Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
August 13, 2010
BASEBALL: High Quality Starts

We all know the definition of a "quality start": 6 or more innings, 3 earned runs or less. While the run scoring environments and expectations about pitcher workloads have changed over the years, a pitcher who throws a quality start - even the bare minimum 3-in-6 - at least has given his team, in most circumstances, a fighting chance to win.

Baseball-Reference.com now has pitcher-game data going back to 1920, and I thought it would be interesting to raise the bar to high quality starts: games where the starter had earned a win with ordinary offensive and bullpen support. I picked 7 innings, 2 runs (earned or otherwise) or less. Throughout the lively ball era, that's generally been a good day's work for a starter, and we assume that a starter who does that will almost always take home a W, or has been the victim of hard luck if he doesn't.

Through Wednesday's action, 188 pitchers have thrown 100 or more High Quality Starts since 1920; 22 of those have thrown 200 HQS, 10 have thrown 250, and only two have thrown as many as 300 High Quality Starts. A full chart is below the fold. Some of the breakdowns may surprise you. The two pitchers to throw 300 High Quality Starts? #2 is unsurprising, Roger Clemens with 308. #1? Don Sutton, 310 of them. Sure, he was never dominant, he pitched in an ideal pitcher's park in a great time for pitchers, and he had a cheesy perm, but 310 times he went to the hill and earned a win, more than any other modern pitcher. If that doesn't explain for you why he's in the Hall of Fame, I'm not sure what will.

Only three eligible pitchers have thrown 200 or more HQS and are not in the Hall of Fame: Tommy John (257), Bert Blyleven (248) and Frank Tanana (204); Clemens, Maddux, Randy Johnson, Glavine, and Mussina aren't eligible yet. Honestly, I had expected the breakdowns here to feature Blyleven more prominently as a hard-luck guy, but he doesn't especially stick out. Still, 248 HQS is a heckuva credential. I'm marginally more impressed with John's Hall of Fame case from looking at these breakdowns, but still not sold on him. Dizzy Dean, whose career is sort of the mile marker for the shortest career you can have as a Hall of Fame starting pitcher, notched exactly 100 HQS, winning 91 of them out of his 230 career starts and 150 career wins (12 of Dean's career wins were in relief).

The largest number of wins from HQS? Warren Spahn, 249. Spahn is, not coincidentally, the only man in that time period to throw 200 complete games in which he allowed 2 runs or less, a staggering 266 of them, in which he went 242-24. You hang on that long in a well-pitched game, sooner or later either Hank Aaron or Eddie Mathews is going to bail you out.

The pitcher with the largest number of High Quality Starts in which he didn't earn a win? Greg Maddux, with 92, followed by Sutton (89), Nolan Ryan (82), Tom Seaver (78), John (76), and Clemens (74). If you pencil in a W for each of the times Maddux threw a HQS and got jobbed, you get 447 career wins. (Clemens would sit at 428, Sutton at 413, Spahn and Ryan at 406 each. Walter Johnson would have 433 and Grover Alexander 399 just if you added their HQS without a win from 1920 on).

The most losses in HQS? Robin Roberts with 45, followed by Ryan (41), Seaver and Gaylord Perry (40 each).

The pitcher most likely to notch a W when throwing a HQS? Lefty Gomez (93.5%), which makes sense when you have Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey and either Babe Ruth or Joe DiMaggio hitting behind you; most of the top 10 is from the 1930s. Least likely? Slow-working Steve Trachsel (60.8%), followed by Ron Darling. The average pitcher among this sample won 75.4% of his HQS.

Most likely to lose a HQS? Dolf Luque (28.2%; Luque, the pride of Havana and my high school Spanish teacher's favorite pitcher, was 76-31 with an 0.98 ERA in 110 HQS); least likely, Tim Hudson (2.8%). The average was 11.9%. Hudson's record in his HQS? 142 starts, 104 wins, 4 losses, 34 no decisions. Probably the biggest factor for Hudson was just that a lot of his HQS came in the really high scoring early part of the last decade, but also it may help that even at his best, Hudson - when he was surrounded by Zito & Mulder - was rarely a guy that either team would rejigger their rotation around, so I suspect he never faced a disproportionate number of aces the way a Maddux or a Randy Johnson or a Koufax or a Seaver or a Whitey Ford (especially Ford) did. Note that the top 10 least likely to lose a HQS include David Wells, Gomez, Ron Guidry, Mike Mussina, CC Sabathia, and Eddie Lopat. I think you can see a trend. But #3 is Mike Hampton.

