We’ve already discussed in this draft guide as to why ERA and WHIP don’t tell the true story of a pitcher. But they’re not the only stats still used in fantasy that aren’t quite representative of a pitcher’s talent. It’s time to talk about the fickle nature of the win statistic and how it’s just as important to be lucky to rack these up. Quality starts on the other hand has established perimeters, but is six innings of three-run ball more efficient than nine innings of four-run ball? Hard to say, but these statistics are far from flawless in fantasy leagues.

Wins are Incredibly Fickle

Here is what you need to know about wins, showcasing the fickle female dog this category can be.

Ryan Yarbrough won 16 games in 147.1 innings pitched last season, making just six starts. In 11 more innings of work, Chris Sale won four less games.

Rick Porcello and his 4.28 ERA won as many games as Aaron Nola and his 2.37 ERA.

Porcello won more games than Justin Verlander , Gerrit Cole and Sale.

Derek Holland had a 3.57 ERA and won just seven games, while David Price won 16 games with a 3.58 ERA. Kevin Gausman won more games than Holland with an ERA just under 4.00.

Jacob deGrom won 10 games with a 1.70 ERA. Look at the other 10 game winners in the bigs (with at least 140 innings pitched).



Jacob deGrom


Lance Lynn


Kyle Gibson


Mike Leake


Kevin Gausman


Gio González


Jake Arrieta


Luis Castillo


Chris Stratton


Lucas Giolito


Among qualified starters, the pitcher with the lowest ERA and the pitcher with the highest ERA won the same amount of games. Of qualified starting pitchers, three of the five pitchers with the highest ERA on the season won as many or more games than the NL Cy Young winner, deGrom, who posted an ERA below 2.00. WHAT!?

In fact, earning a win has little to do with the pitcher at all, and one would argue that more factors are out of the pitcher’s control. Let’s take a look at the criteria that gets a starting pitcher the beloved win.

A starting pitcher must pitch at least five innings to be in line for the win. That is solely on the pitcher, because if they don’t last the five innings, they are ineligible for the win. Now, they don’t have to pitch particularly well, just complete five innings on the bump.

They also need to exit the game with a lead, and the team cannot lose the lead the rest of the way because then the starter is no longer the pitcher of the record. Scoring the runs to ensure the team is in the lead is far from the hands of the starter, because typically, pitchers aren’t providing the run support on a regular basis.

If the starting pitcher cannot finish the game, it is up to the bullpen to preserve the lead, as well as the offense to maintain a lead, should the game get close. Well, the pitcher has no control over that. He may stick around in the dugout and root the rest of his guys on, but come on, cheerleading from the top step of the dugout isn’t going to change whether the opposition smacks one 11 rows deep in the left-field grandstands.

With a starting pitcher, once the pitcher leaves the game, he has little to no control over earning this win statistic we crave in fantasy. So, this statistic that we all play for really has very little to do with our pitcher? Aside from meeting the inning criterion, it’s practically out of a pitcher’s hands whether or not he is in line for the win. 

Wins come in all shapes and sizes. A no-hitter with 12 strikeouts and a win, compared to a win in an eight run outing across 5.1 innings of work are drastically different, but behind a good offensive day, both at the end of the day can be a win. Isn’t exactly fair, huh? In this regard, perhaps the quality start would be better, but even that is flawed.

For relievers, particularly long relievers and set-up men, “cheap” wins can be even cheaper. Depending on the game’s outlook, a pitcher could come in, face one batter in a tie game, get him to groundout on one pitch, watch his team score in the next half inning, and boom, he’s in line for the win. The win statistic is even crazier for relievers, because they just need to be the last pitcher on the mound before their team takes the lead. This is why drafting set-up men and other high-leverage, multi-inning relievers is key, because not only can they improve your ratios, but they can pick up these cheap wins that we have come to love, unless you’re playing someone who gets a few of these on you in a given week.

Hence, all the love for numerous set up men around the league, and their draft values have shown it. Pitchers like Josh Hader , Andrew Miller , Archie Bradley , Dellin Betances and others have chances for save opportunities, sure, but they could also pick up a few cheap wins throughout the season, all while dominating your team’s ratios. These wins are very important in fantasy baseball, and while you cannot and should not bank on them, they are nice to have.

Closers getting wins after blowing a save is just mind boggling and what a nice consolation prize. You fail at your job on that particular day and still get a positive statistic at the end of  the day with a slash in the win column.

Wins in a current year are fickle, but over an extended period of time, the better pitchers separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Jacob deGrom will surely win more than 10 games this season, and who knows when we will see another pitcher barely win double digit games with a sub-2.00 ERA.

In short, do away with wins. At least for a quality start, you need to be somewhat effective and not get knocked around, but for a win, you just need to last five innings and ride the coattails of a good offense and a reliable bullpen once every four, five or six days. You can’t be dog crap on the mound and get a quality start, but with a little luck, you can be garbage and get a win, especially if you pitch for the Yankees or Red Sox.

“Quality” Starts

To begin, if you have to choose between quality starts and wins, quality starts would be the preferred counting statistic to use in your leagues. Yes, the pitcher’s defense is involved, but the offense has no bearing on whether or not a starter garners a quality start. This statistic is much more reliant on the pitcher, whereas one could argue that the pitcher isn’t in the driver’s seat for wins.

