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A quality start is a category that can only apply to a starting pitcher, similar to how a save can only apply to a reliever. A quality start occurs when a pitcher starts a game, pitches at least 6 innings, and allows 3 or less earned runs. For some time now it has been accepted as a metric to determine if a starting pitcher pitched well enough to give his team a reasonable chance to win the game. Now, rather than get into a debate about the metric itself (I would argue that it's a bit too lenient), for the sake of this article, let's assume it's validity.
In many leagues I've seen as well as been a part of, Wins are often replaced with Quality Starts as one of the pitching categories. Those who advocate for QS's argue that it is much more indicative of a starters performance compared to a Win. Too often, Wins are out of a pitchers control and even if they pitched very well, do not receive credit for their performance. I absolutely agree, and when comparing Quality Starts to Wins, Quality Starts are much more indicative of a pitchers performance.
Even with these positive things to say about QS as a metric, I am still in favor of Wins as a category. I concede that Wins are more random, less of an accurate measure of performance and flawed. For the sake of my next few points, consider a common scenario where someone is debating on replacing Wins with Quality Starts as a category in their league:
- Relievers cannot get a Quality Start: The counter argument to this is starters cannot get saves. To me, it's comparing apples to oranges. Fantasy relevant starting pitchers accumulate 2.5 to 3x the IP compared to fantasy relevant relievers. An elite starter can only have an impact on 4 categories, however the impact can be huge. A relievers can contribute in all 5 categories, however because the total IP is so much less compared to a starter, the overall value is less. On average, a relievers would only accumulate 3 - 5 wins over the course of a season. Multiply that across 3 - 4 RP's (or more) on a fantasy roster and there can be significant standings affecting impact. If you take Wins away, they still can contribute in the other categories, however it devalues their overall fantasy production... production that is already less than what a starter could produce simply based on sheer volume.
Rostering a good number of elite relievers is a great strategy in deeper leagues to lower ratios, accumulate extra K's (with great K/9) and accumulate additional Wins. I'll leave my love for relievers for another day, but you get my point.
- Wins are random and Quality Starts reward pitchers more for pitching well: As already mentioned, I like the concept of a quality start. I love that a pitchers that pitches well should be rewarded on your fantasy team. However many studies have shown over time that pitchers that accumulate a large % of QS over the course of a season would have also accumulated a large % of Wins comparatively. The sheer numbers would be less, however correlating to the total pool of stats, the ratios usually fall in line for most pitchers. There are always some outliers, however so goes it with most stats. My point is, pitchers that would lead the league in QS, would have a likely chance to lead the league in Wins. You may have some pitchers who's QS to Win ratio would vary greatly, however knowing this going into a draft is just an additional strategic advantage for those who have put in the proper research. This leads into my next point...
- As random as Wins are, they add additional strategy to fantasy baseball: Wins aren't completely random. While they are team dependent just as much as they are pitcher dependent, they are predictable to an extent. If a good starter is on a 90-100 win team, he will have a better chance for Wins than a good starter on a 60 Win team. When I'm creating my projections each year, I have to take into account the skills of the pitcher but also the strength of his team, other teams in his division, and the league in general. While all of these things don't have to do with the pitcher himself, they are strategic and a part of the game that I enjoy projecting. At the end of the day, fantasy baseball is all about projection stats. This is a variant of it, and to me, and requires lots of strategy.
- Non-closer relievers lose tremendous value: As if middle relievers and setup men didn't have it tough enough in fantasy, replacing Wins with QS makes them even more irrelevant. I'm an advocate for playing in deeper leagues where good non-reliever closers have a role on teams. Just because someone isn't in the closer role and isn't acquiring saves, doesn't mean they aren't providing value to their teams. Removing wins now makes these pitchers 3 category pitchers and by accumulating less than 100 IP, it's even more difficult for even the best non-closer relief pitchers to provide much fantasy impact on your team.
Now there are other ways to resolve the relief pitcher concerns. One way is to add holds as a category. I'm not going to get into that argument for the sake of this article. Lets just say I'm ok with holds as a category, but more thought needs to go into other category selection if you're going to add holds.