Mailbag: Quality Starts

(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

David asks: What do you think about QS % as an important measure of starting pitchers? Given the Yankees’ ability to score runs, and their strong bullpen, I’d place a high value on a pitcher’s ability to deliver quality starts, i.e., to be “consistently good.” On that basis we of course notice or confirm a number of things from 2011 AL pitchers with 140+ innings:

  • CC Sabathia was of course consistently good at #10
  • Michael Pineda was #8!
  • A.J. Burnett‘s problems are NOT the occasional blow up; he’s consistently ineffective (worst in the league)
  • Freddy Garcia wasn’t too far behind CC in consistency at #17
  • Ivan Nova was middle of the pack at #27 (in the neighborhood of Gio Gonzalez, John Danks, Alexi Ogando, Phil Humber)
  • Hiroki Kuroda was #14 in the NL, as a solid number two should be

I think that “quality starts” themselves are kinda silly, or at least the term “quality start”  is silly. Three earned runs (why don’t we count unearned runs? they count on the scoreboard) in six innings is a 4.50 ERA, and that would have been a 116 ERA+ in 2011. If they changed the name of the stat to something like “decent start” or “winnable start,” them maybe it would be easier to swallow. That’s how I think of a quality start, it’s a winnable game for the Yankees with their offense and bullpen. My extension, QS% would just tell you how often a certain pitcher threw — not will throw — a decent or winnable game.

Quality starts are in no way predictive, they’re an output stat. They tell you the end result of the game without telling you how it happened. Did the pitcher throw eight innings of one-run ball with four hits, one walk, and nine strikeouts? Or six innings with three earned runs, two unearned runs, ten hits, three walks, and two strikeouts? In terms of quality starts, those two are the same thing. They’re kinda like the pitching version of RBI. We know the run came in, but we don’t know how it came in. Quality starts and RBI don’t tell us how likely the player is to do it again.

Like I said, I consider a quality start to be a winnable game for the Yankees, and that’s basically all I look for out of the back of the rotation, the Burnett’s and Hughes’ and Garcia’s in 2012. If the Yankees get a quality start out of those guys half the time, they’re well ahead of the fifth starter curve. I wouldn’t consider QS% to be a great measure of success or a high one percentage to be all that great without knowing more. It’s a great quick reference thing, but I have a tough time putting more stock into it, kinda like OPS. We have better metrics these days, but the old ones are still okay for a quick glance.

Saturday Night Open Thread

Had a pretty crummy day dealing with some computer issues, so I need something to cheer me up. For whatever reason, remembering that A.J. Burnett was good once upon a time always seems to do the trick. Where do you think that curveball went?

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks are playing, plus the NHL Skills Competition is on at 7pm ET (on NBC Sports). That’s kinda like there Homerun Derby, but with more events and not as boring. Talk about whatever you like here. Enjoy.

Kuroda speaks for first time since joining Yankees

The Yankees officially announced the Hiroki Kuroda signing — a one-year, $10MM contract with a full no-trade clause — earlier this week, and yesterday he spoke publicly for the first time since agreeing to come to New York. “[The Dodgers] were unable to ever make a formal offer, I couldn’t wait any longer,” said Kuroda to Dylan Hernandez. The right-hander confirmed he received offers from several teams but only seriously considered the Yankees and the Hiroshima Carp, his former team in Japan. He turned down more lucrative offers to wear pinstripes.

“They have an incredible tradition,” said Kuroda of joining the Yankees. “They contend for the championship every year. I wanted to play for a team like that. When you get to my age, you don’t know how much longer you can pitch and I wanted to experience that before my career ended.” Kuroda never got to pitch in the playoffs in Japan, and the Dodgers qualified for the postseason only twice in his four years there. “To be a part of a team like that is something I will be proud of.”

Kuroda also spoke briefly about his relationships with Russell Martin, Clayton Kershaw, and Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Hernandez says that Kuroda’s wife and two school-age daughters will remain in Los Angeles while he is in New York this summer, and he’s preparing for 2012 as if it will be his last season. “There will be a lot of change,” he said. ““Not only a baseball player, but also as a person, I think this will be an important year for me.”

Open Thread: What?!?

With all due respect to the people who put this photo gallery/slideshow together, there is absolutely no chance that David Robertson‘s bases loaded, no outs escape act in the 11th inning of Game Two of the 2009 ALDS is the FOURTH most clutch moment in team history. No chance. None. Nada. I’m not even sure that would make the top forty clutch moments in team history, and hell, that wasn’t even the most clutch moment of the game. That would be Alex Rodriguez‘s game-tying, two-run homer off Joe Nathan in bottom of the ninth.

Sorry, I just caught that thing being passed around Twitter this afternoon and it blew my mind. We all love Robertson, but that’s nuts. Here is your open thread for the night. The Knicks and Nets are both playing tonight, but talk about whatever you like here. Enjoy.

Report: Yankees show interest in Raul Ibanez

Via Kevin Kernan, the Yankees have some interest in Raul Ibanez. Ibanez’s representatives contacted the Yankees about their DH opening last week, but apparently now the interest is mutual. I’m not the guy’s biggest fan, but Joe did made a decent case for him a few days ago. We have to be talking about a minor league contract at this point in the offseason, and I suppose it’s worth noting that Ibanez has posted a .337 wOBA with a .181 ISO against right-handed pitchers over the last two years. He’s unusable against lefties and on defense, though. The Yankees could do worse, but they probably could do better as well.

Kuroda’s contract includes full no-trade clause

Ken Rosenthal reports that the Yankees’ one-year, $10 million deal with Hiroki Kuroda includes a full no-trade clause. This might not seem like a big deal, since it’s just a one year deal. When was the last time the Yankees traded a member of their active rotation mid-season? Best I can remember is Jose Contreras, whom the Yankees traded in 2004. Of course, that was a your problem for my problem trade, as they got Esteban Loaiza in return. Prior to that they traded Ted Lilly, though he’d been bouncing between the rotation and the bullpen prior to the Yankees replacing him with Jeff Weaver. There was also Shawn Chacon in 2006, but he hadn’t made a start for nearly a month before the Yankees traded him. In other words, Kuroda didn’t have much to worry about, anyway.

The RAB Radio Show: January 27th, 2012

The big news this week was the Prince Fielder signing. While it didn’t directly affect the Yanks, it certainly changed the balance of power in the American League, and, really, MLB as a whole.

In the first part of the show Mike and I talk about the Yankees’ competition, which has grown this off-season. We run down what the increased power of the Angels and Rangers mean, plus the Tigers, Rays, and Red Sox.

Then we move onto what the Yanks can do to improve. That would be the DH and the other remaining bench spot. We run down some options for what they could do with those.

Podcast run time 45:51

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow012712.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.