Is Using Wins + Quality Starts the Answer?

Rotograph’s venerable duo Mike Podhorzer and David Wiers recently contemplated aloud a new statistic, formulated by Ron Shandler, that replaces Wins (W) and Quality Starts (QS) by simply adding the two (W+QS). Chandler decided to use this approach in monthly fantasy leagues, and its useful to look at how using this combination could best be used to solve an implacable problem, the overall crappiness of using wins to evaluate a pitcher’s ability.

W+QS is interesting because it weights QS more than W, since a pitcher usually has considerably more QS than W. With a mean of 19 QS and only 12 W, a starting pitcher is more likely to throw at least six innings with 3 earned runs or less than he is to get the W. Wins are capricious and depend greatly on the pitcher’s offensive support. As a way to measure a pitcher’s ability, one might argue that wins are a waste of time. In fantasy baseball, a pitcher is most often valued by his ERA, WHIP, number of Ks and W and Saves. Some more progressive leagues use QS in place of the W.

As evidenced by the table below, ranking a pitcher by W+QS instead of wins alone certainly helps many a fine pitcher, especially James Shields, who leads the league in QS but only is ranked 38th in wins, while also penalizing others like Shelby Miller who has even more wins (14) than quality starts (12). Stephen Strasburg and Cole Hamels see the greatest percent increase jumping from wins to QS+W, while Jeremy Hellickson and Shelby Miller’s total changed the least.

Conversely, Shelby Miller and Jeff Locke saw the greatest increase from quality starts to W+QS, again showing that Mr. Miller, while pitching well his first full season, got the W more often that he made a quality start. A quick glance at his game log shows the innings-limited young pitcher often earned the win when pitching less than the 6 innings needed to record a quality start.

