Nation Station: Starting to show quality

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Nation Station: Starting to show quality

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

Do you remember when the Sox started off 1-7? That was when Henny Penny (or was it Brad Penny?) was shouting that the sky was falling. It turns out that it was a tad of an overreaction.

The almost .500 Sox are not entirely out of the woods yet, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Those of you who were boiling the tar and plucking the feathers to dress new Sox pitching coach Curt Young can chillax, Sox starting pitching is producing at a high rate of quality. And quality is the key word.

"Quality starts" is a somewhat controversial statistic for starters. A quality start is defined as a game in which the pitcher completes at least six innings and permits no more than three earned runs. The controversy is that six innings of three-run ball results in an ERA of 4.50, certainly not a reflection of quality. As a result, the stat -- created in 1985 by Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter John Lowe -- is often minimized in certain quarters of the baseball fan community.

Red Sox Nation should not be amongst the doubters. The quality start will prove to be a critical measure over the next number of years for Boston, as its deep, run-producing lineup should provide enough support to presumably enable starters to pick up wins by holding the opposition to three or fewer runs in six innings.

Lets go to the numbers: The Sox are now 10-11, but lets take a look at the Sox first 20 games, a nice round number that basically reflects four rotations of a five-man staff. In those games through Saturday, the 9-11 Sox had 10 quality starts.

Heres a look at the starters:

Josh Beckett has four starts with three quality starts resulting in two wins and one no-decision (in his last start against the Angels). The Sox have been 3-1 in his starts.

Clay Buchholz did not have a quality start in his first four starts with one win, two losses, and one no-decision. The Sox were 1-3 in his starts.

John Lackey had three starts (he now has four), with one (now two) quality start. Overall, Lackey is now 2-2 and the team is 2-2 in his starts. One of his losses occurred in his first quality start. One of his quality wins occurred Sunday.

Jon Lester has made five starts and has already thrown four quality starts. One of his quality starts resulted in a loss. Lester is 2-1-2, while the Sox are 2-3 in his starts.

Daisuke Matsuzaka has made four starts and made two very high quality, with two stinkers. Not surprisingly, his record is 2-2.

Overall, in the first 20 Sox games the Sox starters were 8-8-4 with 10 quality starts. There were two quality start losses and two starters picked up wins in non-quality start games.

If we go under assumption that quality starts are key to ultimate team success, you might wonder how the competition (code for Yankees) is doing.

Here is a chart (through Saturday) that shows how every AL teams starters are doing and shows wins, losses and no decision by starters, quality starts and the percentage of quality starts by the starters.

TeamGS
Wgs
Lgs
ND
QS
QS
LAA
21
10
5
6
16
76
CLE
20
10
5
5
15
75
DET
21
8
8
5
14
67
OAK
21
8
5
8
13
62
KC
21
7
6
8
12
57
SEA
22
6
12
4
12
55
TEX
20
12
4
4
12
60
BAL
19
6
10
3
11
58
TB
21
7
10
4
11
52
LgAvg
20
8
7
5
11
56
BOS
20
8
8
4
10
50
CWS
21
6
9
6
9
43
MIN20
6
10
4
9
45
TOR
20
4
8
8
8
40
NYY
17
737741

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com.

Heres one more Delicious Stat (so yummy I gain weight thinking about it)

From April 1-7, the Sox played seven games and lost all but one. They had one quality start, Jon Lester in the 1-0 loss to Cleveland.

From April 16-24, the Sox played nine games and won eight and had eight quality starts. The only game they lost (Oakland, 5-0) John Lackey had a quality start, allowing one run in six innings. Clay Buchholz was the only pitcher without a quality start and he fell two outs shy of a QS as he was pulled after 5 13 innings having given up just one run but had thrown 102 pitches.

Good starting pitching bolsters the batters and lessens the pressure on the bullpen. Watch the starts, the more of they are of quality the more wins that will result.

The quality Nation STATion will continue to track quality starts for our quality readers as the season progresses.

Next stop: .500.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

Bean: There's no way to spin a potential Ortiz return as a bad idea

As if there weren’t enough storylines with the 2017 Red Sox, there figures to be the lingering possibility that, at any point, one of the franchise’s greatest hitters will return to make a push for his fourth World Series title.

As Pedro Martinez keeps saying, he won’t believe David Ortiz is retired until season’s end.

And with that possibility comes a good ol’ fashioned sports debate: You’re maybe the biggest lunatic in the whole wide world if you’re hoping for the latter.

There are exactly two potential downsides to Ortiz coming back. One is that the team would be worse defensively if it puts Hanley Ramirez in the field, a tradeoff that seemingly anyone would take if it meant adding Ortiz’ offense to the middle of the order. The other is that we would probably have to see Kenan Thompson’s Ortiz impression again . . . which, come to think of it, would be the worst. Actually, I might kill myself if that happens.  

All the other drawbacks are varying degrees of noise. It basically boils down to the “what if he isn’t good?” fear. Which may be valid, but it shouldn’t be reason enough to not want him to attempt a comeback.

Ortiz is coming off a 38-homer, 127-RBI 2016 in which he hit .315 with a league-best 1.021 OPS. It's probably the best final season of any hitter over the last 50 years.

We also know Ortiz is 41 and dealt with ankle and heel injuries so vast in recent years that he was “playing on stumps,” according to Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan Dyrek. There is the possibility that he was almost literally on his last legs in 2016 and that he doesn’t have another great season in him.

Unless Ortiz is medically incapable and/or not interested in returning, what would the harm be in rolling the dice? Is it a money thing? It really depends on just how intent the Sox are on staying under the luxury-tax threshold, but it’s hard to imagine that holding them up given that they’ve bobbed over and under the line throughout the years.

The one unacceptable argument is the legacy stuff, which expresses concern that Ortiz would tarnish his overall body of work if he came back for one last season and was relatively ineffective.  

If you think that five years after Ortiz is done playing, a single person will say, “Yeah, he’s a Hall of Famer; it’s just a shame he came back that for one last season,” you’re absolutely crazy. The fact that one could dwell that much on a legacy shows how much they romanticize the player, meaning that in however many years it's the 40-homer seasons, and not the potentially underwhelming few months in 2017, that will stand the test of time.

But he’ll have thrown away having one of the best final seasons ever for a hitter.

Oh man. That’s a life-ruiner right there. A 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion totally becomes just another guy if you take that away.

Plus, the fact that he’s a DH limits how bad it could really be. You won’t get the sight of an over-the-hill Willie Mays misplaying fly balls in the 1973 World Series after hitting .211 in the regular season. Ortiz will either be able to hit or he won’t, and if it’s the latter they’ll chalk it up to age and injuries and sit him down. Any potential decision to put him on the field in a World Series would likely mean his bat was worth it enough to get them to that point.

The Red Sox, on paper at least, have a real shot at another title. Teams in such a position should always go for broke. Ortiz has absolutely nothing left to prove, but if he thinks he has anything left to give, nobody but the fans who dropped 30-something bucks on T-shirts commemorating his retirement should have a problem with that.