Seeking Alternatives to Wins

Enjoys long walks at more appropriate places in his fantasy baseball league’s standings. Must love dogs. (I do like me some Diane Lane, one of the more underrated Hollywood beauties of her time, in my opinion.)

This is kind of like the personals section of your local Craigslist, minus the creep or latent possibility of disease, death or need for a restraining order. There’s also practically a 0% chance that this entry ends up as a prompt for a category on the hilarious Comedy Central program “@midnight.”

I’m tired of wins. Not just because the stat has quote-unquote screwed me out of a rotisserie league title, although I’m sure it has at one time or another. Not just because of all the good arguments for why it’s a terrible statistic for individual pitchers. Not just because I’m tired of hearing people complain about why it’s a terrible statistic for individual pitchers. I’m over that stuff, for the most part. I’m just tired. And kind of bored.

This is an age-old problem. Scott Spratt most recently discussed the importance of the dissociation of wins from pitcher production. He referenced Jeff Zimmerman’s preseason work on the subject. We don’t like to use projections for the statistic to appraise future pitcher performance.

Some commissioners have attempted to address the conundrum with the substitution of quality starts (QS) or wins plus quality starts (W+QS). I’ve played in leagues with one or the other. I don’t recall a complaint about either of them. One of those two is clearly better than wins alone, as Community Research contributor Sam Horwich-Scholefield concluded. Neither is perfect, of course. I don’t recall disagreements when someone has inevitably asserted that three earned runs conceded in six innings is of great quality. It’s a binary statistic, just like all the other non-rate stats.

Some head-to-head leagues subtract points for or include the category of losses. Talk about rough for the 2014 Jeff Samardzija owner. Keep running him out there, brave soldier. Don’t let the fear win.

Perhaps I’m asking for too much when I seek an alternative to quality starts, then. Imperfections can accentuate beauty. But I’m asking anyway. Can we do better?

This substitute should:

  • more accurately gauge a pitcher’s contribution to his team’s chance to win a particular game
  • not be a rate
  • be exclusive to starting pitchers; saves, holds and potential alternatives to those (good examples of which I’ve seen here a time or two) are exclusive to relievers
  • avoid duplicity, or at least excessive duplicity (which then makes the quality of duplicity subjective, but whatever)

Anything else?

On the podcast, I suggested two possibilities, each of which would be a modification of an invention for said purpose: Pure Quality Starts (PQS), manufactured by Baseball HQ; and Bill James’ more well-known Game Score (GmSc), for which Baseball HQ created their simplistic alternative. Each is intended to be more of non-fantasy measure, but doesn’t either fit the bill? Has anyone at FanGraphs developed an alternative to them? If so, I’m sorry that I missed it. While I’m asking, can I be fired for either of these suggestions?

Again, this would be a cumulative category. Some might not be in favor of a category that results in a positive contribution for an awful outing on the mound, such as a PQS 1 (disaster) or a GmSc like Edinson Volquez’s 12 on Wednesday at home against the Cincinnati Reds. It’s just semantics, though. The scaling of one of those algorithmic stats could improve the aesthetic appeal of the category to the community.

Neither of these is perfect, either, which is why I suggest modifications. That and doing so may help me to avoid copyright infringement. Anyway, each of them is overly redundant for fantasy purposes. To implement them could translate to substitutions for ERA, WHIP, strikeouts or all of them.

At this point, I may have made it too complex. The consensus best alternative might already be out there. QS or W+QS might be the best solution because it’s simple and not superfluous. I’d just like to see something like it included in mainstream leagues. What do you think, Tout Wars? Is it time to start a movement?

I think the qualitative nature of a modified PQS or GmSc is really appealing and would add an interesting dimension to rotisserie races, too. It’s fun to contemplate.

Print This Post

Nicholas Minnix oversaw baseball content for six years at KFFL, where he held the loose title of Managing Editor for seven and a half before he joined FanGraphs. He played in both Tout Wars and LABR from 2010 through 2014. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasMinnix.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted

What about Innings?


That’s not a bad start, but you allow inning-eaters that just aren’t that good.

I was thinking something like Outs – Bases Allowed (or something like INN*3 – (1B + 2B + 3B + HR + BB)) to be more generous to pitchers who also prevent baserunners. Total Batters Faced – Bases Allowed might work as well; the greater the number means more people attempted and failed to reach base.


This is starting to just sound like a points league.


That should read “1B + 2*2B + 3*3B + 4*HR”. Anyway it’s hard to find a site that tracks doubles/triples allowed, but here’s a rough 2014 leaderboard for Outs – Total Bases Allowed:

1,Johnny Cueto,221,4
2,Felix Hernandez,221,8
3,Adam Wainwright,195,6
4,Julio Teheran,193,7
5,Sonny Gray,180,23
6,Garrett Richards,177,19
7,Masahiro Tanaka,172,1
8,Dallas Keuchel,172,2
9,Kyle Lohse,172,30
10,Scott Kazmir,170,10
11,Jeff Samardzija,165,14
12,Michael Wacha,164,26
13,Mark Buehrle,162,3
14,Yu Darvish,162,5
15,Charlie Morton,161,39
16,John Lackey,160,15
17,Corey Kluber,160,31
18,Jason Hammel,156,9
19,Tyson Ross,154,40
20,Jonathon Niese,152,24

Not bad.