I’ve been playing fantasy baseball a long time.  I mean, a LONG, LONG time.  More years than I care to mention.  I’m sure to be in good company though as many of you reading this right now are probably long time players yourselves.  So, I’m confident you can relate to the topic today.

One thing practically all of us fantasy ballers have in common is the need to chase Wins.  No, not wins in our head-to-head leagues, but Wins by our pitchers.  From the inception of fake baseball, the “W” has been the prominent category for SPs.  Also, from the inception of fake baseball, the problems with this category have been numerous.

MLB defines the W accordingly:  A pitcher receives a Win when he is the pitcher of record when his team takes the lead for good, with a couple exceptions:

  • A SP must pitch at least five innings to qualify for the win. If he does not, the official scorer awards the win to the most effective RP.  Sorry Mr. SP…
  • In rare occurrences, the official scorer can deem a RP’s appearance as “brief and ineffective” (i.e., gives up a 1-run lead by allowing 3 runs, then his team scores 4 runs in the following at bat). In that case, the official scorer may award the W to a subsequent RP.

Scoring well in this category has always been a frustrating task in the fantasy realm.  SPs can only control so much of the overall game action.  Just ask Jacob deGrom owners!  During his time with the Mets, how many games do you recall him tossing a masterpiece, only to not get the run support for the W?

Other Aces have been victims of the phantom W too.  Whether it comes from too many walks, fielding errors, or even the occasional rainout.  SPs have always had trouble getting their just rewards in this category.

Some fantasy leagues have tried to move beyond the W by incorporating Quality Start (QS) as a replacement category.  The QS is an attempt to put more control in the hands of the SP.  As defined by MLB, “A starting pitcher records a quality start when he pitches at least six innings and allows three earned runs or fewer.  A starting pitcher has two jobs:  to prevent runs and get outs.  The quality start helps to quantify which pitchers did a “quality” job in those two departments.”  The concept of evaluating SPs in fantasy baseball on “quality” is a great idea in my mind, but the QS category really hasn’t really taken off in mainstream leagues.

Although the W and the QS attempt to quantify the same thing, the results don’t always align very well.

Here’s a great example of the disparity between the W and the QS.  Let’s take a look at the fantasy contributions from a pair of pitchers in their first start of the season last week.  These two provide the perfect example of why we need to move away from Wins (and QS) as a fantasy category.

Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B – Stat Lines

  • Pitcher A’s game line provided fantasy owners with 0 ER, 1.50 WHIP and 7 Ks.
  • Pitcher B’s game line provided his fantasy owners with 0 ER, 1.40 WHIP and 4 Ks.

Based on the stats, these SPs really didn’t hurt your fantasy teams all that much.  Sure, we love SP outings with 0 ER but prefer a WHIP closer to 1.00 (or below) and neither SP really blew the doors off in the K department.  So, there’s really not much to go on here to differentiate which SP is “better” in fantasy…and non-fantasy for that matter.

Now, let’s look at our two “quality” metrics.

Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B – Measure of Quality?

  • Pitcher A’s team lost so he failed to secure a W but did pitch 6 innings and thus qualified for a QS.
  • Pitcher B left after 5 IP and his team won so he got a W but no QS.

Unfortunately, we once again stumble into a mixed bag with no clear way to distinguish quality.

Pitcher A vs. Pitcher B – Control

A look at Statcast data (courtesy of Baseball Savant) for both SPs tell a much different story.

  • Pitcher A:

  • Pitcher B:

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Take a look at Pitcher A’s control, especially with his 4-seam fastball.  You’ll note a vast majority of pitches peppering the strike zone.  Even those outside the zone illustrate pinpoint control.  By contrast, Pitcher B’s 4-seam fastball, not to mention the slider and curveball, is all over the map.

Clearly, Pitcher A showed a much higher mastery of his pitches but remember, Pitcher B received the W.  Therefore, was Pitcher A’s owners penalized because the fantasy industry hasn’t evolved beyond the W category?  There’s a good argument to make here.

We could go on and on about why one pitcher is “better” than another, but you get the point.  Our goal here is to identify potential alternatives to the W that better stratifies SPs without arbitrarily punishing them for things out of their control.  By extension, we also need to consider the other pitching categories, so all pitchers are weighted appropriately.  In my opinion, this would make the fantasy game more competitive and enjoyable.

Lucky for us, we literally have a dictionary of analytics to consider.

Alternatives To The “W”

Over the course of the preseason, I wrote a few articles on pitching analytics.  I’ll be cherry picking from some of those here but feel free to go look those up on the Razzball site to dig a little deeper.

Command ratio (Cmd) – Cmd is a measure of a pitcher’s ability to get ball over the plate and is generally used as an advanced metric to predict other categories like ERA and WHIP.  Cmd is measured as K/BB.  I like the idea of incorporating command to fantasy scoring, but Cmd would necessitate blowing up all the pitching categories to do so.  I think we can keep looking…

Strikeout Rate minus Walk Rate (K-BB%) – I wrote a piece back in February on why this analytic is so important to differentiate between pitchers (Read the article HERE).  In that article, I included a quote from a fellow Razzballer who once shared, “The top fantasy pitchers almost always have top 10 finishes in IP, K-BB% and SIERA rates.”

In fact, take a look at the top 12 ranked SPs from 2022 in K-BB%.  For the most part, it’s a literal who’s who of top MLB starting pitchers.

The K-BB% isn’t just relevant to SPs.  Here is the 2022 top 12 for RPs.  Naturally, the K-BB% is skewed higher for the top RPs as we would expect, but the analytics does help stratify the top pitchers, regardless of when they take the bump.

