Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thinking of switching from Wins to Quality Starts?

Here are the three main reasons I can see to make the change:

1. When Dice-K plays the Yanks, it is possible for him to get a QS for your fantasy team but also a loss to the Yanks.  Or Sabathia can get a Quality Start but a loss to the Sox.  My point is that it makes being both a fantasy baseball player and a fan of baseball a little easier.  This point might be less obvious to those of you who hate the Sox and the Yanks.  But you get the idea.

2.  Todd Jones can no longer blow your wins.  Actually, this is only partly true.  He can still let inherited runners score. Actually, that's not true either: Todd Jones is retired.  But you get the idea.

3. While handing out Quality Starts (AKA six innings pitched with three or fewer runs given up) isn't a perfect way to reward a pitcher, it certainly seems better at rewarding good pitching than Wins.  One is green beans cooked in butter and the other is green beans cooked in margarine.  Or is margarine worse than butter?  I can never remember.  But you get the idea.

3b. As RotoTommy notes in the comment section, switching to QS eliminates the RP win vultures because you need to actually start the game to get a QS.  So don't forget to adjust your setup men, middle relief, LOOGY, and closer rankings accordingly.   Can there be a 3b without a 3a?  No, not really, but you get the idea.

Assuming you do make the change, which starting pitchers should get bumped up your draft board?  I thought you'd never ask.  Here is a list of the starting pitchers from 2008 who had the biggest positive W/QS differential (minimum ten QS):

Here are the starting pitchers that were least helped by the switch from W to QS (minimum ten QS):

I'll leave you with a list of the 2008 starting pitchers who had the best QS% (minimum ten QS):

Trying to convince your league to make the switch?  Email them the link to this post.  And then also email them this picture of Todd Jones blowing a save.  Hopefully they'll get the idea.


@RotoTommy said...

Excellent post and one I totally agree with. We switched to QS in my main league two years ago, and I've never enjoyed fantasy baseball more. Wins are a dumb category that are completely out of the pitcher's control - defense and luck play heavily. Also, it sickens me to see a guy give up 8 ER and win, and vice versa for a great performance and a loss. This also eliminates the RP vulture, b/c QS requires an actual start. Kudos guys.

Hank Hulkum said...

Butter has cholesterol and saturated fat. Margarine has trans fats. But tub margarine has 66% fewer trans fats than stick margarine.

So butter is recommended over margarine, but the trans-free tub or liquid margarine kinds are recommended over butter.

DrGravitee said...

Thanks, RotoTommy. You are right to bring up the elimination of the RP win vultures. I'd forgotten about that.

JD said...

One very interesting aspect of drafting pitchers (especially in a points league like sandbox) is realizing that when you draft a starting pitcher you are also drafting their bullpen and also the team’s offense; i.e., you have to think carefully about making a choice between a stud pitcher who gets no pen & run support and a marginal pitcher who happens to play on a great pen/offensive team. Especially when dealing with potential spot starts, this was always one of the most interesting and challenging parts of the sandbox game to me, since wins count for so much (10 points).

Just my 2 cents.

DrGravitee said...

JD makes some excellent points, and so I wanted to springboard off them with a followup of my own. What has always frustrated me most about the Win stat is that it is the stat that correlates least with good pitching. And the fact that it can frequently rely on pen and run support feels less like like strategy and more like luck you can't control. For example: Cole Hamels played on a team that won its division, and yet he only had 14 Wins out of his 23 Quality Starts (his 23 QS, by the way, were 12th-best in the majors). His team can hit and his closer, Lidge, was arguably the best closer in baseball in 2008. There is no way to strategize for that. Hamels got plain old unlucky. And guess who else got 14 wins last year: Edwin Jackson, he of 4.42 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. The fact that he "tied" Hamels in wins is, well, discomfort-making at best. As a stat, Wins are closer to a totally mindless stat like "Most Broken Bats By A Hitter (MBBBAH)" than a decent measurer of skill like WHIP (well, that might be a stretch, but you get the idea).

A weak analogy, but it is a little like playing pool and using rules that allow slop. Why not call pockets? Why not play ball-in-hand? Doesn't that reward better play?

Arguably, a spot starter using QS will have even more of that should-I-or-shouldn't-I feel to it, as QS does a better job of rewarding quality of pitcher, and so a waiver wire pickup will be even more of a game of roulette.

I understand that luck will always be a part of fantasy sports, but tweaks that favor skill over luck appeal to me. QS is far from perfect (I remember Halladay had a 9 inning, 4 earned run game last year that wouldn't have gotten credit for a QS) but it more consistently rewards the better pitcher.

Mike G. said...

Maybe in fantasy football we shouldn't count touchdowns for running backs unless they actually helped get the ball down close to the goal line...

I think the win stat isn't perfect, but it's the easiest way to evaluate whether or not your pitcher had a good game when they show the winning and losing pitchers on ESPN's bottom line. It's the easiest stat to find after the game. It's a lot of work to wait and find out how many innings he pitched and if he got a QS. I think wins are the closest thing to touchdowns in this game. You can have a crappy pitcher who gets a ton of wins, kind of like a running back that averages 3ypc but scores 10TD's.

It isn't a perfect stat but adds intrigue to a league, especially a points H2H one I'm in. Agree to QS, and the next thing we'll end up doing is throwing out the head to head format and giving guys points for quality fantasy days instead.

Over the course of the season the pitcher point averages generally indicate who were the best pitchers in the league.

DrGravitee said...

Thanks for writing, Mike. However, I think we can all agree that fantasy football is an entirely different beast. Baseball, with its long season, million at bats, has a bit less volatility to it. There really aren't Mewelde Moore's in baseball...if Derek Jeter gets hurt, his backup probably sucks. Anyway, comparing the two sports doesn't really work. So it is probably best we leave the nuances of fantasy football alone for the purposes of this fantasy baseball stat category decision.

The QS is easy to find. ESPN scrolls say "Winning Pitcher: Harden 7 IP, 3ER." From that you know it is a QS. Also we have free stat tracker. Or a glance at any boxscore of any sort does the trick.

This isn't a slippery slope. No one is suggesting that entire leagues be overhauled. This is a tweak to one stat category.

Anyway, I guess it isn't for everyone. Or maybe, to win this debate, I should say "boom, roasted" after each point I make:

Hank Hulkum said...

Mike, so to summarize your points, you don't like Quality Starts because:

1. You think QS make fantasy baseball less like fantasy football
2. You can't find it as easily on ESPN
3. Wins are more like touchdowns than QS
4. Wins add "intrigue," by which I think you mean "randomness."
5. If you agree to QS, fantasy sports might end as we know it
6. Wins aren't great, but over the course of the season, the other stats that are good help make up for that fact.

Neil M. said...

Someone in my H2H points keeper league wants to switch, but I'm against the move. For one, we're all somewhat invested in Wins, being a keeper league. Plus, we're used to it, and some may even have selected players based on it. Also, fantasy mirrors real life when you share in the agony of the blown save. It's a part of the game, frustrating as it might be. I actually think it's more interesting when 5, 10, or even 15 points hang in the balance after a pitcher has been pulled. Until the game's over, that pitcher's fantasy line isn't complete. With the quality start stat, once the book's closed on that pitcher, so's his fantasy stat line under this proposed format. I find this slightly less interesting, even if it does "reward" the pitcher independent of his bullpen's and offense's performance.