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.

First impressions: Owens improves, Scott scuffles

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First impressions: Owens improves, Scott scuffles

NEW YORK -- First impression from Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

* Henry Owens looked improved over earlier starts.

The lefty took the place of Drew Pomeranz Thursday night and pitched into the fifth inning, allowing two runs on four hits.

Talent evaluators believe that Owens has the stuff necessary to be a back-end starter in the big leagues if -- and that's a big qualifier -- he can command his pitches.

Alas, that's often been an issue for Owens, who averaged 3.4 walks per nine innings last season in Boston and, in four starts earlier this season, a bloated 9.3 walks per nine innings.

On Thursday night, Owens showed far better control, issuing just two walks. Further, he managed to pitch ahead in the count, giving him an advantage against the New York lineup. And mixing his changeup and fastball, he fanned six.

* Robby Scott had a bad night at a bad time.

Scott's in the mix to make the Red Sox post-season roster as a lefty specialist, competing against the likes of Fernando Abad.

He had been effective in most of his previous outings, with no runs allowed in six appearances with five strikeouts and a walk.

But brought in to face Brian McCann with runners on first and second and one out in the sixth, he yielded a single to center.

After getting Aaron Hicks on a flyout, he walked rookie Tyler Austin to force in a run, then heaved a wild pitch that scored another run before retiring Brett Gardner on a flyout.

Keeping in mind that Scott wouldn't be asked to face that many righthanders were he to make the post-season roster, Thursday's outing wasn't helpful in making his case.

* Yoan Moncada is gone for now.

The Red Sox announced that the rookie third baseman had traveled to Fort Myers to prepare for his upcoming assignment in the Arizona Fall League next month.

Expectations were high for Moncada when he joined the Red Sox on Labor Day weekend in Oakland and when he collected multiple hits in each of his first two starts, it appeared as though he would get most of the playing time at third for the remainder of the season.

But not long after, Moncada began chasing breaking balls out of the strike zone and looking very much overmatched at the plate. HE struck out in nine consecutive at-bats.

That doesn't mean that Moncada won't someday -- likely in the not-too-distant future -- be a very good major league player. But it is a reminder of how big a jump it is to go from Double A.

And, it served to point out how remarkable Andrew Benintendi has been in making that same jump.