Three is too many

There is a bit of a controversy in Philadelphia. Ogawa Zawanishi or however you spell it says that a quality start is good enough. Actually, he said that letting up three runs is good enough. Well, I’ve been a big league pitcher for several years now and that is not the way to look at your job.

Let me start with the definition of a quality start. A quality start is a minimum of six innings pitched with a maximum of three earned runs. If someone does that, pitches six innings and gives up three, his ERA will be 4.50. Yet this Zawanishi character is saying that three runs isn’t too many to give up.

My ERA hasn’t been above 4 since my rookie year when I only pitched in fifteen games. So I know a little bit about keeping it down. I’m not just talking out of my ass here. If you routinely give up three runs as a starter, your ERA is going to be 4ish or more. And while that might be acceptable, it’s not good. It’s not what you should be working toward.

The goal is to let up fewer runs than your boys score behind you. Some days, 1 is too many. Other days you can get by with 4 or 5. But make no mistake, if you let up more than your boys drive in, you will not be the winning pitcher. And chances are pretty good that your team will not be a winning team that day.

I understand about wanting to keep your ERA down. But don’t worry about your ERA. Worry about keeping runs off the board. If you do that, if you keep guys from rounding the bases, your ERA will take care of itself.

And don’t get the idea that your boys are letting you down if they don’t plate any runs. In the half-innings that you’re sitting on your butt, there’s another guy out there on the mound doing his level best to keep your boys off the board. Your boys are going up there and doing their best to score runs. All you can do is watch and cheer. And hope you do your job better than that other guy on the mound does his.

But you can’t expect to be a good pitcher if you go in there believing it’s okay to let up a few runs and expecting your boys to take care of it. Set your goal at zero. Three is too many.

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