Sure, we have Ks as a stand-alone category and BBs are part of the WHIP category, but perhaps this is a better way to differentiate MLB pitchers.  With a little tweaking to dial in the SP & RP contributions respectively, we may have something very good here.

Recall the quote from earlier: “A starting pitcher has two jobs: to prevent runs and get outs.”  There are a few analytics out there that look to strip away outside influences and evaluate overall performance.

Expected Earned Run Average (xERA) – Rather than ERA, perhaps it’s time to shift to the xERA.  Simply put, the xERA represents an equivalent of what a pitcher’s real ERA may be if calculated solely with skills-based measures.  Again, we’re looking for better ways to evaluate and stratify pitchers for fantasy.  The xERA would temper the influence of situational-dependent factors that arbitrarily inflate/deflate an ERA.

Care to see the top 12 xERA performers from 2022?  I thought you might.

These names look familiar, don’t they?

Base Performance Value (BPV) – The BPV is commonly used to describe a pitcher’s overall raw skill level.  The formula combines the raw skills of dominance, control and ability to keep the ball down in the zone, all characteristics that are generally controlled by the pitcher.  An extension of the BPV is the Base Performance Index (BPX), which is just the BPV scaled to league average to account for year-to-year fluctuations.  Analytics tend to report the BPX for this reason.  Once again, let’s look at the top 12 SPs in 2022:

Yet again, I think we have something here as the BPV/BPX analytics provides another good way to stratify SPs.

For kicks, here is the same BPX table, but with columns showing 2022 W and QS:

As you can see, the W and QS do not provide a good means of stratifying SPs.  Strictly for the W or QS, there is little incentive to select one SP over another to do well in the category.

Fielding Independent Pitching/expected Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP/xFIP) – FIP is another analytic that may be useful in fantasy baseball.  FIP attempts to eliminate the influence of defense on the pitcher’s statistics by judging only on HRs, BBs, HB (hit batsmen) allowed and Ks.  xFIP takes it a step further by assuming a league-average HR rate and incorporating a pitcher’s fly balls allowed.
Skill-Interactive ERA (SIERA) – Like the FIP and xFIP, SIERA attempts to determine the underlying skill level of the pitcher.  Unlike the FIP, SIERA attempts to more accurately model what makes a pitcher successful.  As FanGraphs puts it, “SIERA tells us more about the how and why of pitching.”  Here’s how pitchers have been rated in this category:

Am I saying we need to completely do away with the W (or QS) as a fantasy metric?  No, not necessarily.  However, I do think it is time to redistribute and weigh our pitching categories more in line with how we evaluate pitchers today.


The first thing I’d suggest to is combine W (or Qs), Sv and HLD into one category.  I didn’t dive too much into RPs and the Sv or SvHLD categories, but similar problems exist there.  To give more equal balance to all pitchers, especially since W, Sv and HLD represent some of the more popular counting stats, I say we should put them all together.  Granted, the three metrics may need some creative weighting to achieve good balance.  But, it’s a start in the right direction.

Next, I would better incorporate IP more directly into the fantasy scoring.  We all know SPs with high IP are very attractive on draft day, more so because we expect more Ks and more opportunities for W or QS.  Dominance (K/IP or K/9) is a counting stat that is worth considering instead of straight Ks.  We could even simply tally up IP like we do K’s today.  However, that would necessitate a limit on how many SPs that can be active.

While we’re on the topic of Ks, I also like the Strikeout-to-Walk ratio (K/BB). This measure of command simply tells us how many strikeouts recorded for each walk allowed.  Again, the higher the ratio the better, but how do we quantify?  Generally, the league average K/BB is about 2.5 so we want to be higher.  As a gauge, the elite SPs (Gerrit Cole and Corbin Burnes) spun K/BB in the neighborhood of 5.0 last season, while Aaron Nola was more of an outlier at slightly over 8.0.  Outside the top pitchers, most fantasy targeted starters fall into the range of 3.5-4.5.

I mentioned xERA, FIP and SIERA earlier.  You’ll recall the xERA represents an equivalent of what a pitcher’s real ERA may be if calculated solely with skills-based measures and would temper the influence of situational-dependent factors that arbitrarily inflate/deflate an ERA.  FIP attempts to eliminate the influence of defense on the pitcher’s statistics by judging only on HRs, BBs, HB (hit batsmen) allowed and Ks.  SIERA attempts to determine the underlying skill level of the pitcher.  I find the SIERA the most useful of the 3 but I’d be willing to discuss any instead of straight ERA.

Instead of WHIP, we could consider either the Opposition Batting Average (OBA) or Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP).  OBA is just as the name implies, hits allowed divided by batters faced minus the sum of walks, hit by pitch and sacrifice flies (H / Batters – (BB + HBP + SAC)).  BABIP is simply the percentage of balls in play that fall for hits.         


Here is 8 pages of text and graphics summarized in a couple lines:

  • Standard P categories today:  W, K, SV, ERA, WHIP
  • Proposed P categories in the future:  IP, K-BB, W/SV/HLD, SIERA, BABIP


My goal in this article is to introduce the concept of moving beyond W as a stand-alone category for SPs.  To do that, we also have to consider the effects to the other 4 pitching categories.  In this article, I outlined a general proposal to whet your appetite and generate some thoughts and comments.

In the coming weeks, I’ll do a deeper dive on what shifting to these new pitching categories looks like over the course of a full season.  I’ll also consider any suggestions you provide below for other categories.  Let’s work through this together.  If you like some of these suggestions, maybe your league will be a pioneer to better fantasy baseball scoring systems.

Before I go, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @Derek_Favret.

Oh, one last thing…take your guesses in the comments section below on who Player A and Player B is above.  No cheating!

Until next time, my friends!