Breaking Down Baseball: What is a quality start in baseball and why should KC Royals fans care?

What exactly is a quality start and why does it matter for the KC Royals?
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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Starting pitching struggles and the KC Royals have gone hand-in-hand for years now. The team has only had two pitchers with at least 10 wins above replacement (WAR) across their Royals careers since 2000. For reference, the Royals had 10 pitchers with at least 10 WAR from 1973 to 2000. That is a crazy disparity.

Let's look at what a quality start is and why it matters to the KC Royals.

One way Royals fans can try to identify which starters are actually succeeding is by looking at quality starts. The term describes a starting pitcher's outings with at least six innings pitched and three earned runs or fewer. These are simple benchmarks in a baseball world that adds more and more advanced metrics every year.

The term is hardly a new one. Philadelphia Inquirer writer John Lowe introduced a quality start in 1985. The article. titled A stat for off-season: A new gauge of starting pitchers, laid out the reasoning Lowe introduced the term.

"The foremost attribute of this statistic is that it shows exactly how many times a man has done exactly what his job is-pitch well enough for his team to have a chance to win."

John Lowe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Lowe pointed out that a quality start does two things. First, it drowns out the importance of a pitcher's win-loss record. Royals fans should know better than others that a pitcher can have a quality start, but still receive a loss simply because of no run support. For example, Royals legend Zack Greinke had 99 quality starts in his first stint in Kansas City. Yet he had a 60-67 record in 127 starts from 2004–2010.

Fans unaware of Greinke's performance may see that record and think of him as a pedestrian starter. But the 99 quality starts show that Greinke kept Kansas City within striking distance more often than not. Greinke doing so for so long exhibits pitching longevity Kansas City fans have not seen in a long time. But the quality of starts over a season still matters for the 2023 Royals.