Mariners Analysis

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quality Starts and a lousy offense

Geoff Baker of the Times has made a point of calling out the number of quality starts the Mariner starters have made and how few result in a win. It's a topic that was hotly debated over the winter in combination with the Bedard deal and I think is helpful to bring up again today.

If we went back to last winter and looked at previous posts, there was the normal Baker/Bavasi vs. USS Mariner disparity when it came to previewing the M's.

On the USS Mariner side, serious concerns were raised regarding the teams offense and defense coming in to 2008. An expected decline in the teams ability to score combined with one of the worst defenses in baseball was going to make it extremely challenging for the teams pitchers to win games.

On the other hand, you had Geoff Baker write article after article explaining the offense would be very similar to 2007. The argument was losing Guillen was hardly earth shattering and there were multiple options should trouble arise. Everyone was else was coming back, and with a healthy Vidro adjusted to the AL the team was ready to make a run. As for the defense Geoff again countered he watched this team play game after game and didn't see many times when the defense was a significant factor.

Now fast forward to today and what do we have? A terrible offense behind a lousy defense and starting pitchers with losing records. Oh, and we have the quality start metric.

Quality starts is a lot like WHIP. With WHIP you take useful numbers like hits and walks and you combine them in warped way useful to fantasy owners. Are hits a useful stat? Of course. How about walks and innings pitched? Yep, extremely useful. What do you get when you combine them? Not much.

Quality starts is the same thing. You take an artificial snapshot on a pitchers performance and then try to make conclusions from it. If a pitcher is good, they will pitch longer in games then less effective ones and will likely win more games doing it.

But it's not a tool you would ever use if you were building a team. It's just a fun made up stat. And what does it tell us about the Mariners?

It tells us if you take a really good pitcher and have him throw for the Mariners, he's going to lose a lot of games. Because the Mariners can't hit and can't defend. They are one of the three worst teams in baseball, and we don't quality start metrics to tell us that.

If you mention quality starts, you are probably someone who still believes pitching wins championships. It's not that simple, and the evidence is overwhelming.