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Scoring Changes: Quality Starts over Wins

When you look at the basic 5×5 scoring categories, you’ll notice that almost each category is set to measure an individual’s performance over a number of at bats or innings in a game.  If your player gets a hit it counts towards his batting average, if his teammate drives him in your players scores a point in runs, and if your pitcher happened to be on the mound that night that RBI counts towards his ERA.  That’s the way it should be, it’s a fair and simple method that has worked for years.  There is however one stat category that does not adhere to that rule and that would be wins.

Why in fantasy do we value wins when judging a pitchers value.  This is not and individual stat, it’s a team stat.  While the starting pitcher can put his team in a position to get the win, the overall outcome of the game is out of his hands for the most part.  Even if a pitcher goes 9 innings and only gives up one run he could come away with no points because the team he plays for couldn’t score.  It can be frustrating to a fantasy owner which is why I don’t understand why more leagues don’t use quality starts.

A quality start by definition is when a starting pitcher goes 6 innings or longer in a game allowing no more than 3 earned runs.  This is something that the pitcher can control and something he can score points for regardless of how bad of a team he plays for.  No longer would your pitchers fate be tied to the outcome of the game.  Can you imagine not counting a home run because the team that your 3rd baseman plays for lost?  Of course not, that would be silly.  And yet we reward or penalize a starting pitcher based upon the outcome of the game instead of his performance.  A win is not the best indicator of how good a pitcher really is.  Let’s take a look at the top 15 starting pitchers in wins from this past year.

Player Wins ERA WHIP K’s QS
Max Scherzer 21 2.90 0.97 240 25
Jordan Zimmermann 19 3.25 1.09 161 21
Adam Wainwright 19 2.94 1.07 219 26
Bartolo Colon 18 2.65 1.17 117 23
Matt Moore 17 3.29 1.30 143 14
C.J. Wilson 17 3.39 1.34 188 24
Jorge De La Rosa 16 3.49 1.38 112 17
Francisco Liriano 16 3.02 1.22 163 17
Clayton Kershaw 16 1.83 0.92 232 27
Chris Tillman 16 3.71 1.22 179 21
Zack Grienke 15 2.63 1.11 148 18
Jeremy Guthrie 15 4.04 1.39 111 18
Lance Lynn 15 3.97 1.31 198 19
Shelby Miller 15 3.06 1.21 169 13
Jon Lester 15 3.75 1.29 177 22

Of those 15 players, 6 of them are in the top 20 for ERA (3.15 or lower), while 5 of the players have an ERA of 3.49 or higher.

Additionally 9 out of those 15 have a WHIP above 1.2, and 3 of those players have a WHIP above 1.3.

As for strikeouts, only 3 players surpassed 200 K’s while 8 were below 170.

Now in comparison lets take a look at the top 15 in quality starts

Player Wins ERA WHIP K’s QS
Clayton Kershaw 16 1.83 0.92 232 27
James Shields 13 3.15 1.24 196 27
Adam Wainwright 19 2,94 1.07 219 26
Cole Hamels 8 3.60 1.16 202 25
Max Scherzer 21 2.90 0.97 240 25
Cliff Lee 14 2.87 1.01 222 24
Travis Wood 9 3.11 1.15 144 24
C.J. Wilson 17 3.39 1.34 188 24
Patrick Corbin 14 3.41 1.17 178 23
Bartolo Colon 18 2.65 1.17 117 23
Jarrod Parker 12 3.97 1.22 134 23
Ervin Santana 9 3.24 1.14 161 23
Mike Minor 13 3.21 1.09 181 23
Hisashi Iwakuma 14 2.66 1.01 185 23
Chris Sale 11 3.07 1.07 226 23

Of the players listed above, 9 out of the top 15 are in the top 20 for ERA. 6 players had an ERA under 3.0 and only 2 players had an ERA over 3.41.

Unlike the list above, only 2 players had a WHIP above 1.2.

Six players surpassed 200 strikeouts and four more had over 180

Judging by the two charts, the players on the second one have more strikeouts, a better whip and superior ERA. Clayton Kershaw was tied for 7th in wins but he’s the number one pitcher when judging him by quality starts (and every other stat). James Shields only managed 13 wins but he gave us 27 quality starts. Of those 27 quality starts, he gave up 2 runs or less in 22 of them so he deserves more credit then he’s given.  And we all remember Cliff Lee in 2012.  He ranked 15th overall in ERA, 10th in WHIP and 9th in strikeouts, but the fantasy community labeled him a dud because he only won 6 games.  Felix Hernandez has won more than 14 games in a season just once in the past 8 years.  He is usually one of the top 5 pitchers drafted, and yet he usually finishes outside the top 10 at the end of the season due to lack of wins.