Most likely to get a no decision? Darling (24.8%), who of course was famous for this with the Mets (that's how Roger McDowell won 14 games in 1986 and Jesse Orosco 8). Least likely? Bob Lemon (0.7%), followed by Gomez and his teammate Red Ruffing. Perhaps not coincidentally, Lemon and Ruffing were both excellent hitting pitchers. The average? 12.7%.

The average for the sample is 8.41 IP per HQS, and a complete game in 57.3% of those; the latter in particular has declined sharply over time. Four early pitchers (Bucky Walters, George Uhle, Lefty Grove and Ted Lyons) averaged over 9 innings per HQS, while Johan Santana at 7.49 is the only pitcher below 7.5, and he'd be at 7.5 if you included yesterday. Uhle, a 1920s workhorse, also tops the field by completing 98% of his HQS; Santana at 9% is the only guy below 14%.

The best ERA in his HQS? Juan Marichal, 0.87. Worst? Brad Radke, 1.46. I didn't run an average but it's probably around 1.10.

Seven pitchers have thrown 10 or more HQS in the postseason since 1903: John Smoltz (14), Tom Glavine (14), Curt Schilling (13), Greg Maddux (13), Andy Pettitte (12), Orel Hershiser (10), and Whitey Ford (10). It says something about the modern postseason that Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux each have just one World Series ring to show for all those outstanding postseason starts.

I'll have a followup post looking further at HQS numbers. The full chart is below the fold.

Key: HQS=High Quality Starts, and the rest of the numbers are stats within those HQS, including IP/S, which is innings pitched per HQS. OW is HQS in which the starter did not get a win. W%, L%, ND% and CG% are the percentages of Wins, Losses, No Decisions and Complete Games per HQS.

