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Quality Starts

   by Bryan Leonard - 07/02/2010

When analyzing baseball lines, “quality starts” is an important factor for many reasons. The most obvious is that betting lines are based about 70% on the starting pitcher. With this in mind, it’s easy to understand why looking carefully at the starter is a good start, so to speak. A quality start is defined as a starting pitcher going roughly 6 innings and giving up three earned runs or less. If a pitcher walks too many batters (Rich Harden, John Lackey, for example), he is less likely to provide quality innings because he reaches a high pitch count often by the fourth or fifth innings. If a pitcher doesn’t give a quality start on a regular basis, one then must adjust the betting number accordingly. If the team has excellent bullpen depth, you can expect them to come in early in relief. But if a team has poor middle relievers (like the Royals, Nationals, D-Backs) that’s a disadvantage to a starting pitcher who provides minimal quality starts.
Another reason for the importance of quality starts is the wear and tear on the bullpen. This means the relief staff is being overtaxed when certain guys pitched, coming in around the fifth inning. It’s a domino effect, as more relievers are being used, asked to go 2-3 innings instead of one or two, which means they are not available or more tired the next day. This can be a negative influence on the pen over the long haul, which is why it’s important to examine bullpen ERAs and stats. Quality starts negate this, with relievers being used the way they were originally intended – minimally. This isn’t the case for all teams, of course. The Red Sox and Rays happen to have starting staffs that can go deep into games, while the Cardinals and Padres have had deep bullpens, which helps a lot, so they don’t ask their starters to go the normal 7 innings. But this is rare, as most staffs are influenced by the number of quality starts they get or don’t get. And don’t ever forget that the lines in baseball are geared mostly toward the starters on any given day, making quality starts an important factor when searching for wagering value.

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