Now some will point to the quality starts criteria of 3 runs in 6 innings.  Why should the guy who puts up a 4.5 ERA get the same points for quality start as the guy who pitches 8 innings and only gives up one run?  It’s a valid point that the system isn’t perfect, but in the same respect I can respond with a similar question.  Why should Jeremy Guthrie get a win for giving up 5 runs in 5 innings while James Shields gets a loss for going 8 innings and only allowing 2 runs?  Lance Lynn won 18 games in 2012 (tied for 4th), and yet he only had 16 quality starts.  His ERA ranked him at 45 and his WHIP was ranked at 61, but people loved him because of the wins.  He didn’t win 18 games because he was great, he won 18 thanks in part to the powerful offence hitting behind him.

Wins are based upon the outcome of the game and are a reflection on the team as a whole.  It doesn’t matter how many runs you give up, as long as you go 5 innings and your teammates score more runs than you give up, you can qualify for one.  Quality starts are based more upon ERA and a pitchers ability to go more innings than the standard 5 that is required for a win.  You don’t have to win the game; you just have to put your team in a position to win.  It only seems fair that if we are going to give points to other players for their individual performances that we abandoned wins in favor of a stat that does the same for pitchers.

Now I know it’s hard to change and some people refuse to change as they’ve gotten set in their ways.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  Well the current system isn’t broken, but it is flawed and outdated to a degree.  A number of leagues now use quality starts instead of wins, they use OBP or OPS instead of batting average, saves+holds instead of saves.  We live in a world where, just like McDonald’s, you can have your league your way.  Give it a shot in your league.  If people are hesitant to abandon their precious wins category, offer to add quality starts as a sixth category just to try it.  After  a year of playing with quality starts, they may even grow to love it equally if not more than wins.  Not all change is good, but this change is long overdue.

Previous Articles on Scoring Changes
Quality Starts over WinsSaves+Holds over SavesOBP over batting average

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Jim Finch
The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball. You can also find me at FanRagSports.com
Jim Finch

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8 comments on “Scoring Changes: Quality Starts over Wins

  1. Great piece, and I agree 100%. I’ve been proposing a scoring change in our league this offseason which values QS at a higher point value (H2H) than Wins for the same reasons you listed above (I’m actually going to link this article on our league homepage as reference). Now, I could be biased because I owned Cliff Lee in 2012 and Strasburg, Corbin and Iwakuma this season. 😉

  2. I’m probably one of those guys who resist change, but you make a good argument.
    In points leagues it’s so easy to just reward both W and QS. Even CG can get rewarded for those 9ip 4er wins where the QS doesn’t apply.
    In 5×5??? maybe (W+QS)/2 ?

    Over the course of a season, the QS may prove more reliable as far as measuring performance, but in a weekly format, missing out on that vulture win on Sunday night would decrease the potential for drama/excitement in my view.
    A great piece and I can’t argue with your logic though.
    Old dog…new tricks. 🙂

  3. Jim…
    I am one of those old fogies that never likes change! But, WOW your article makes so much sense. QS would be far better scoring category than W’s in Points. QS should have been in play for years by now. Thanks,
    BobO

  4. I agree Jim. I kind of hate wins. The blown save to win is awful. I have definitely lost a couple head to head match-ups because of those.

  5. good article. I’m commissioner of our H2H pts league, and I’ve been complaining for years about all of the QS no decisions or losses my pitchers get. Seems like more than my fair share (though I know it happens to everyone). Since we’re a pts league counting most categories, this is different from the 5×5 roto leagues. If a guy gives me a solid 7 inning QS but gets a ND, he’ll still get me roughly 30 pts. If he gets a W, that same start would be 50. A loss would get 20 for that same start. So in some ways, you are already rewarded a bit for that quality start (in that you get more pts than if it was a bad start), but maybe I should suggest 5 pts for a QS, which would lessen the hurt of a ND or L for those starts.

    I’m always annoyed when one of my pitchers goes 6 IP, allows 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB and 6 K’s and gets 31 pts in a ND, while another pitcher could go 5 IP, allow 8 H, 5 ER, o BB, 4 K’s, get a W, and also get 31 pts.

    On second thought, I will propose to my league10 pts for a W AND10 pts for a QS instead of the current 20 pts. for a W. Keep a loss at -10. That way, a QS L balances itself out, so you still get pts for the start itself. A not great win still gets some pts, just not the unwarranted 20, and a good start still gets the full 20. I’m sold on this. Thanks for inspiring me to come up with the idea! Hopefully, they’ll go for it.

    • Once you go outside standard 5×5 it can be tricky as points and categories vary, but in your case the 10 points for a win and 10 for a quality start would be a great idea. Hope things turn out well with your proposal. Eventually maybe you can get rid of wins all together and have 20 points for the QS.

  6. I agree that QS is a better measure of a pitcher than W’s, there’s no question there, but I do think one (really just one) case can be made for Wins over Quality Starts in a fantasy league, and that’s an Auction Draft. QS is a bit of an equalizer in terms of taking the team out of the equation, in an auction league I don’t think this should be done. Pitchers tied to good offenses should go for more than pitchers tied to poor offenses. This is especially true in a 5×5 league or any format that runs with relatively few categories. And just to put it out there, I am saying this as a guy who owns James Shields in a keeper league, so I really do think it’s better to keep wins in an auction style draft if you’re picking one or the other.

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