PlayerHQSWLW-L%ERACGSHOIPOWW%L%ND%IP/SCG%
Don Sutton310221320.8741.05140582561.1890.7130.1030.1848.2645.2%
Roger Clemens308234200.9211.0493462436.2740.7600.0650.1757.9130.2%
Tom Seaver295217400.8441.07183612535.1780.7360.1360.1298.5962.0%
Nolan Ryan292210410.8370.98153612429.1820.7190.1400.1408.3252.4%
Warren Spahn292249350.8771.10264632616.1430.8530.1200.0278.9690.4%
Greg Maddux284192290.8691.1992342273.1920.6760.1020.2228.0032.4%
Steve Carlton282222370.8571.06178552409.0600.7870.1310.0828.5463.1%
Gaylord Perry274207400.8381.01197532403.0670.7550.1460.0998.7771.9%
Phil Niekro262194370.8401.15155452201.2680.7400.1410.1188.4059.2%
Tommy John257181290.8621.01121462128.2760.7040.1130.1838.2847.1%
Bert Blyleven248181300.8580.98156602109.1670.7300.1210.1498.5062.9%
Jim Palmer248191270.8761.02163522151.1570.7700.1090.1218.6765.7%
Randy Johnson239184170.9151.0875371891.2550.7700.0710.1597.9131.4%
Robin Roberts236166450.7871.20185452068.0700.7030.1910.1068.7678.4%
Early Wynn232197290.8721.08195492047.2350.8490.1250.0268.8284.1%
Tom Glavine229161210.8851.1046241756.2680.7030.0920.2057.6720.1%
Fergie Jenkins229174360.8291.05173491977.1550.7600.1570.0838.6375.5%
Bob Gibson217176280.8630.97178561921.1410.8110.1290.0608.8582.0%
Bob Feller208177190.9031.06183441852.2310.8510.0910.0588.9088.0%
Jim Bunning206142330.8111.09116401764.1640.6890.1600.1508.5656.3%
Frank Tanana204140280.8331.14103341696.2640.6860.1370.1768.3150.5%
Mike Mussina201156120.9291.2947231580.1450.7760.0600.1647.8623.4%
Dennis Martinez198130290.8181.2094301628.1680.6570.1460.1978.2247.5%
Jim Kaat197153250.8601.11134311699.2440.7770.1270.0968.6368.0%
Don Drysdale196138240.8520.97134491692.0580.7040.1220.1738.6368.4%
Whitey Ford192154190.8900.97123451636.2380.8020.0990.0998.5264.1%
Jerry Koosman191141220.8651.11108331625.0500.7380.1150.1478.5156.5%
Rick Reuschel187123240.8371.1379261521.2640.6580.1280.2148.1342.2%
Kevin Brown186132130.9101.0850171471.0540.7100.0700.2207.9126.9%
Mickey Lolich186139240.8531.11131401591.2470.7470.1290.1248.5570.4%
Juan Marichal185155220.8760.87161521656.2300.8380.1190.0438.9587.0%
Catfish Hunter183144250.8521.09120421570.2390.7870.1370.0778.5865.6%
Jack Morris182142200.8771.19106281520.0400.7800.1100.1108.3558.2%
Claude Osteen181120340.7791.0998401533.2610.6630.1880.1498.4754.1%
Jerry Reuss178140150.9030.96110391507.2380.7870.0840.1298.4761.8%
Luis Tiant177139220.8631.01129491539.1380.7850.1240.0908.7072.9%
Curt Schilling176140140.9091.2260201403.2360.7950.0800.1257.9734.1%
Pedro Martinez175129160.8901.0239171362.1460.7370.0910.1717.7822.3%
John Smoltz174120220.8451.2541161371.1540.6900.1260.1847.8823.6%
Carl Hubbell174149190.8871.05158351565.2250.8560.1090.0349.0090.8%
Bob Friend173126340.7881.13120351485.0470.7280.1970.0758.5869.4%
Vida Blue171130210.8611.06105361468.1410.7600.1230.1178.5961.4%
Lefty Grove170145210.8731.05161331533.1250.8530.1240.0249.0294.7%
Jamie Moyer169115180.8651.2128101285.0540.6800.1070.2137.6016.6%
Milt Pappas169135170.8881.06103431421.2340.7990.1010.1018.4160.9%
David Cone164121160.8831.1445221308.1430.7380.0980.1657.9827.4%
Jim Perry162125160.8871.0686321364.2370.7720.0990.1308.4253.1%
Red Ruffing162142180.8880.96153441452.0200.8770.1110.0128.9694.4%
Joe Niekro161115190.8581.1486291348.0460.7140.1180.1688.3753.4%
Dave McNally160120180.8701.21103331359.0400.7500.1130.1388.4964.4%
Paul Derringer158126230.8461.11139321405.0320.7970.1460.0578.8988.0%
Billy Pierce158129210.8601.05129381396.1290.8160.1330.0518.8481.6%
Mel Stottlemyre157108290.7880.98110401346.2490.6880.1850.1278.5770.1%
Steve Rogers155108240.8181.09100371320.1470.6970.1550.1488.5264.5%
Bob Welch155117140.8931.1052281244.2380.7550.0900.1558.0333.5%
Curt Simmons155117220.8421.09107361348.0380.7550.1420.1038.7069.0%
Orel Hershiser154109180.8581.1460251238.1450.7080.1170.1758.0439.0%
Dwight Gooden154110150.8801.1357231254.2440.7140.0970.1888.1437.0%
Hal Newhouser152124200.8610.96136331361.2280.8160.1320.0538.9689.5%
Mike Cuellar151120140.8960.96122351331.2310.7950.0930.1138.8280.8%
Ted Lyons151135140.9061.08147271360.2160.8940.0930.0139.0197.4%
Chuck Finley149112150.8821.1247151192.2370.7520.1010.1488.0031.5%
Larry Jackson146107250.8111.03108361256.0390.7330.1710.0968.6074.0%
