Matt Harvey has completed quality starts in nearly three-quarters of his career attempts, a success rate unrivaled by anybody on this list. He boasts a 2.39 earned run average and .207 batting average against through two campaigns with the New York Mets.
However, our objective is to identify pitchers who could take the mound immediately—against any opponent—and deliver an adequate performance in terms of both length and run allowance.
This 24-year-old doesn't meet the criteria as he's currently in the process of getting doctors' advice about his partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Marc Carig of Newsday reports that the right-hander will visit with Dr. James Andrews, who's infamous in the baseball world for performing Tommy John surgery. Undergoing the procedure would require Harvey to rehab for a full year and rebuild his arm strength, and there's just no way of knowing if he'd ever return to dominant form.
The first-time All-Star might've headlined this list at midseason, but the unfortunate development in his elbow understandably changes that.
The Miami Marlins decided to shut down rookie ace Jose Fernandez following his Wednesday night outing to ensure he doesn't overexert himself for a team that's hopelessly out of contention.
His performances will be sorely missed. The Cuban right-hander pulverized major league hitters from June onward, serving up only four home runs in that span (while mashing one himself). Fernandez recorded 16 quality starts over his final 18 trips to the mound, which lowered his earned run average to 2.19, the National League's second-best mark.
While there's no denying that Fernandez was sensational in 2013, he certainly benefited from the element of surprise. He had no major league experience—in fact, no experience above High-A—prior to this season, so upcoming opponents didn't have much relevant material to use when scouting him.
Let's see him do this again before getting too carried away.
Zack Greinke is on an impressive roll of his own—eight consecutive quality starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers. On the other hand, the first half of his summer was extremely inconsistent. Just look at the unacceptable brevity of those early-season performances.
The last individual season in which Greinke's QS percentage topped 70 was 2009.
CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander
Not so long ago, CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander would've been perfect fits for an article that emphasizes reliability.
Both continue to give their clubs a ton of innings, but significant drops in their velocity and declines in overall effectiveness were impossible to ignore. Sabathia, in particular, has fallen from grace so quickly that few MLB teams would still view him as a rotation ace.
Matt Cain is similarly on the verge of being booted from the pantheon of elite starters considering his career-worst 4.37 earned run average for the San Francisco Giants this summer. Although about 63 percent of his outings have met the quality start requirements, a handful of the exceptions have been catastrophic, including July 10 against the New York Mets when he managed only two outs in the first inning.
Clay Buchholz returned to the Boston Red Sox rotation Tuesday night with a rare non-quality start. The right-hander had spent the previous three months on the disabled list, so taking a cautious approach, his team entrusted the game to its bullpen after five brilliant innings.
Buchholz is undefeated through 13 outings with a 1.61 ERA and 8.8 K/9. Remember, however, that one season ago, while pitching for the same franchise in the same ballpark, he had an ordinary 4.56 ERA and 6.1 K/9.
The real Buchholz is probably somewhere in the middle.
Aug. 17, 2012 was a ginormous turning point for Yu Darvish.
In 35 regular-season starts from then onward, he has an MLB-best 13 double-digit strikeout performances, while never allowing double-digit hits. His quality start percentage in that span? A surreal 77.1 percent, and slightly higher if we're counting his performance in the inaugural American League Wild Card Game.
Problem is that the old, erratic Darvish—the one who walked the fourth-most batters in the American League last season despite only 29 starts—rears his hideous head from time to time.
Whether or not you take his win total into consideration, Max Scherzer is enjoying a terrific year. From May to August, he may have been the best pitcher in the entire American League.
Alas, trimming this list down to 10 individuals meant snubbing the right-hander in favor of starters who have excelled at the major league level for longer periods of time.