Its baseball season and its a Tuesday. You know what that means? Its "Sabermetric Tuesday" here at Fantistics. Last week, Drew taught us the "ins-and-outs" of the GB/FB and its importance in determining pitcher fantasy value. This week, we'll stay on the mound and focus our attention on the Quality Start (QS) statistic.
The definition of the quality start is easy: a QS is awarded to a starting pitcher who completes at least six innings or more while allowing three earned runs or less. The stat was conceived by a Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter, John Lowe, back in the mid-1980's and has been subjected to criticism throughout baseball for its accuracy in truly predicting pitcher effectiveness. The obvious criticism is that the minimum requirement for the quality start equates to a 4.50 ERA (which is hardly considered "quality" in the eyes of baseball traditionalists). Afterall, if you pitch a quality start every time you take the mound, you're still not exactly a hall-of-fame pitcher.
Of course, anyone can recognize with mere intuition that the QS is a more accurate indicator of pitcher value than the traditional methods of valuation like winning percentage (wins / total decisions), ERA (Earned Runs * 9 / Innings Pitched), or strictly the number of recorded wins. But it wasn't until Bill James, the usual dissenting opinion of all things sabermetrics, addressed the issue in one of his famous Baseball Abstracts (1987) that people around baseball started taking notice. His findings cited the average ERA in all quality starts in the 5-year period from 1984 to 1991 was an impressive 1.91. Fellow SABR'en Rob Neyer also addressed the issue in a 2006 ESPN Insider article, comparing ERA's of quality starts and non quality starts in two seasons:1985 and 2005. Here are the results:
# of QS Pitched
Quality Start ERA
Non-Quality Start ERA
With the history lesson and the Sabermetric proof behind us, let's focus on recent pitcher performances and look ahead to the 2008 fantasy season. Warning: below is a lot of data. Don't be overwhelmed! The chart is sorted by the Top-50 Quality Start % performers from 2007 (limited to pitchers who have at least 20 starts, with a couple of notable names like Yovani Gallardo added manually). To the right, I included our Fantistics projection from our preseason drafting software and our forecasts, by pitcher, for each of the stat categories. While there is an individual story to be told for each of these 50 pitchers, here are five names that really stuck out when I ran the numbers:
Matt Cain - Cain put up an impressive 69% quality start rate yet only earned 7 wins for the lowly Giants. While we see a slight drop in his QS rate, his unluckiness in earning the "W" last year should even out over time. He's had a rough start to the 2008 campaign, but I expect some big things out of the 23 year old fire-baller. His pitching staff partner, Tim Lincecum, also only had 7 wins despite more than double that amount of quality starts (16 to be exact).
Ian Snell - Right below Cain on the list is Ian Snell, another young fire-baller who posted a solid quality start rate for a bad team and was only able to earn single-digit W's. The 26-year-old had an excellent outing yesterday and, as you can see from our projections, we expect the W's to also even out for Snell this season, giving him 13 for 2008.
Ted Lilly - Lilly is the opposite case from Cain and Snell. At the bottom part of this list, Lilly still managed to earn 15 W's while posting a 58% QS rate. As you can see from the forecast, while his QS% remains relatively flat to last year's rate, his win totals should correct itself and drop to about 12. Still a great K's pitcher on a winning team in a mediocre division though, so he could squeak out another impressive season if luck falls his way.
Gil Meche - Meche was the talk of last off-season for his huge KC Royals contract of $55 million. However, there was little follow-up at the end of the season of how he earned his keep in 2007. Meche posted a solid 68% QS rate while only earning 9 wins. Like some of the players mentioned above, a statistical correction should yield more wins when he maintains a steady QS% in 2008.
Johan Santana - The #1 fantasy pitcher is #35 on this list with little improvement in his forecasted numbers despite a move to the weaker hitting National League. With that said, his win total should still increase at this rate and give him a 20-win season with the Mets.