Sandy Koufax146121130.9030.93111401281.2250.8290.0890.0828.7876.0%
Bucky Walters145124170.8790.97138421322.1210.8550.1170.0289.1295.2%
Doyle Alexander14499180.8461.2169181194.1450.6880.1250.1888.2947.9%
Bobo Newsom144109220.8321.13120281271.1350.7570.1530.0908.8383.3%
Frank Viola144115110.9131.1349161163.0290.7990.0760.1258.0834.0%
Andy Pettitte143113100.9191.172141088.2300.7900.0700.1407.6114.7%
David Wells14311660.9511.2040121133.2270.8110.0420.1477.9228.0%
Tim Hudson14210440.9631.1422111090.2380.7320.0280.2397.6815.5%
Bret Saberhagen14199210.8251.1859161145.2420.7020.1490.1498.1241.8%
Rick Wise141100200.8331.1991291206.2410.7090.1420.1498.5564.5%
Dave Stieb141104120.8971.0270301170.1370.7380.0850.1778.3049.6%
Ken Holtzman141104160.8671.0484311198.2370.7380.1130.1498.5059.6%
Freddie Fitzsimmons141118140.8941.08110301239.2230.8370.0990.0648.7978.0%
Bob Lemon141124160.8861.09125311242.0170.8790.1130.0078.8188.7%
Charlie Hough13891250.7841.1969131160.1470.6590.1810.1598.4150.0%
Doug Drabek138100140.8771.2541191094.1380.7250.1010.1747.9329.7%
Mark Langston138101160.8631.2953181126.0370.7320.1160.1528.1638.4%
Fernando Valenzuela138103160.8661.0884311166.1350.7460.1160.1388.4560.9%
Larry French138116150.8850.92124401237.2220.8410.1090.0518.9789.9%
Lon Warneke138118130.9011.10125291233.0200.8550.0940.0518.9390.6%
Sam McDowell13589170.8401.1282221156.1460.6590.1260.2158.5660.7%
Rudy May13596180.8421.0574241134.2390.7110.1330.1568.4054.8%
Burt Hooton13487230.7911.1471291120.0470.6490.1720.1798.3653.0%
Tom Candiotti13490160.8491.1446101067.1440.6720.1190.2097.9634.3%
Bob Buhl134102190.8431.1282201138.0320.7610.1420.0978.4961.2%
Jimmy Key13294140.8701.1624131018.2380.7120.1060.1827.7118.2%
Mel Harder132111170.8671.18106241156.0210.8410.1290.0308.7680.3%
Livan Hernandez13194150.8621.333381020.1370.7180.1150.1687.7925.2%
Larry Dierker13195170.8481.1179251109.1360.7250.1300.1458.4760.3%
Bill Gullickson13092180.8361.2643111044.2380.7080.1380.1548.0333.1%
Burleigh Grimes130110150.8801.11122261167.0200.8460.1150.0388.9893.8%
Roy Halladay12910490.9201.0646181036.1250.8060.0700.1248.0335.7%
Mike Flanagan12910680.9301.2273191099.1230.8220.0620.1168.5256.6%
Waite Hoyt129110130.8941.03118241144.1190.8530.1010.0478.8791.5%
Dutch Leonard12896270.7800.95114301142.0320.7500.2110.0398.9289.1%
Eppa Rixey128106190.8481.06113231150.1220.8280.1480.0238.9988.3%
Allie Reynolds128114110.9120.90102361123.1140.8910.0860.0238.7779.7%
Dazzy Vance127111120.9020.93113291126.0160.8740.0940.0318.8789.0%
Eddie Lopat12711170.9411.06103271126.0160.8740.0550.0718.8781.1%
Andy Messersmith12688150.8540.9174271063.2380.6980.1190.1838.4458.7%
Bill Lee126101190.8421.01112281129.0250.8020.1510.0488.9688.9%
Sad Sam Jones126103160.8661.15109261115.2230.8170.1270.0568.8586.5%
Bob Knepper12589170.8401.0465301032.0360.7120.1360.1528.2652.0%
Brad Radke1259280.9201.463010967.1330.7360.0640.2007.7424.0%
Lew Burdette12599150.8681.09103321102.2260.7920.1200.0888.8282.4%
Bob Forsch12481150.8441.2549191004.1430.6530.1210.2268.1039.5%
Pete Alexander12397220.8151.07113201106.0260.7890.1790.0338.9991.9%
Rick Rhoden12279140.8491.135217991.1430.6480.1150.2388.1242.6%
Jon Matlack12282160.8371.0273301043.1400.6720.1310.1978.5559.8%
Charlie Leibrandt1229190.9101.214218981.1310.7460.0740.1808.0434.4%
Ron Guidry12210060.9431.0561261012.1220.8200.0490.1318.3050.0%
Ron Darling12174170.8131.263213948.2470.6120.1400.2487.8426.4%
Mike Scott1218390.9021.153922970.0380.6860.0740.2408.0232.2%
Dennis Eckersley12188130.8711.1664191008.0330.7270.1070.1658.3352.9%
Mike Torrez12193110.8941.1875151035.2280.7690.0910.1408.5662.0%
Javier Vazquez12082140.8541.30197919.1380.6830.1170.2007.6615.8%
Tommy Bridges12098140.8750.99104331065.0220.8170.1170.0678.8886.7%
Kevin Appier11977140.8461.192812944.0420.6470.1180.2357.9323.5%
Andy Benes11878110.8761.19179911.1400.6610.0930.2467.7214.4%
Tim Belcher11880150.8421.123718944.0380.6780.1270.1958.0031.4%
Virgil Trucks11897120.8901.0190331028.2210.8220.1020.0768.7176.3%
Camilo Pascual11789190.8240.9786351012.2280.7610.1620.0778.6573.5%
Claude Passeau11798140.8751.01107251047.2190.8380.1200.0438.9591.5%
Bruce Hurst11683120.8741.226423974.2330.7160.1030.1818.4055.2%
