The Norfolk Tides and the Quality Start

TJ McFarlandWhen talking about starting pitchers, either in the majors, minors, or college, the manager is always looking for the quality start each time they’re on the mound. Don’t know what exactly a “quality start” is, let me explain.

A quality start is defined as a game where a starting pitcher pitches at least 6 innings without allowing more than three earned runs. That’s how it was defined in 1985 by sportswriter John Lowe, who first developed the idea. In today’s game a “quality start” could be something totally different depending on the team.

Take the Detroit Tigers and their starting pitcher Justin Verlander for instance. Why Verlander you ask? Verlander has one Cy Young award and one MVP under his belt and is one of the best pitchers in the game. Last season Verlander had one start, May 22nd, where he gave up five earned runs in just 5.0 innings pitched. Verlander ended up with the win.

By definition, that wasn’t a quality start. Verlander didn’t pitch six innings and he allowed more than three runs. But if you look at the opposing starting pitcher that game, Ubaldo Jimenez, Verlander, or should I say the Tigers’ offense, out played him. Jimenez gave up six runs in just 4.0 innings to a very talented Tigers’ lineup that had Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, the reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner.

By now you’re probably thinking, “What’s the point of this?” or “How does this relate to the Norfolk Tides?” The point I’m making is if you have an offense that can potentially score a bunch of runs every game, you don’t need your starting pitcher to give you a “quality start.” You need him to pitch well enough to give you a chance to win the game. Last night, Tides’ starting pitcher T.J McFarland did that.

McFarland gave up three runs, two earned, five hits, and walked two but struck out eight in 5.2 innings. The way the Tides have been playing lately, McFarland gave them exactly what they needed, a great chance to win. The only problem: the Tides didn’t win. The Tides’ loss came in the second game in a two-game road series against the Durham Bulls, bringing the Tides record to 4-9.

If anyone, let alone McFarland, would have pitched like that for the Orioles on a good night, they would have won. Though you can’t really compare the Tides offense to the Orioles’ offense fairly, it still allows me to get my point across. Whenever someone is discussing the struggles of a baseball team it always starts with the pitching. Tons of people say “The pitching isn’t that great” or “He [the starting pitcher] gave up too many runs” or “He [the starting pitcher] didn’t go long enough into the game.” In the Tides’ case it’s the second thing people talk about, the offense and hitting.

Including last night’s game, the Tides’ have now been out scored 71 to 47 in their first 14 games of the season. Though at times the starting pitching hasn’t been great, the rotation has the potential to give the team a chance to win at the end of the day, quality start or not. Even with a record of 4 and 10, the Tides have a good chance to turn it around quickly. If the offense starts to click and the starting pitchers continue to give them good starts, the Tides could very well be a competitive team.

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Brian Hradsky

The owner of MSB, I created this website while in college and it has never died.

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