Glove and Bat

Exploring the Significance and Criticisms of Quality Start Statistic

Baseball is a game that is widely loved by enthusiasts all over the world. It is a sport where starting pitchers can make all the difference between a win or a loss.

Pitchers have become an integral component of the game, and their performances are closely analyzed and evaluated. To assess the quality of pitching, a statistic known as quality start has been used since 1985.

This article will explore the definition and history of quality start, how it differs from a complete game, and when a complete game can also be considered a quality start.

1) Definition and History of Quality Start

A quality start is a statistic used in baseball to evaluate starting pitchers. To earn a quality start, a starting pitcher must pitch a minimum of six innings and allow three earned runs or less.

The equation for quality start is not perfect, but it is used to recognize a quality performance by the pitcher. The origin of the term quality start is attributed to sports journalist John Lowe.

In 1985, Lowe was covering a Philadelphia Phillies game when he heard team manager, Tommy Lasorda, say that he considers a starting pitcher who allows three earned runs or less to have given his team a chance to win. Lowe decided to call this performance a “quality start,” and the term quickly gained popularity in baseball circles.

Since then, a quality start has become a critical statistic used in baseball. The statistic is used to show how consistently a pitcher can perform throughout the season.

A pitcher with numerous quality starts over several games is viewed as a reliable pitcher who can be counted on to provide his team with a good chance of winning. 2) Quality Start vs.

Complete Game

A complete game is when a pitcher pitches the entire game, all nine innings, for his team. A quality start is intended to measure a pitcher’s performance through the first six innings of the game.

To earn a quality start, a pitcher must have a good outing for the first six innings of the game. In contrast, a complete game pitcher has to throw the entire game, and the criteria for being a complete game pitcher are not as strict.

A pitcher can give up more than three earned runs and still qualify as a starting pitcher who has gone the distance. However, there are times when a complete game pitcher can also be considered a quality start.

For instance, if a pitcher pitches a complete game but allows only three or fewer earned runs, he will have achieved both a complete game and a quality start.


Quality start is a statistical tool used to measure the performance of starting pitchers in baseball. It’s a straightforward equation that counts a pitcher’s performances of six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs.

Although it does have its limitations, it is still viewed as a reliable measure of a starting pitcher’s performance. While complete games provide a more definitive performance by a pitcher in a single game and can also be considered quality starts, they do not offer the same degree of consistency over an extended period of time as a starting pitcher with numerous quality starts.

3) Criticisms of Quality Start Statistic

Although the quality start statistic has been used for over three decades now, it is not without criticism. One critique is that the minimum requirement of six innings pitched and three earned runs left to qualify as a quality start is not rigorous enough.

Some argue that since allowing even four runs in six innings means the pitcher’s ERA will be 6.00, which is far from acceptable for a starting pitcher. Another criticism is that quality start does not account for things like unearned runs or the quality of the opposing team’s line-up.

It has also been suggested that quality start does not differentiate between a dominant start and a barely qualifying quality start, resulting in an unbalanced evaluation of a pitcher’s performance. As a response to these criticisms, a few new categories of quality starts have been created.

One such category is an ultra-quality start, where a starting pitcher must pitch seven full innings and allow two earned runs or less. There is also a category of mega-quality start, where a pitcher must pitch eight or more innings and allow three or fewer runs.

The dominant start is another category, given to pitchers who strike out at least ten batters while allowing three runs or fewer. One incident that sparked conversation on the quality start standard was the Seattle Mariners’ Randy Johnson’s incredible performance in 1992.

Johnson pitched a complete game of nine innings, with 19 strikeouts but allowed four earned runs. Despite his extraordinary performance, Johnson did not meet the standard for a quality start, which requires six innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed in a game.

This incident served as a catalyst for rethinking whether the quality start standard should supersede the extraordinary efforts produced by elite pitchers.

