FanPost

Living and Dying by the Quality Start

The recent 5-game winning streak, fueled by 5 consecutive quality starts, had me thinking about the O’s performance in games where their starters gave them a quality start. My shiny new subscription to baseball-reference has given me the data needed to do a more thoughtful analysis of the situation, so in this post I will attempt to do just that. I’ll keep my analysis to AL-only for convenience. Note that these stats do not include yesterday’s quality start turned in by Tillman.

For starters (ha!), let’s look at the number of quality starts turned in by pitchers across the league. O’s pitchers have turned in 45 quality starts (QS) in 98 tries, good for about 46% of all games. This ranks them 12th out of 14 teams in the AL, which is probably about where you and I expected them to be. The A's lead the AL with quality starts in 59% of their games, while the Royals bring up the rear with a QS rate of only 35%.

Team

Games

QS

Non-QS

QS Rate

Rank

OAK

97

57

40

59%

1

LAA

99

57

42

58%

2

CHW

98

55

43

56%

3

DET

98

54

44

55%

4

TEX

97

53

44

55%

5

CLE

98

53

45

54%

6

NYY

98

51

47

52%

7

SEA

100

50

50

50%

8

TBR

98

49

49

50%

9

TOR

97

48

49

49%

10

BOS

99

47

52

47%

11

BAL

98

45

53

46%

12

MIN

98

36

62

37%

13

KCR

97

34

63

35%

14

Unsurprisingly, Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel have given us the most quality starts, with 11 and 9 respectively, while Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz have fared the worst, giving quality starts only 33% and 38% of the time. Bafflingly, Tommy Hunter has turned in quality starts in nearly half of his 15 outings. It’s still early to get excited about Chris Tillman (whose start from yesterday, again, is not counted here), Zach Britton, and Miguel Gonzalez, but early returns look somewhat promising. Here’s to hoping that at least one of them can keep it up for an extended stretch. (And yes, Dana Eveland, I am ignoring you. Deal with it.)

Pitcher

GS

QS

Non-QS

QS Rate

Chen

20

11

9

55%

Hammel

18

9

9

50%

Arrieta

18

6

12

33%

Matusz

16

6

10

38%

Hunter

15

7

8

47%

Gonzalez

4

2

2

50%

Tillman

3

2

1

75%

Britton

2

1

1

50%

Eveland

2

1

1

50%


How have the Orioles fared in the 45 games in which they have been given a quality start? It turns out that the recent 5-game streak was no aberration – they’ve done really effing well. They are 39-6 in these games, good for a winning percentage of .867 which bests the junior circuit by a good margin. (Two of those 6 losses came on Monday and Tuesday, before which the O’s were an incredible 38-4 when given a quality start.) In 53 games with non-quality starts, they are 12-41, good for an AL-worst winning percentage of .226. Interestingly, the Rays, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are all inverses of the O’s – they are among the worst when it comes to winning their quality starts, and among the best when it comes to winning the non-quality ones. The MFY, of course, are good at winning games no matter what their starter does.

Winning Percentage in Quality Starts:

Team

Games

W

L

PCT

Rank

BAL

45

39

6

0.867

1

NYY

51

41

10

0.804

2

TEX

53

42

11

0.792

3

OAK

57

43

14

0.754

4

LAA

57

41

16

0.719

5

CLE

53

38

15

0.717

6

KCR

34

24

10

0.706

7

DET

54

38

16

0.704

8

CHW

55

38

17

0.691

9

TBR

49

32

17

0.653

10

TOR

48

30

18

0.625

11

BOS

47

28

19

0.596

12

MIN

36

20

16

0.556

13

SEA

50

27

23

0.540

14

Winning Percentage in Non-Quality Starts:

