Quality starts are a somewhat controversial stat, yet can often prove useful as a quick and dirty measure of the effectiveness of the members of a starting rotation. For reference, a quality start is one of at least six innings in duration, during which the opposition scores three or fewer runs.
During the last two regular seasons, 324 games, St. Louis Cardinals pitchers logged 185 quality starts, including 86 last year and a major improvement to 99 in 2012. In other words, the Cardinals received a quality start in just over 57 percent of their outings in 2011-2012.
The final quality start of 2012 was earned on the last day of the regular season by a top prospect making his first career MLB start, Shelby Miller. For the full season, Kyle Lohse led the club with 24 (in 33 starts), easily out-distancing Adam Wainwright, who was next with 18 (in 32 starts). Chris Carpenter had the most quality starts in 2011 with 21 (in 34 starts).
The post-season is another story entirely. Despite the Cardinals success – winning the 2011 World Series and reaching the Championship Series so far in 2012 – their starters have been logging considerably fewer quality starts.
After Lance Lynn was pulled in the fourth inning Monday night, researcher extraordinaire Tom Orf commented about a trend. Over the last two post-seasons, Cardinals starting pitchers have failed to go six innings 17 times in 25 games. Just eight quality starts in 25 tries equates to a 32 percent rate – compared to that 57 percent mark during the regular season.
Ironically, the Cardinals’ only quality start in the 2012 post-season to date ended in the NLDS Game 4 loss, though it was of no fault of Lohse, who allowed just one run in seven innings. The seven 2011 post-season quality starts were logged by Carpenter (four), Jaime Garcia (two) and Edwin Jackson (one).
There could be many potential factors in the reduced number of quality starts in the post-season, with the most obvious one being quality of opposition. Others could include fatigue/injury, playoff pressure and of course, a quick managerial hook to ensure crucial post-season games do not get out of control.
This is far from a gloom and doom story, however. In fact, it is just the opposite.
Generally speaking, the starters have been taken out of the games soon enough that with timely scoring and solid relieving, the Cardinals have been able to win more often than not.
Specifically, of those 17 non-quality start post-season games, the Cardinals still secured 12 victories, for a very, very good .706 winning percentage. Of course, that included Monday night’s NLCS Game 1.
The relief pitching in the 17 non-quality start games was a key difference. Though several of the bullpen members have changed from year-to-year, the results have remained strong.
In those 17 contests, the Cardinals relievers pitched 83 innings, an average of just under five innings per game. They allowed just 26 earned runs for a 2.82 ERA.
Remember, these were games in which the starter had left early, barely averaging four innings. In those outings, the starters threw a total of just 69 innings, allowing 50 earned runs for a 6.52 ERA.
In an indication the offense did its part, too, the bullpen had a 9-1 record in these contests and were 5-for-6 in save opportunities. The early-departing starters went just 3-4.
In all fairness, the Cardinals relievers have been both good and consistent, whether a quality start was made or not. As the table below indicates, despite an 0-3 record in the eight quality start games, the relievers’ ERA is 3.00, very close to the 2.82 mark in the 17 non-quality contests. As one would expect, the big difference is in the starters’ ERAs.
|Post-season||Total||2011||2012 to-date||StL W-L||Starter W-L||Reliever W-L||Starter ERA||Reliever ERA|
|2011+2012 to date||25||18||7||16-9||7-5||9-4||4.50||2.85|
For the detail lovers, here are the stats from the 17 non-quality start games, with the starters listed in the first table (by date with most recent on top) and relievers in aggregate in the second (in the same game sequence). Thanks again to Tom Orf for pulling the raw data summarized below after sparking the idea for this post.
