Quality Start Leagues

With the recognition now of how wins is a terrible statistic for starting pitchers a lot of leagues have moved to quality starts. Wins for a pitcher has very little to do with their ability. Sure they can put themselves in a position for a win but they are then reliant on both their offense and bullpen to achieve that win. Just take a look at Jacob deGrom (you can probably hear me sigh from wherever you are reading this). Quality starts is something that is more so based on a pitcher’s performance alone. It’s simple, pitch at least six innings with no more than three earned runs and you earn a quality start. Let’s glance at the quality start leaders from last season.

Quality Start Leaders
Rank Player QS ERA
1 Lance Lynn 10 3.32
2 Yu Darvish 10 2.01
3 Shane Bieber 10 1.63
4 Carlos Carrasco 9 2.91
5 Trevor Bauer 9 1.73
6 Kyle Hendricks 9 2.88
7 Kyle Freeland 9 4.33
8 German Marquez 9 3.75
9 Zac Gallen 9 2.75
10 Gerrit Cole 8 2.84
11 Lucas Giolito 8 3.48
12 Jacob deGrom 8 2.38
13 Kenta Maeda 8 2.70
14 Adam Wainwright 7 3.15
15 Zack Wheeler 7 2.92
16 Hyun-Jin Ryu 7 2.69
17 Aaron Nola 7 3.28
18 Luis Castillo 7 3.21
19 Aaron Civale 7 4.74
20 Clayton Kershaw 6 2.16

Of course, some of the best pitchers will have the most quality starts like Yu Darvish, Shane Bieber, and Trevor Bauer. What you might notice are some outliers like German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, and Aaron Civale. While performance level matters so do team philosophies. Pitchers have a better chance at acquiring a quality start if their respective teams let them pitch deep into games. Whereas if it’s the opposite like the Tampa Bay Rays, it won’t matter how good a pitcher is they likely won’t let them see the sixth inning. Let’s check out team’s quality start percentage (QS%) and their starting pitching ERA.

Team QS%
Rank Team Team SP ERA QS%
1 CLE 3.17 62%
2 CHC 3.77 50%
3 COL 4.83 47%
4 CIN 3.50 43%
5 HOU 4.26 42%
6 SEA 4.41 42%
7 SDP 3.46 37%
8 PHI 4.08 33%
9 CHW 3.85 32%
10 OAK 4.49 32%
11 STL 3.86 31%
12 LAD 3.29 30%
13 NYY 4.24 30%
14 NYM 5.37 29%
15 TEX 5.32 28%
16 MIA 4.31 27%
17 MIN 3.54 27%
18 WSN 5.38 27%
19 LAA 5.52 25%
20 MIL 4.18 25%
21 ARI 5.04 22%
22 ATL 5.51 22%
23 KCR 4.70 18%
24 SFG 4.99 18%
25 TOR 4.55 18%
26 BAL 5.09 17%
27 DET 6.37 16%
28 BOS 5.34 15%
29 PIT 4.74 15%
30 TBR 3.77 12%

The Indians are way above everyone else and while that can be because of their stellar pitching staff they still let pitchers go deep into games no matter what. Aaron Civale popped up on the first list with a 4.74 ERA seeming like an outlier but that’s because the Indians love for their starters to accumulate innings. You can see a few outliers from the chart above, one is the Colorado Rockies.

Last season they actually let their starters pitch deep into games and while you have to battle the home/away splits they technically could be more valuable in this format. Another outlier is the Seattle Mariners. Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justus Sheffield all were top 45 in pitches per game. Unfortunately, the Mariners roll with a six-man rotation but you shouldn’t still discount them because it’s for that reason they are able to let their starters pitch deeper in their starts. Moving on to the major outlier which doesn’t surprise anyone is the Tampa Bay Rays. With one of the better ERA’s in the league they only produced a quality start in 12% of their games.

To quickly recap, in quality start leagues you should move up starting pitchers who pitch for the Indians, Rockies, Cubs, Astros, and Mariners (slightly). Move down any starter who plays for the Rays.

As for individual performance here were your 2020 innings pitched per game leaders.