Vern Law11688160.8461.1186281011.2280.7590.1380.1038.7274.1%
Dizzy Trout11696160.8571.0099281025.0200.8280.1380.0348.8485.3%
Hal Schumacher11584170.8321.0587261005.1310.7300.1480.1228.7475.7%
Rick Sutcliffe11591130.8751.235018948.2240.7910.1130.0968.2543.5%
Tom Zachary11591170.8430.9599241019.0240.7910.1480.0618.8686.1%
Bob Rush11475290.7211.298416988.1390.6580.2540.0888.6773.7%
Al Downing11478160.8301.095924955.2360.6840.1400.1758.3851.8%
Fritz Peterson11480220.7841.066420955.2340.7020.1930.1058.3856.1%
John Denny11380150.8421.154718917.0330.7080.1330.1598.1241.6%
Kenny Rogers1138370.9221.29279881.0300.7350.0620.2047.8023.9%
Paul Splittorff11383160.8381.145816941.2300.7350.1420.1248.3351.3%
Bill Singer11278150.8390.986524961.2340.6960.1340.1708.5858.0%
Roy Oswalt1128390.9021.04167847.2290.7410.0800.1797.5614.3%
CC Sabathia1128560.9341.112211865.0270.7590.0540.1887.7219.6%
Mark Buehrle11287100.8971.13228869.0250.7770.0890.1347.7619.6%
Jesse Haines1129880.9251.03100231001.2140.8750.0710.0548.9489.3%
Bob Veale11175190.7981.016720948.0360.6760.1710.1538.5460.4%
Johan Santana11176110.8741.13107831.0350.6850.0990.2167.499.0%
John Burkett1117980.9081.17196857.0320.7120.0720.2167.7217.1%
John Candelaria11182100.8911.144213894.0290.7390.0900.1718.0537.8%
Jim Lonborg11187120.8791.226615926.2240.7840.1080.1088.3459.5%
Red Faber11190150.8571.109518989.1210.8110.1350.0548.9185.6%
Dolf Luque11076310.7100.989023990.2340.6910.2820.0279.0081.8%
Chris Short10975190.7981.086824934.1340.6880.1740.1388.5762.4%
Tim Wakefield10985100.8951.17226846.0240.7800.0920.1287.7620.2%
Denny McLain1099180.9191.107928934.2180.8350.0730.0928.5772.5%
Dean Chance10877170.8190.937131927.1310.7130.1570.1308.5865.7%
Mike Hampton1088250.9431.27199831.2260.7590.0460.1947.7017.6%
Dave Stewart10883120.8741.30359869.0250.7690.1110.1208.0532.4%
Lefty Gomez10810160.9440.979826961.070.9350.0560.0098.9090.7%
Kevin Tapani10780110.8791.33219831.2270.7480.1030.1507.7719.6%
Dock Ellis10781140.8531.175814894.2260.7570.1310.1128.3654.2%
Charlie Root10782220.7881.159119943.0250.7660.2060.0288.8185.0%
Johnny Podres1078280.9111.046023894.0250.7660.0750.1598.3656.1%
Mike Moore1078250.9431.134316882.2250.7660.0470.1878.2440.2%
Mike Krukow10676100.8841.353810859.0300.7170.0940.1898.1035.8%
Mike McCormick10680160.8331.127222910.1260.7550.1510.0948.5967.9%
Joe Horlen10567160.8070.944918862.0380.6380.1520.2108.2146.7%
Jim Clancy10579150.8401.315010874.2260.7520.1430.1058.3347.6%
Herb Pennock10587160.8451.029825940.2180.8290.1520.0198.9593.3%
Kevin Gross10471100.8771.273514824.1330.6830.0960.2217.9233.7%
Stan Bahnsen10476120.8641.125315877.1280.7310.1150.1548.4351.0%
Murry Dickson10487110.8881.068926921.1170.8370.1060.0588.8685.6%
Scott Sanderson10368180.7911.053314812.2350.6600.1750.1657.8932.0%
Al Leiter10371120.8551.111510778.2320.6890.1170.1947.5614.6%
Mike Garcia1038860.9361.037627895.1150.8540.0580.0878.6973.8%
Steve Trachsel10262190.7651.25157772.1400.6080.1860.2067.5714.7%
Mike Morgan10263190.7681.293510816.2390.6180.1860.1968.0034.3%
Kevin Millwood1027280.9001.31155768.0300.7060.0780.2167.5314.7%
Guy Bush10279200.7981.169116918.1230.7750.1960.0299.0089.2%
Ross Grimsley1027980.9081.236114875.0230.7750.0780.1478.5859.8%
Dennis Leonard10282100.8911.157123878.2200.8040.0980.0988.6169.6%
Harry Brecheen10282120.8721.058625890.2200.8040.1180.0788.7384.3%
Earl Whitehill1028890.9071.198616899.1140.8630.0880.0498.8184.3%
George Uhle1029370.9301.1010020927.290.9120.0690.0209.0998.0%
Sonny Siebert10168160.8101.105121853.2330.6730.1580.1688.4550.5%
Jim Slaton10066170.7951.195822857.1340.6600.1700.1708.5758.0%
Darryl Kile10068120.8501.30249783.1320.6800.1200.2007.8324.0%
Joe Coleman10069170.8021.116118848.1310.6900.1700.1408.4861.0%
Ray Culp10075140.8431.056322854.0250.7500.1400.1108.5463.0%
Dizzy Dean1009170.9291.009525896.190.9100.0700.0208.9695.0%
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2010 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Extremely impressive, even if only one pitcher with significant Brewers' experience is on the list. I'll just have to be satisfied with Sabathia's 10 HQS while he was in town while hoping that Yovanni Gallardo stays healthy enough to be the first Brewer to have 80 with the team.