  Comparing Wins, Quality Starts, and Wins + Quality Starts

Name

W+QS Rank

W Rank

Change in Rank

W

QS

W+QS

% Change from W to W+QS

% Change from QS to W+QS

Max Scherzer

1

1

0

20

24

44

120

83

Adam Wainwright

2

3

1

18

26

44

144

69

Clayton Kershaw

3

8

5

15

26

41

173

58

Jordan Zimmermann

4

2

-2

19

21

40

111

90

C.J. Wilson

5

5

0

17

23

40

135

74

Bartolo Colon

6

4

-2

17

22

39

129

77

James Shields

7

38

31

12

26

38

217

46

Cliff Lee

8

12

4

14

23

37

164

61

Patrick Corbin

9

17

8

14

23

37

164

61

Chris Tillman

10

7

-3

16

20

36

125

80

Bronson Arroyo

11

20

9

14

22

36

157

64

Jon Lester

12

10

-2

15

20

35

133

75

Kris Medlen

13

16

3

14

21

35

150

67

Doug Fister

14

21

7

14

21

35

150

67

Hisashi Iwakuma

15

26

11

13

22

35

169

59

Madison Bumgarner

16

27

11

13

22

35

169

59

Mike Minor

17

31

14

13

22

35

169

59

Jarrod Parker

18

42

24

12

23

35

192

52

Anibal Sanchez

19

11

-8

14

20

34

143

70

Mat Latos

20

15

-5

14

20

34

143

70

Yu Darvish

21

28

7

13

21

34

162

62

Hyun-Jin Ryu

22

29

7

13

21

34

162

62

Justin Verlander

23

33

10

13

21

34

162

62

Chris Sale

24

45

21

11

23

34

209

48

Jorge De La Rosa

25

6

-19

16

17

33

106

94

Jhoulys Chacin

26

14

-12

14

19

33

136

74

Felix Hernandez

27

37

10

12

21

33

175

57

Travis Wood

28

66

38

9

24

33

267

38

Zack Greinke

29

9

-20

15

17

32

113

88

Justin Masterson

30

19

-11

14

18

32

129

78

Lance Lynn

31

24

-7

14

18

32

129

78

Jose Fernandez

32

36

4

12

20

32

167

60

Derek Holland

33

54

21

10

22

32

220

45

Ervin Santana

34

67

33

9

23

32

256

39

Cole Hamels

35

74

39

8

24

32

300

33

Jeremy Guthrie

36

23

-13

14

17

31

121

82

Julio Teheran

37

30

-7

13

18

31

138

72

R.A. Dickey

38

34

-4

13

18

31

138

72

Rick Porcello

39

35

-4

13

18

31

138

72

Gio Gonzalez

40

47

7

11

20

31

182

55

Homer Bailey

41

48

7

11

20

31

182

55

Mike Leake

42

18

-24

14

16

30

114

88

CC Sabathia

43

25

-18

14

16

30

114

88

Ricky Nolasco

44

32

-12

13

17

30

131

76

Mark Buehrle

45

43

-2

12

18

30

150

67

Hiroki Kuroda

46

46

0

11

19

30

173

58

Wade Miley

47

58

11

10

20

30

200

50

A.J. Griffin

48

22

-26

14

15

29

107

93

Scott Feldman

49

40

-9

12

17

29

142

71

Andrew Cashner

50

53

3

10

19

29

190

53

Kyle Lohse

51

55

4

10

19

29

190

53

John Lackey

52

57

5

10

19

29

190

53

Eric Stults

53

60

7

10

19

29

190

53

Matt Harvey

54

65

11

9

20

29

222

45

Dillon Gee

55

41

-14

12

16

28

133

75

Wily Peralta

56

51

-5

11

17

28

155

65

Andy Pettitte

57

59

2

10

18

28

180

56

Miguel Gonzalez

58

61

3

10

18

28

180

56

Felix Doubront

59

49

-10

11

16

27

145

69

Yovani Gallardo

60

50

-10

11

16

27

145

69

Kyle Kendrick

61

64

3

10

17

27

170

59

Matt Cain

62

75

13

8

19

27

238

42

Shelby Miller

63

13

-50

14

12

26

86

117

Ubaldo Jimenez

64

39

-25

12

14

26

117

86

Bud Norris

65

62

-3

10

16

26

160

63

A.J. Burnett

66

68

2

9

17

26

189

53

Jose Quintana

67

69

2

9

17

26

189

53

Jeff Samardzija

68

76

8

8

18

26

225

44

Kevin Correia

69

70

1

9

16

25

178

56

Joe Saunders

70

52

-18

11

13

24

118

85

Tim Lincecum

71

63

-8

10

14

24

140

71

David Price

72

73

1

8

16

24

200

50

Stephen Strasburg

73

79

6

7

17

24

243

41

Jeremy Hellickson

74

44

-30

12

11

23

92

109

Jeff Locke

75

56

-19

10

13

23

130

77

Dan Haren

76

72

-4

9

14

23

156

64

Ryan Dempster

77

77

0

8

14

22

175

57

Edwin Jackson

78

78

0

8

14

22

175

57

Jerome Williams

79

71

-8

9

11

20

122

82

Ian Kennedy

80

80

0

6

13

19

217

46

 

In fantasy, the 5 categories are meant to evaluate the overall value of a pitcher, and players that are best able to predict future value can win serious jelly beans. A pitcher accumulates Ks by defeating individual batters, while a low WHIP indicates that he can avoid putting opposing players on base. ERA evaluates a pitcher’s run prevention skill. Saves and wins are meant to measure a pitcher’s ability to dominate opposing teams, whether for an inning or an entire game. However, wins compare poorly with quality starts and W+QS when correlated with commonly used pitching statistics.

The chart below shows the correlation between wins, quality starts, and the combination of the two with other commonly used pitcher evaluation metrics. By calculating the correlation between these 3 categories and other pitcher metrics such as FIP, OPS allowed, batting average against, homeruns allowed per 9 innings, and runs above average by the 24 base/out states (RE24), we can measure not only the relationship between the variables, but also how much they differ from each other.
Chart

None of these statistics correlate as well with wins as they do with quality starts and W+QS. In fact, the difference between QS and W+QS is negligible in every case. This result makes sense—since QS make up the majority of the W+QS total, the two are almost identical in the chart. The actual values of each correlation are less important that the overwhelming conclusion that wins do not have much to do with pitcher skill, while the difference between QS and W+QS is negligible.

 Why, then, might it be useful to use W+QS? These results show that it may not be very different from using quality starts, but is far more reliable way to judge a pitcher’s performance than wins alone. W+QS double count the games when a pitcher goes somewhat deep into a game, pitches fairly well (3 ER or less), and exits the game while leading his opponent. This scenario might not be much different than the QS by itself, but it does retain an element of “winning the ballgame for your team”, which is what the win category somewhat accurately captures. A winning pitcher is generally on a winning team, although that statement may not mean much.

W+QS may be an unnecessarily complicated way to repeat the same evaluation standards as quality starts, but some players may prefer it simply because it retains the W while relegating it to a position of less importance. Maybe owning a great pitcher like James Shields doesn’t have to be so frustrating after all.




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David
Guest
David

My league’s been using (W+QS-L) for years, to much good effect.

Nick C
Guest

this is what we do in my fantasy points league. +5 for a win, +5 for the QS, -5 for a loss. That way a pitcher doesn’t get penalized for the loss as long as it was a quality start, but still gets rewarded for earning the win for their team.

Michael Wood
Guest
Michael Wood

If wins are a bad statistic in regards to measuring a pitcher’s quality, adding it to an arbitrary statistic such as quality starts does not make it better. I think part of the problem is an insistence on having an equal number of categories for hitters an pitchers. A offensive player has multiple paths to a successful appearance. They can get one of several varieties of hit or they can draw a walk. They can drive in other players or be themselves driven in. They can steal bases. A pitcher either allows baserunners or not. Those baserunners either score or not.

Perhaps we need to use fewer categories to represent pitchers and weight them differently than the offensive categories. This is not a trivial change and I have not completely fleshed out the idea, but if we keep the pitchers measured on things they can “control”, for example strikeouts, walks, innings pitched, and baserunners stranded, we all might feel like our pitchers are better represented in the standings.

Don Voakes
Guest
Don Voakes

Today’s game has changed to the point where wins are not what they once were.
Pitchers up to probably 30 years ago or so were expected to pitch complete games. Many did and out pitched their rival pitcher. Hence the pitchers win was important. Pitching only 5-6 innings severely restricts along with pitch counts the ability for a starter to accumulate wins. If a pitcher is unable to pitch deep into games for whatever reason they do not deserve a win. Don’t blame offensive support or lack of. The real reason is they do not pitch deep into games. And if they do and lose 1-0, they got out pitched by their opponent and deserve the loss.

Darren Donnelly
Guest
Darren Donnelly

I know I’m late on this, but I’m currently looking into the possibility of weighted wins. This requires two new terms invented solely for the purpose of weighted wins. Win by Quality Start or WQS. A WQS is achieved by getting both a win and quality start. Win Without Quality Start or WWQ. This is quite simply a win that was not produced by a quality start. The formula then would be: WQS + (WWQ*0.5) = weighted wins(WW)

I believe this proves to be an efficient indicator of wins produced by a starting pitcher. It is also fairly easy to calculate.

Geoff
Guest

I am trying desperately to get my auction keeper league to switch to W+QS and this article seems to have helped move the debate in my favor. This just validates what astute fantasy baseball fans have known intuitively for quite some time.

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