Saves and Quality Starts: Oh, How Misleading

Wednesday night after a good sports cry I began writing an article wrapping up the Rangers embarrassing 21-8 loss at the hands of the Seattle Mariners. I was pouring over the box score when I noticed a puzzling stat. Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners was credited with a save. That’s right folks, the man “saved” the Mariners from a comeback of record proportions. One of the possible qualifications for a save is that a player must pitch at least three innings. That’s where the stat can become misleading. When one typically looks at a player’s stats and sees they have 40 saves they would think that he got them out of close games. They wouldn’t once consider that one of those saves may have occurred with his team winning by thirteen runs.
I propose that baseball makes a change to the stats. I’m not talking about getting rid of the save. I am merely suggesting they add a new save category: The CLS or “Closing Save”. The CLS would indicate that a pitcher earned the save by pitching one inning with his team up by no more than three runs or that he came in with the tying run on base, at bat or on deck. This would then separate the Hisashi Iwakuma’s from the Mariano Rivera’s of the world and would actually make some sense.

Think about it; isn’t it more of a “save” when your team wins by two than by twenty?

Now on to another stat that is misleading – the “quality” start. I really am not a fan of the stat and I’ve never used it once in any of my articles. Just to refresh your memory or educate those who are unaware a quality start occurs when a pitcher goes six innings and allows no more than three earned runs. I really began my dislike for it last season. Back on June 26th, 2011 the Rangers lost a game to the Mets by a score of 8-5. Derek Holland pitched six innings allowing seven runs but since only three of those runs were earned he was awarded a quality start. He also failed to strike out a single batter. So you give up seven runs, strike out nobody, get charged with a loss yet somehow manage to add a quality start to your stat line. It’s just insane. How is that “quality”?

Here’s what I propose: Change the defining factors so that a quality start would mean that a pitcher has to go six innings, allows no more than three runs (earned or unearned) and has more strike outs than walks. That is quality to me and until something is changed I will continue to ignore the stat.

James Holland is a Senior Columnist for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at or@SDIJamesHolland on Twitter.
James Holland

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