Innings Pitched Per Game Leaders
Rank Name Age Team IP/Game
1 Zach Plesac 25 CLE 6.9
2 Kyle Hendricks 30 CHC 6.8
3 Trevor Bauer 29 CIN 6.6
4 Adam Wainwright 38 STL 6.6
5 Lance Lynn 33 TEX 6.5
6 Zack Wheeler 30 PHI 6.5
7 Shane Bieber 25 CLE 6.4
8 Framber Valdez 26 HOU 6.4
9 Yu Darvish 33 CHC 6.3
10 Marco Gonzales 28 SEA 6.3
11 German Marquez 25 COL 6.3
12 Aaron Civale 25 CLE 6.2
13 Gerrit Cole 29 NYY 6.1
14 Brad Keller 24 KCR 6.1
15 Kenta Maeda 32 MIN 6.1
16 Antonio Senzatela 25 COL 6.1
17 Sandy Alcantara 24 MIA 6
18 Dylan Bundy 27 LAA 6
19 Patrick Corbin 30 WSN 6
20 Zac Gallen 24 ARI 6
21 Lucas Giolito 25 CHW 6
22 Aaron Nola 27 PHI 5.9
23 Luis Castillo 27 CIN 5.8
24 Zach Davies 27 SDP 5.8
25 Clayton Kershaw 32 LAD 5.8
26 Dallas Keuchel 32 CHW 5.8
27 Dinelson Lamet 27 SDP 5.8
28 Chris Bassitt 31 OAK 5.7
29 Carlos Carrasco 33 CLE 5.7
30 Jacob deGrom 32 NYM 5.7
31 Alec Mills 28 CHC 5.7
32 Brandon Woodruff 27 MIL 5.7
33 Zach Eflin 26 PHI 5.6
34 Kyle Gibson 32 TEX 5.6
35 Zack Greinke 36 HOU 5.6
36 Andrew Heaney 29 LAA 5.6
37 Hyun Jin Ryu 33 TOR 5.6
38 Sixto Sanchez 21 MIA 5.6
39 Max Scherzer 35 WSN 5.6
40 Kevin Gausman 29 SFG 5.5
41 J.A. Happ 37 NYY 5.5
42 Jesus Luzardo 22 OAK 5.5
43 Justus Sheffield 24 SEA 5.5
44 Nathan Eovaldi 30 BOS 5.4
45 Mike Fiers 35 OAK 5.4
46 Kyle Freeland 27 COL 5.4
47 Kwang Hyun Kim 31 STL 5.4
48 Brady Singer 23 KCR 5.4
49 Jose Berrios 26 MIN 5.3
50 Johnny Cueto 34 SFG 5.3

So here we are, and thus proving our previous short recap, you see four Indians pitchers in the top 30. Out of all of the Indians pitchers, one who sticks out is Zach Plesac. He lead the league in innings pitched per game while also being 11th overall in pitches per game. He actually didn’t have a single start where he didn’t reach six innings. I quickly want to note Aaron Civale as well because even though he didn’t have a solid ERA he still was 12th on this list and was actually 7th in pitches per game last season. He is not only being extremely undervalued in quality start formats but all formats as well.

We also see the Rockies starters on this list with German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela, and Kyle Freeland. Both Senzatela and Marquez are top 25 in pitches per game and seem like decent values for this format. Keep in mind skill of course matters as well but finding people like Senzatela late in drafts makes sense because you are chasing upside anyway.

Some interesting late round shots you might want to take would be with the Royals pitching staff. They let their pitchers throw as well but the quality starts haven’t come due to the skill set. Their pitchers are young and growth could easily come. Brad Keller was 14th in innings pitched per game and 17th in pitches per start. Kris Bubic was 25th in pitches per start. Brady Singer was 48th in innings per start and 40th in pitches per game.

Yes, a top-end skill set matters most for quality starts leagues, but team tendencies can help you find success. Pitchers like Aaron Civale, German Marquez, and Brad Keller could be overlooked due to their lack of either ERA, ballpark, or strikeout upside. When in fact they bring more value to quality start leagues than we think.





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mr_hogg
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Mike Minor …