|Lance Lynn||10/14/2012||NLCS||1||SF||W 6-4||GS-4||3.2||5||4||4||2||3||0|
|Adam Wainwright||10/12/2012||NLDS||5||WSN||W 9-7||GS-3||2.1||7||6||6||0||5||3|
|Chris Carpenter||10/10/2012||NLDS||3||WSN||W 8-0||GS-6 ,W||5.2||7||0||0||2||2||0|
|Jaime Garcia||10/8/2012||NLDS||2||WSN||W 12-4||GS-2||2.0||2||1||1||3||3||0|
|Adam Wainwright||10/7/2012||NLDS||1||WSN||L 2-3||GS-6||5.2||6||1||1||3||10||0|
|Kyle Lohse||10/5/2012||NLWC||1||ATL||W 6-3||GS-6 ,W||5.2||6||2||2||1||6||1|
|Jaime Garcia||10/27/2011||WS||6||TEX||W 10-9||GS-3||3.0||5||2||2||2||3||0|
|Edwin Jackson||10/23/2011||WS||4||TEX||L 0-4||GS-6 ,L||5.1||3||3||3||7||3||0|
|Kyle Lohse||10/22/2011||WS||3||TEX||W 16-7||GS-4||3.0||5||3||3||2||3||2|
|Edwin Jackson||10/16/2011||NLCS||6||MIL||W 12-6||GS-2||2.0||4||4||4||0||2||3|
|Jaime Garcia||10/14/2011||NLCS||5||MIL||W 7-1||GS-5||4.2||7||1||1||0||5||0|
|Kyle Lohse||10/13/2011||NLCS||4||MIL||L 2-4||GS-5 ,L||4.1||6||3||3||0||3||0|
|Chris Carpenter||10/12/2011||NLCS||3||MIL||W 4-3||GS-5 ,W||5.0||6||3||3||3||3||1|
|Edwin Jackson||10/10/2011||NLCS||2||MIL||W 12-3||GS-5||4.1||7||2||2||1||3||1|
|Jaime Garcia||10/9/2011||NLCS||1||MIL||L 6-9||GS-5 ,L||4.0||6||6||6||3||3||2|
|Chris Carpenter||10/2/2011||NLDS||2||PHI||W 5-4||GS-3||3.0||5||4||4||3||2||0|
|Kyle Lohse||10/1/2011||NLDS||1||PHI||L 6-11||GS-6 ,L||5.1||7||6||5||1||4||2|
|Lynn||NLCS||1||6||Kelly, Rzep, Rosenthal, Mujica (W), Boggs (H), Motte (Sv)||5.1||2||0||0||2||4||0|
|Wainwright||NLDS||5||5||Kelly, Rosenthal, Mujica, Boggs, Motte (W)||6.2||4||1||1||1||6||0|
|Carpenter||NLDS||3||3||Rosenthal, Salas, Kelly||3.1||0||0||0||1||3||0|
|Garcia||NLDS||2||5||Lynn (W), Kelly, Mujica, Boggs, Rosenthal||7||8||3||3||1||8||2|
|Wainwright||NLDS||1||5||Lynn (H), Mujica (H), Rzepczynski (BS), Boggs (L), Motte||3.1||2||2||0||1||3||0|
|Lohse||NLWC||1||5||Lynn (H), Mujica (H), Rzepczynski, Boggs (H), Motte (Sv)||3.1||6||1||1||2||1||0|
|Garcia||WS||6||6||Salas, Lynn, Dotel, Rzepczynski, Motte, Westbrook (W)||8||10||7||5||3||5||3|
|Lohse||WS||3||4||Salas, Lynn (W), Dotel, Boggs||6||8||4||4||2||4||0|
|Jackson||NLCS||6||5||Salas, Rzepczynski (W), Dotel, Lynn, Motte||7||3||2||2||1||7||0|
|Garcia||NLCS||5||4||Dotel (W), Lynn, Rzepczynski (H), Motte (Sv)||4.1||2||0||0||1||3||0|
|Lohse||NLCS||4||4||Boggs, Rhodes, Dotel, Salas||4.2||4||1||1||1||5||0|
|Carpenter||NLCS||3||4||Salas (H), Lynn (H), Rzepczynski (H), Motte (Sv)||4||0||0||0||0||4||0|
|Jackson||NLCS||2||6||Rhodes, Lynn (W), Salas, Rzepczynski, Boggs, Motte||4.2||1||1||1||2||1||1|
|Garcia||NLCS||1||5||Dotel, Lynn, McClellan, Rzepczynski, Boggs||4||5||3||2||2||1||1|
|Carpenter||NLDS||2||6||Salas, Dotel (W), Rzep (H), Boggs (H), Rhodes (H), Motte (Sv)||6||1||0||0||0||6||0|
|Lohse||NLDS||1||4||Dotel, Rzepczynski, Boggs, Rhodes||2.2||7||5||5||1||3||0|