4) FAQ About Quality Start

To clear any confusions regarding the quality start standard, here are some frequently asked questions:

– What are the qualifications for a quality start? For a starting pitcher to earn a quality start, the pitcher must throw at least six full innings and allow three or fewer earned runs.

– Does Major League Baseball officially recognize quality starts as a statistic? Yes, quality starts are officially recognized as a statistic in Major League Baseball, and it is used to measure a pitcher’s performance.

– What is the average length of a quality start, and what is the trend? The average length of a quality start is six innings.

In recent years, the percentage of games started with six full innings declined from 70% to about 63%, showing a trend of decreasing appearances by starting pitchers. – What is an ultra-quality start, and what are the qualifications?

An ultra-quality start is a performance by a starting pitcher that includes allowing two or fewer earned runs across seven full innings of play. – What percentage of quality starts result in wins?

According to ESPN statistics, teams that receive a quality start win approximately 70% of games, indicating that quality starts are a reliable indicator of pitcher performance and a factor in winning games. – How are unearned runs treated in the calculation of quality start?

Unearned runs are not counted in the calculation of quality start criteria.


The quality start statistic is a widely-used measure to evaluate the performance of starting pitchers and has been around since the 1980s. It remains a reliable tool to determine a pitcher’s quality, but it has also faced criticism for its minimum requirements and the manner in which it reports a pitcher’s performance.

Nevertheless, some critics of the statistic have proposed new variations, such as the ultra-quality start and mega-quality start, which take into account a pitcher’s more exceptional performance. The FAQs about quality start can clear any doubts regarding this statistic.

5) Importance of Quality Start Statistic

The quality start statistic has been used for decades to measure pitching performance, and it has earned significance in the baseball world. It is considered among the first and most critical indicators of starting pitcher performance.

However, while there is acceptance of the quality start in baseball, the simplicity of the definition remains a point of controversy. Critics have suggested that the requirements for a quality start may be too loose and that the standard does not account for many of the nuances of the game, such as the offense faced by the pitcher or the home ballpark’s dimensions.

Some believe that quality start criteria do not differentiate pitchers’ performances, leading to many performers receiving the same evaluation, regardless of their actual performance. Despite the challenges faced by the statistic, experts in the baseball world agree that quality start should remain a vital measure of pitcher performance.

The simplicity may even be viewed as an advantage, making it more accessible for fans and accurately measuring the pitching performance without being bogged down with too many nuances. The significance of the quality start statistic lies in its accessibility.

It provides a quick understanding of how effective a starting pitcher was in a game, giving the fans an easily accessible measure to evaluate the pitcher’s performance. At its core, quality start is a measure of consistency, a critical trait for any starting pitcher.

The statistic is essential in measuring consistency over time and allows for easy comparison from one pitcher to another. There have been debates on whether the stat should be modified or expanded to account for more advanced metrics, but the consensus among experts in the baseball world is that quality start should remain a critical component of the game.

In fact, many experts believe that the simplicity of the criteria is an advantage rather than a disadvantage, making it easier for fans to follow and understand. While some other measures exist, the simplicity of quality start makes it more accessible to a broader audience and creates an easily-digestible summary of a pitcher’s performance.

In summary, the quality start statistic is an essential measure of starting pitcher performance, and while it has faced criticisms over the years, it continues to be a staple of the game. Its simplicity in evaluation makes it an easily accessible statistic that can evaluate a starting pitcher’s consistency over time, regardless of the nuances that may come with game performance.

Despite challenges, the consensus is that quality start should remain a key component for measuring pitching performance in baseball for years to come. The quality start statistic has been a staple in measuring the performance of starting pitchers in baseball for over three decades.

While it has faced criticisms, the consensus among experts is that quality start remains a vital measure of pitcher performance, and its simplicity has made it more accessible for fans. The statistic’s critical significance lies in its ability to provide a quick and easy evaluation of a starting pitcher’s consistency over time and allows for easy comparison from one pitcher to another.

FAQs covering the topic address queries or concerns readers may have, such as the qualifications for a quality start and the average length, among others.

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