentage, but it doesn't. Mike
Mussina has a winning record, as does Contreras. But a team can't always
expect to score enough runs to overcome a hole dug by the starting pitcher.
But come playoff time, when the bad pitchers and bad bullpens have been
eliminated from the playing field, no team can expect to score more than three
runs on a regular basis. It is then when the rotation has to bear down and
give the team a good chance to win every game, and if things continue as they
are now, that's just not going to happen for the Yankees.
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