To earn a quality start, a pitcher must complete at least six innings and allow less than three earned runs. The operative word there is earned, because a pitcher can allow six runs during his time on the bump, but as long as the total of earned runs is three or less, he gets the quality start. At face value, this metric is a good indicator of a pitcher’s performance on a given night. We can all agree that six innings with three earned runs is a fine start, and is quality, to say the least.

Pitchers on bad teams can benefit from this and it certainly helps even out the playing field between the marginal pitchers on good teams that rack up cheap wins from a good offense. Jacob deGrom had 28 outings last season resulting in a quality start, but just 10 wins to show. Giolito had 15 quality starts, but earned 10 wins. In 28 quality starts, deGrom had 10 wins, and in nine quality starts, Pivetta had seven wins. Un-freaking-real.

There are still some anomalies with quality starts, however.

Reynaldo López and James Shields had more quality starts than José Berrios and Luis Severino .

Rick Porcello had one more win than he did quality starts. Thanks, Boston offense.

Zack Godley had more wins than quality starts, despite posting a 4.74 ERA.

While quality starts is better to use in your fantasy leagues than wins, it’s certainly far from flawed.

Pitchers that go deep into games are affected by these stringent quality start boundaries. Luke Weaver  can fire seven shutout innings, but a grand slam in the top of the 8th inning takes away his quality start. In his next start, Weaver could allow four home runs to open up the game, before retiring the next 27 batters. However, it’s not a quality start. I guarantee most managers would be fine with their starter going the distance and allowing four earned runs. Sure, it’s not a quality start, but it’s only one earned run more, so that makes it not quality?

With this logic in mind, consider the following.







Pitcher A






Pitcher B






In the above example, Pitcher A would receive a quality start, where Pitcher B would not. Pitcher A’s K/9 would be better than his counterpart, but Pitcher B has a better BB/9. However, Pitcher B sacrificed the quality start by allowing that fourth earned run, but he did manage to get five more outs, shortening the bridge to the closer. Does that really make it non-quality? Seems flawed.

Both pitchers could have had an identical stat line after six innings, but Pitcher B needed 26 less pitches to do it, so the skipper sent him out for another inning of work. Yes, he served up a meaty fastball that traveled into McCovey Cove, but what is the guy supposed to do?

“Sorry, Coach, gotta preserve that quality start. Don’t want to put it in jeopardy by going deeper into the game.”

Yeah right. Good luck finding a player that will say that. The deeper into the game the pitcher goes, the risk continues to lose that quality start. With quality starts as a scoring statistic in your league, you may find yourself rooting for Joe Musgrove  or Jameson Taillon  to be pulled after six innings, rather than going out there for the seventh and risking the coveted quality start.

Furthermore, calculating a pitcher’s earned run average shows another flaw with the metric.







The rules of the quality start show us that the ERA for the basic constraints of a quality start is 4.50. However, take a look at the following performances below, all of which are not a quality start, because they don’t satisfy the criteria of the quality start.
















Interesting. Despite not being quality starts, each of the four outcomes in the table above have an ERA that is equal to, or lower than the ERA of the basic quality start. Interesting. Intriguing. Confusing. Sure, the pitcher would have allowed one more earned run, but notching those extra three to six outs is incredibly important to a team, especially if the bullpen was taxed the game prior. I’m sure a manager would deem that as quality, at the very least.

Also, a 4.50 ERA isn’t even good, so why is that the benchmark?

The quality start statistic isn’t completely in the pitcher’s hands either, as the defense needs to play well behind them, but compared to the win statistic, it’s much better to use in fantasy formats. Unlike wins, this takes out the offensive component, as well as the bullpen for the most part. The bullpen could matter in certain circumstances, including if a pitcher is removed with runners on base after the sixth inning as an example.

However, the deeper a pitcher goes into the game, they continue to put that quality start at risk. As seen in the table a few paragraphs above, the pitcher could feasibly surpass the criteria needed for a quality start, despite posting a single game earned run average that is below 4.50 mark of the baseline outing (6 innings with 3 earned runs). That doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Looking at a pitcher’s win-loss record is borderline meaningless, because we extract no useful fantasy information from that line. Analyzing quality starts paints a solid picture as to what kind of pitcher he was more often than not, but it’s comparable to a consolation prize, because it’s not exactly sought after. Rick Porcello went 17-7 and Jacob deGrom went 10-9, but I know which pitcher I want in 2019.

In conclusion, if your hand is forced to playing with one of these metrics in your fantasy baseball league, quality starts is a better statistical category than wins. A pitcher can absolutely stink it up on the mound, but has a chance of getting a win. A pitcher at least has to be somewhat effective on a reasonable level to have a chance to earn the quality start. Again, going deep into the game could affect your pitcher and cause him to lose that quality start, but that will be better than seeing your opponent’s starter allow six earned runs in 5.1 innings of work and get a win, thanks to an explosive offensive performance from his own offense.

No one is winning when wins is a category in your fantasy baseball league.