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Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
8/16/2007 05:03:00 PM

Wins vs. Quality Starts

Matt Cain
Matt Cain has just five wins but as many quality starts as Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay.
Sure, wins can be a fickle stat (explain how Matt Cain has half as many wins as Jon Rauch or Luis Vizcaino) and quality starts is a bit bogus (three earned runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA, or 10th place in both my AL- and NL-only leagues), but it is interesting to see a correlation between the two this season. Or at least in terms of one of my NL-only league mates, how has Matt Cain screwed over his team.

Because the standards for a quality start (three runs or less in at least six innings) are pretty average at best, most starting pitchers will have more of them than wins. However, making the most of the quality starts is good if you're looking to build up your win totals, even if they're not always mutually exclusive.

The league leaders in quality starts are also among the league leaders in wins, not surprisingly. Heading into Thursday's games these were:

Dan Haren, A's: 25 starts, 23 quality starts, 13-4 record
Brad Penny, Dodgers: 25 starts, 22 quality starts, 14-3 record
Erik Bedard, Orioles: 26 starts, 20 quality starts, 12-4 record (the O's pen jobbed from a win on Wednesday against the Yankees)
Tim Hudson, Braves: 26 starts, 20 quality starts, 14-5 record
Jake Peavy, Padres: 24 starts, 20 quality starts, 13-5 record
Fausto Carmona, Indians: 24 starts, 19 quality starts, 14-7 record
Johan Santana, Twins: 25 starts, 19 quality starts, 12-9 record

Nothing terribly crazy here, other than Santana having nine losses already despite all the quality starts. These are all among the top fantasy pitchers this season. But digging just a little deeper into the stats and you do turn up some intriguing numbers:

-- Josh Beckett has 15 wins, but he also has 15 quality starts (in 22 appearances). Great run support has helped keep those numbers close to even. However, Cain is just 4-13 despite the same number of quality starts (in 24 appearances) and an ERA just slightly a half-run higher than Beckett's (3.77 vs. 3.24).

-- While Cain's win-loss total barely reflects the way he's been pitching this year, Bronson Arroyo also has the same number of quality starts as Beckett and Cain (15 in 25 starts). However, he has just a 5-13 record but a 4.63 ERA. Of course, that ERA is hurt by six outings where he's given up at least six runs. So he can be pretty good at times or pretty awful in others. His teammate Aaron Harang is also 15-for-25 in quality starts, but his numbers look vastly different: 12-3 with a 3.50 ERA.

-- That 15 number reflects all sorts of pitchers like Beckett, Cain and Arroyo. Chris Young also has 15 (in 22 starts like Beckett), but he's just 9-4 even though his ERA in under 2. Other aces at this point include Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. It also includes Scott Kazmir and James Shields, who are a combined 18-15 despite 30 quality starts between the two -- the bullpen has cost them a handful of wins this season. It even includes both Orlando and Livan Hernandez, although El Duque is by far the better bet despite one fewer win than this half brother (8-7).

-- A few tough-luck pitchers on bad teams also rank high in the quality starts list despite being under .500. The Royals' Gil Meche is 16-for-26 in quality starts, but has just a 7-11 record to show for it despite a passable 3.90 ERA. The Pirates' Ian Snell has a similar mark (7-10, 3.87 ERA) despite going 16-for-24 in quality starts.

-- On the other end of the spectrum, some top winners who have nearly as many wins as quality starts include: Tim Wakefield (14-10, 12 QS), Carlos Zambrano (14-9, 14 QS), Jeff Francis (13-6, 13 QS), Ted Lilly (13-7, 15 QS), Chien-Ming Wang (13-6, 13 QS), Noah Lowry (13-7, 13 QS), John Maine (13-7, 14 QS) and Miguel Batista (12-8, 13 QS). In most of these cases, their ERAs are in the high 3-low 4 range, meaning they're often hitting that bare minimum a lot as well as getting pounded in a few starts to offset some of their great outings.
posted by JQ | View comments |  


Posted: 4:39 PM, August 17, 2007   by Anonymous

You wrote "and quality starts is a bit bogus (three earned runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA, or 10th place in both my AL- and NL-only leagues)."

Quality starts are not bogus! But Fantasy Experts who take the worst case scenario (3 ER's in 6 IP) as the definition for a QS might be.

Let's look at Scott Kazmir (I own in 2 leagues so I was curious to see the numbers). He has 15 QS this season. In those 15 QS, he pitched 97.1 innings and gave up 23 earned runs -- a 2.13 ERA!

Maybe someone will look at all recorded QS's for 2007 or some period and determine the ERA for those starts. Guaranteed, it won't be anywhere close to 4.50.
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