Many writers have their own list of meaningless statistics. Many include Batting Average and Runs Batted In as meaningless. This writer struggles with those and still thinks there is some value there. For some, the Save is meaningless as is the Hold for set up guys. While this author thinks those statistics have some weakness, they are still a value to consider. For example, if your particular team doesn't have a guy that can close a game and your team keeps getting beat in the ninth inning, well, then you're going to think more of that stat aren't you?
This writer has a slightly askew way of considering the worth of a statistic. Take the number of games, appearances, etc., that are possible for that statistic to happen and if the percentage it does happen comes up too high, then it's meaningless. No statistic bears this out more than the Quality Start. In a "quality start", a pitcher has to pitch six full innings and give up three earned runs or less. First of all, any stat that rewards a player for an ERA higher than league average is flawed to begin with. And three earned runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA.
But again, for this writer, it comes down to how often it happens. For example, with the Quality Start, there have been 1,399 games played so far this season (before Sunday's action). Since each game features two starters, that means there have been a total of 2,798 possible chances for a quality game to be pitched. And before Sunday's action, there have been 1,551 Quality Starts. That means that the QS happens 55 percent of the time! How can any stat mean anything when it occurs that many times?
Justin Verlander has made 21 starts so far. Nineteen of them have been quality starts. While that may give his agent fuel for the contract wars, it becomes meaningless. So what we need is a statistic that does give some meaning to how many times a pitcher pitches a great game. Our definition has to occur a lot less frequently as a percentage to have some meaning.
We can't use "quality starts" as a name because it is already taken, and in this writer's mind, already tainted. Like all good statistics, we need initials that have a ring to it. A.C.E would be great, wouldn't it? But we can't get the letters to work. So what can we use? Let's go with something simple and call them Super Starts or SS for short.
The first thought was to move the innings up to seven instead of six. But that has still happened 895 times or 32 percent of the time. That's still a lot, right? So we have to make it more exclusive than that. COSFBA's founder, Daniel Aubain, wanted to add a Win to the mix to make the figure more cogent. While understanding that logic, there is still too much chance to a Win and too much still depends on what the rest of the team (and the other pitcher) does. We'd want something more in the pitcher's control.
Control? Okay, what if we make it seven innings, two runs or less and one walk or less? There have only been 130 of those. So that's a good candidate. The only problem is that it punishes guys who are effectively wild but still limit the other team often. Heck, even Carlos Zambrano has thrown four of these kinds of games. So we'll call this a no because of the Zambrano factor.
Perhaps there is a solution to this Super Start idea. Let's go with eight or more complete innings with one or less earned runs and two or less runs. Why the latter? Too many pitchers allow the extra base runners caused by an error to score. The Super Start not only gives the pitcher credit for the earned runs allowed, but also for the ability to limit the damage when his defense falters.
Okay, we have our stat. Does it pass the occurance test? It's only happened 216 times this season (before Sunday's action) in 2798 possible starts. That's only 7.7 percent of the time. That works.
So who would our leaders be? It's a good list:
- James Shields: 8
- Cliff Lee: 7
- Jered Weaver, Verlander, C.C. Sabathia, Cole Hamels: 6
- Kyle Lohse, Ian Kennedy: 5
- Jason Vargas, Derek Holland, Roy Halladay, Jaime Garcia, Doug Fister: 4
Of all the instances a Super Start has occurred this season, the starting pitcher actually lost the game 18 times. But most of the time, if a pitcher pitches this well, he's going to win. Unless, of course, your last name is Fister, who is 0-1 in those four Super Starts.
If you want to know the pitchers with the most Super Starts for the past two years, that would be Felix Hernandez with 16 and Halladay and Lee tied with 15. The leader for the last ten years is Halladay with 70 followed by Sabathia with 49.
The leader for the last twenty-five years is Roger Clemens with 130 followed by Greg Maddux with 111. The leader for the last fifty years would be Tom Seaver with 175 followed by Gaylord Perry with 174. That's a surprise and impressive.
So what do you think? Does the Super Start work for you? Does it mean anything? Well, at least this writer knows that it means a heck of a lot more than a Quality Start, right?
Have an idea for a Made-Up Statistic you'd like us to explore in a future article? Email me directly at COSFBA@gmail.com with your idea or if you'd like to do the research yourself and present it in a guest posting opportunity on COSBFA.