I considered the merits of this preconception by analyzing Leake’s quality start percentage. A quality start is one where the starting pitcher throws 6 or more innings and allows 3 or fewer earned runs.
The quality start measure is certainly not the be-all, end-all of pitcher rating. There are far better rate stats to analzye a pitchers full body of work. However, I think as a quick-and-dirty check of how frequently a starting pitcher keeps their team in a ballgame, the quality start metric does a decent job.
The following summarizes the quality start percentages of the Reds 5-man rotation (1) over their careers, (2) through their age 25 season, and (3) during the three year period of 2010-2012.
|—||Career||—||Thru Age 25||—||Last 3 Years|
All five starters have tossed quality starts at or above the major league average frequency of 50% for their careers. In other words, half of all major league starts results in a quality start. Each member of the Reds rotation has been at least that good during their respective careers, and they’ve been significantly better as a group the past three years.
In the recent past, Leake’s QS% is third best on the team behind Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos. Looking at what everyone did through Leake’s current age of 25, Mike is second in QS% only to Latos.
Here’s where QS% doesn’t tell you nearly the whole picture. A lot of Leake’s games meet or just pass the minimum definition of a quality start. Three runs in six innings is a below league average ERA of 4.50. He allowed 3 runs in 6 starts of 6+ innings last year. In a lot of his non-quality starts, Leake gives up more than one run per inning and/or doesn’t make it 5 innings. Seven of his starts last year were over before the 5th inning.
Given his age, and compared to the other starters in the rotation, I think his results so far shows future promise. A lot of people like to compare him to Bronson Arroyo, yet Arroyo wasn’t even regularly taking the ball every 5 days for a major league team until he was 27 years old.
Overall it’s 6 out of every 10 starts in Leake’s young career have been 6 innings or longer and 3 runs or less. Better than 50/50, though maybe not easily distinguishable to the naked eye. Most team would love to have their #5 starter be that good 6 out of every 10 starts.