Both of Clayton Kershaw’s career starts on May 27 meet the bare minimum definition of a quality start, which gives us a chance to put the statistic in some context.
The first such start came in 2009 against the Rockies at Coors Field, the end of a three-game sweep that saw the Dodgers outscore Colorado, 31-13, the final straw for manager Clint Hurdle, who was fired after this game.
A seventh-inning rally gave the Dodgers the lead for good, and earned Kershaw the win after his six innings. From my game recap:
Clayton Kershaw, despite flirting with disaster with three walks and a balk in the third inning, and giving up a home run to Ryan Spilborghs in the fourth, finished strong and ended up with a quality start
It took a decade for Kershaw to get the ball again on May 27, this time facing the Mets at Dodger Stadium in 2019, a battle with Jacob deGrom.
Another big rally just as Kershaw left earned him the win, this time a six-run sixth after deGrom was lifted. Kershaw walked one and struck out five, but also allowed 10 hits.
Clayton Kershaw allowed 10 hits in his 6 innings. It’s the 7th time in 348 starts he has allowed double-digit hits in a game.— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) May 28, 2019
Tonight plus these five games and Game 6 of the 2013 NLCShttps://t.co/zEYiz6rHff
What makes May 27 so odd is that in Kershaw’s career he has a total of only 12 starts with exactly six innings and exactly three earned runs allowed, out of 344 total starts. Two of them came on this date. Kershaw is 6-3 in those games, and the Dodgers won nine of the 12.
These are the exact type of starts that turn folks away from the quality start, the stench of a 4.50 ERA too powerful to ignore. The bare minimum — six innings, three earned runs — accounted for just 10.8 percent of all MLB quality starts last year, with teams going 98-95.
But it’s important to note this is the very worst type of quality start. The term also captures all the better starts with at least six innings and no more than three earned runs. Generally, quality starts have a positive outcome. In 2019, pitchers who threw a quality start had a collective 1.88 ERA, and teams won 70 percent of those games.
Kershaw has pitched a quality start in 254 of his 344 career starts (73.8 percent). Among all pitchers with at least 50 starts dating back to Kershaw’s rookie year of 2008, only deGrom has a higher percentage of quality starts (74.9%).
2009 (W, 3-3): 6 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts
2019 (W, 5-0): 6 IP, 10 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
Up next: Two starts against the National League Central