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Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Superior starts leaderboard update

By Katie Sharp and Albert Larcada, ESPN Stats & Info

The first half of the baseball season was highlighted by several incredible individual pitching performances, with four no-hitters in the books and 18 different pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title that have an ERA under 3.00. Hurlers have dominated the headlines so much during the first few months that 2010 is already being dubbed “The Year of the Pitcher” by experts and pundits across the country.

Prior to the season, we set out to redefine the traditional quality start stat (6 IP, 3 ER or fewer), with the intent to make it a more legitimate statistic that would reward the best performances by a starting pitcher. Little did we know that pitchers would redefine quality over and over again throughout the first half of the season.

First, a quick summary of our method to define a “Superior Start”: we took the two elements of a starter's pitching line that are now used in current definition of a quality start (innings and earned runs) and assigned a 0-100 grade on each outing based on the expected team winning percentage, given the combo of innings and earned runs allowed by the starter.

Since our last update in May, we made one significant change to the model: the grade on each start is now season-dependent, meaning that it is now calculated relative to all starts made that season. Even with this adjustment, a Superior Start is still defined as any start with a grade of 75 or greater.

Now, here’s a look at the first-half leaders in Superior Starts:



Not surprisingly, six of the top seven pitchers in Superior Starts are slated to take the mound tonight in Anaheim. David Price, the American League All-Star Game starter is just off this list with nine superior starts this season

The Yankees – who enter the break with the most wins – also lead in Superior Starts and are the only team in the majors with five pitchers that have at least five superior starts each. The Pirates have the fewest number of superior starts with 14, which is only one more than the individual leader, Josh Johnson!

Speaking of bad pitching, there actually was some in the first half of the season, and to make sure that it gets proper recognition, we also have created an Inferior Start metric. It is defined as any start with a grade of 25 or below.

Here are the “leaders in inferiority” at the break:



Scott Kazmir wins the award for the worst start of the first half, with his five-inning, 13-run disaster this past Saturday against the Athletics. And it should come as no surprise to see the Pirates, Indians and Orioles leading the list of most Inferior Starts, as they also rank second, first, and fourth, respectively, in the most losses among major-league teams entering the second half of the season.

Be sure to look for our Superior Starts leaderboard later this month on Baseball Tonight, and for further updates during the rest of the season.