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.
|Jorge De La Rosa||16||3.49||1.38||112||17|
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
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.