Team

Games

W

L

PCT

Rank

BOS

52

21

31

0.404

1

TBR

49

19

30

0.388

2

NYY

47

18

29

0.383

3

TOR

49

18

31

0.367

4

TEX

44

16

28

0.364

5

CHW

43

15

28

0.349

6

DET

44

15

29

0.341

7

MIN

62

20

42

0.323

8

SEA

50

16

34

0.320

9

LAA

42

13

29

0.310

10

KCR

63

17

46

0.270

11

OAK

40

10

30

0.250

12

CLE

45

11

34

0.244

13

BAL

53

12

41

0.226

14

This could mean a few different things. First, it could mean that the bullpen, especially the late-inning relievers, has been incredibly effective – i.e. when the starter pitches effectively and deep, the bullpen holds the lead and the O’s win. Second, it could mean the middle relievers are especially ineffective – i.e. when the starter does not go deep and we need to bring out Kevin Gregg, we are toast. Third, it could mean that the starters’ non-quality starts are really bad and give us no chance to win. Finally, it could mean something about our offense – either that it responds well to good starting pitching, or that it is just plain old bad and our only chances to win come when our starters turn in good outings. For now, I will ignore the first two hypotheses and dive a little deeper into the other two.

First, let’s take a look at the non-quality starts. These are summarized below (all stats are for the starter only).

Overall

0-4 innings

4.1-5.2 innings

6 or more innings

W-L

12-41

1-14

7-18

4-9

IP

5.0

3.1

5.0

6.1

H

6.9

6.8

6.9

6.9

R

4.8

5.7

4.4

4.6

ER

4.4

5.1

4.0

4.5

BB

2.3

2.5

2.6

1.6

SO

3.8

2.7

4.2

4.3

HR

1.1

0.9

0.9

1.5

Unfortunately, this is not very conclusive evidence. The non-quality starts of four or fewer innings look predictably terrible, and those of more than four innings look like they could’ve been a lot worse. Let’s move along to the offense.

The Orioles have scored a total of 398 runs, good for 12th in the AL, so we know that our offense is bad…but do they perform better when their starter turns in a quality start? 195 of our runs have come in the 45 games with quality starts (4.3 runs per game) while 203 have come in the 53 games without quality starts (3.8 runs per game). The difference in runs per game between quality and non-quality starts is therefore 0.5, the second largest difference in the AL.

Team

Runs per Game (QS)

Runs per Game (non-QS)

Difference

Rank

TEX

5.3

4.7

0.6

1

BAL

4.3

3.8

0.5

2

NYY

5.0

4.6

0.4

3

OAK

4.1

3.8

0.4

4

BOS

5.0

4.8

0.2

5

LAA

4.6

4.5

0.1

6

KCR

4.0

4.2

-0.2

7

TBR

4.0

4.4

-0.4

8

CLE

4.1

4.6

-0.6

9

MIN

3.9

4.5

-0.6

9

TOR

4.5

5.3

-0.8

11

CHW

4.3

5.3

-0.9

12

DET

4.1

5.2

-1.1

13

SEA

3.2

4.6

-1.3

14

This exercise has shown us five things: (1) that Orioles starting pitchers are not good; (2) that the O’s have tended to win games when the starters pitch well and (3) lose games when they don’t; and (4) that the offense has tended to help starters out when they pitch well and (5) hang them out to dry when they don’t. Facts 1-3 are not all that surprising, but 4 and 5 are pretty interesting even if neither is likely to continue. Fact 4, especially, seems to be evidence of how fragilely-built the Orioles success has been thus far in 2012.

So what does this mean for the Orioles and the trade deadline? If you believe the offense can continue to provide consistently better run support for quality starts, then perhaps trading for a starter who can more reliably give us quality starts will propel us to the playoffs. If you believe that the early returns on Tillman and Britton (and Gonzalez) are indicative of what’s to come, then perhaps we have the quality starts in-house and we should instead focus on improving our offense in order to help us win more of the non-quality starts and continue to win the quality starts. In reality, neither of these things are probably true and what we need in order to be competitive this year and in the future is both – starting pitchers who can more consistently give us quality starts and a better offense to help us win more of the non-quality starts. Similar to our records in one-run (19-6)* and extra-inning (10-2) games, if our record in quality starts (39-6) regresses to something more inner-worldly, we should expect this glass house of a season to come crashing down.

* Note that there is significant overlap – 17 of our one-run games have featured quality starts by O’s starters, a 15-2 record.

FanPosts are user-created content and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of Camden Chat or SB Nation. They might, though.

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