Posted by: steveegg at August 13, 2010 11:53 AM

Hmmm...checking, the Brewers club record is 80 by Jim Slaton. Mets is 204, by Seaver.

Maddux, with 167, is fifth on the Braves list. I suspect Spahn's 285 with one team is the record.

Posted by: Crank at August 13, 2010 11:57 AM

Great stuff, could spend hours going over these numbers. Can we get a break down of Fritz Peterson's numbers before and after the swap? And Kevin Brown threw a lot of great games, too bad his ugly Yankee tenure is what we now think of.

Posted by: SJGMoney at August 13, 2010 12:19 PM

Crank,

Nice analysis. Do you have a figure for the % of HQS based on Games started?

For example Sutton started 756 games, hence is HQS%=310/756=41%

Warren Spann: 292/665=43.9%

That might be interesting.

Posted by: Lee at August 13, 2010 1:12 PM

One step ahead of you, just posting that now as Part II.

Posted by: Crank at August 13, 2010 1:14 PM

It returned a Brewer high of 79 for me, but since I don't have the subscription, I could have misread it.

I almost forgot how good a starter Dennis Eckersley was before he went to the pen.

Posted by: steveegg at August 13, 2010 1:33 PM

Lends some fuel to the Blylevin and John arguements over Morris.

Posted by: maddirishman at August 13, 2010 2:40 PM
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