Author’s note: This post is part of 2 series of posts, one a shorter series focusing exclusively on the QS stat in fantasy baseball, and second an ongoing and endless series focusing on the general ideas behind fantasy baseball scoring categories. To view others in this same series, follow the tags at the end of this post and see where they lead you.

The Quality Start Has No Real Value in Baseball

The Quality Start should be a better stat. Less arbitrary than the deplored “Pitcher Win,” the QS is dependent on the starting pitcher to meet an agreed-upon threshold of at least six innings pitched while allowing three or fewer runs; the idea being that a starting pitcher who does this is presumably more quality than the pitcher who does not. Research has shown that the QS is not particularly useful if the goal of the stat is to measure a starting pitcher’s contribution to his own teams’ chances at winning. But as a fantasy statistic, the QS has two distinct advantages:

  1. it is easily understood and (as we shall see) at generally projectable
  2. it simply and cleanly asses starting pitcher performance

In that the QS is valuable primarily as a fantasy stat, this way it is like the WHIP– an attempt to combine multiple pieces of information into one assessable nugget to be used to judge if, say, Cliff Lee is better or worse than Yovani Gallardo. If this were real baseball, we could look at a host of data or animated .gifs or talk radio “analysis” and draw conclusions that way. Given that fantasy baseball is decidedly NOT real baseball (a point I expect to cover in detail in other posts), it is generally agreed that combining multiple pieces of data into one number, that can then be used to determine whether one’s fantasy pitcher or staff is better or worse than his/her competition, is perhaps the ultimate goal of the entire game.

So the value of the QS is mostly derived from the fact that it can replace pitcher Wins as a scorable stat in fantasy formats. Where the win is arbitrary and aloof in nature, awarded to a pitcher in a game using the same approach to reasonable and logical rule-making that also wrote the balk and infield fly rules, the Quality Start is absolute. Every game will have a Win and a Loss recorded against some pitcher, at least occasionally regardless of that pitcher’s true contribution to his team’s win or loss. Often this win or loss is given to a starting pitcher, often it is not. For the purposes of ranking the potential value of a pitcher for fantasy purposes, one of the grandest tropes of the game is “Don’t chase wins.” Seeing as another point of fantasy baseball is to chase after the ethereal, the QS stat now derives something like 99% of its value as something an owner can more reasonable pursue.

Achieving a QS is almost entirely in the hands of the starting pitcher. The pitcher must reach a minimum of 6 IP; which I suppose the manager could have some control over (cf. the 2012 colorado rockies). The pitcher must allow 3 or fewer runs, which are still ruled as allowed by the rules of baseball as opposed to defense-independent metrics but since the QS doesn’t have value outside of fantasy anyway there’s no point at trying to improve it by adding FIP to the equation.

In a given season of baseball there will be, inevitably, 4860 games played, out of which there will be 2430 Wins awarded to pitchers. Given the stated inevitability of this, one would assume projecting pitcher win totals would be, you know, feasible. History has proven otherwise and it is not the point of this post to argue with history.

Out of 4860 games played in 2012 there were 1589 quality starts. The actual inevitability of a QS is at the fate of the game, namely at the fate of the starting pitcher. But because the stat focuses exclusively on two points of data within that pitcher’s control, the value of the stat for fantasy purposes–where the purpose is to judge the quality of a starting pitcher– is exponentially higher than that of the Win.

In Favor of Looking at Quality Starts in All Fantasy Formats

This post is primarily meant to argue the value of the QS over and above the “Win” for fantasy scoring purposes. In generally any traditional fantasy format, the author would prefer to have pitchers scored by QS rather than Win. In some formats, especially head-to-head category/points formats in, say, ESPN or CBS leagues, it is not uncommon to see QS combined with Wins and other, even more unpredictable stats (i.e. shutouts and complete games). In formats where the QS and Win are combined as categories, I will uniformly ignore any potential guesses at a number of wins a pitcher is capable of in a season. Conversely, as I will explore in another post it is entirely possible to make an educated projection for QS. Thus, even if I were playing in a traditional 5×5 format with Wins and NOT QS, while I would certainly not “chase wins” I would make an effort to assess QS potential. Given the choice between two otherwise equally-rated pitchers, take the guy with better QS potential.

How can you determine which guy that is? This is the topic of the next post in this series, Projecting Quality Start Potential.