What is a Good ERA in Baseball?


What is a Good ERA in Baseball

Whenever you’re watching a professional baseball game and you see a pitcher warming up for the first time, they almost always show the stats for the pitcher. One of the stats that will always display is the pitcher’s Earned Run Average (ERA), but what they don’t show is how that pitcher’s ERA compares to the ERA of other pitchers. This led me to do some research and find the answer to the question – what is a good ERA in baseball?

In baseball, a good ERA is between 3.00 and 4.00, with the average ERA for pitchers being slightly above 4.00. Any ERA below 3.00 is considered excellent.

Keep reading to find out more about how the stats support these numbers and to find out whether a lower ERA is held by starting pitchers or relief pitchers.

Learn more about what is an ERA by reading A Beginner’s Guide to Baseball’s ERA Statistic.

ERA Ratings for Pitchers

While it may be tough to determine what an ERA means for pitchers, the table below should give you a high-level overview of what is considered good for pitchers in the MLB.

RatingEarned Run Average (ERA)
Exceptional 2.00 and below
Excellent 2.00-3.00
Good 3.00-4.00
Average4.00-5.00
Below Average5.00-6.00
Poor6.00 and above

In the sections below, we’ll dive into the reasoning behind why this table makes sense. And in order to better understand these numbers, it helps to know how to calculate a pitcher’s ERA. Read my article on the 3 steps to calculating a pitcher’s ERA to learn more.

An ERA of 4.12 is Average for All Pitchers

Left Handed Pitcher

To understand whether an ERA is good or bad, it’s helpful to understand what the average ERA is for all pitchers in the MLB. To find the average ERA for all pitchers, I looked through 10 years of pitching data found on Baseball-Reference.com and put together the table below.

YearInnings PitchedEarned RunsERA
202142615201624.26
202015468.276384.44
201943423.1216844.49
201843489200254.14
201743257209114.35
201643306.1201244.18
201543407.2190753.95
201443613.2181073.74
201343653.1187283.86
201243355.1193014.01
Total4055871857554.12

When you calculate the ERA for all pitchers based on 10 years of data, you see that the average ERA for pitchers is 4.12. Because it is better for pitchers to have a lower number for their ERA, this means that any pitchers who have an ERA less than 4.12 are considered to be doing better than the average.

On a related note, read my other article to learn more about why a low ERA is better than a high ERA in baseball.

The Best Pitchers Have an ERA Between 1.50 and 3.00

MLB pitchers who win the Cy Young award are considered the best pitchers in their league. Since there are two leagues – the National League and the American League – there are two Cy Young winners each year.

When you scan the list of all Cy Young winners, you can easily see that, on average, the best pitchers in the league have an ERA between 1.50 and 3.00.

And now that we know the average ERA and the best ERA, we can more accurately define what is a good ERA in baseball.

An ERA Between 3.00 – 4.00 is Considered Good

While calling something “good” can be subjective, we can use statistics to give us a better idea of what “good” means in terms of ERA.

As noted above, an average ERA for a pitcher is 4.12. Also noted above, the best pitchers in the league have an ERA between 1.50 and 3.00.

This means that a “good” ERA for an MLB pitcher is roughly between 3.00 and 4.00.

While ending a season with an ERA somewhere between 3.00 and 4.00 doesn’t usually result in a Cy Young award, it does mean the pitcher had a pretty good season. After all, these pitchers had an ERA that is less than the league average, which can be a tough achievement on its own.

Relief Pitchers Have an Average ERA of 3.97

After finding out the average ERA for all pitchers, I was also interested in finding out the average ERA for relief pitchers. So once again I turned to Baseball-Reference.com to find some stats for relief pitchers, which I put together in the table below.

YearInnings PitchedEarned RunsERA
202118212.284344.17
2020687933954.44
201918265.290494.46
201817422.179064.08
201716469.275864.15
201615893.269463.93
201515184.162633.71
201414621.258203.58
20131497759803.59
201214737.260063.67
Totals152660.4673853.97

As you can see from the table above, the average ERA for a relief pitcher was 3.97 when you look at 10 years of MLB history.

It’s generally thought that relief pitchers are worse than starters, but when you compare the average relief pitcher ERA of 3.97 with the average ERA of 4.12 for all pitchers during the same time period, relief pitchers come out ahead in this statistic.

Starting Pitchers Have an Average ERA of 4.22

I was also interested in finding out what the average ERA was for starting pitchers. So I turned to Baseball-Reference.com to find some stats for starting pitchers, which I put together in the table below.

YearInnings PitchedEarned RunsERA
202124402.1117654.34
20208589.242594.46
201925157.2126894.54
201826066.2121454.19
201726787.1133614.49
201627412.2132144.34
201528223.1128444.10
201428992123093.82
201328676.1127704.01
201228617.2133344.19
Totals252922.41186904.22

As you can see from the table above, starting pitchers had an average ERA of 4.22 when we look at 10 years worth of MLB history.

When you compare this 4.22 ERA to the overall average of 4.12 for all pitchers, it looks like starting pitchers do slightly worse on average than other types of pitchers.

For more information on judging a starting pitcher’s ERA, read my other article on what is a good ERA for a starting pitcher.

A Good ERA for a Closer is Between 2.00 – 3.00

Closers are a special type of relief pitcher that normally pitch late in the game. Because they tend to face fewer batters, they also tend to give up fewer runs.

The goal of closers is to end the game and maintain the lead for their team. When done correctly, they earn a Save (S), which is a statistic that judges how often a closing pitcher achieves that goal.

Learn more about what is a good ERA for a closer.

Relief Pitchers’ ERA vs Starting Pitchers’ ERA

Using ERA is one way to determine a pitcher’s effectiveness. But quite often you hear how teams want to get the starting pitcher out of the game so they can hit off of the relief pitcher. Are relief pitchers worse than starters?

While it’s common for players to believe that relief pitchers are worse, relief pitchers actually have a better ERA than starting pitchers. MLB relief pitchers have an average ERA of 3.97 while MLB starting pitchers have an average ERA of 4.22 during the same time frame.

There are plenty of other statistics that can be used to determine whether or not a relief pitcher is better than a starting pitcher, but if we’re only looking at ERA, then relief pitchers tend to do better on average when it comes to professional baseball.

Steve Nelson

I'm the owner of Baseball Training World. I live in Denver, Colorado and I enjoy playing baseball on two different adult baseball teams in the surrounding area.

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