Welcome to the 2023 Fantasy Baseball: Quality Appearances vs Quality Starts and Wins breakdown!
In "Goldilocks and the Three Bears", Goldilocks had to find the perfect bed, chair and bowl of porridge by trial and error. One bed was too big, one was too small, and then the final bed was just right.
Scoring categories in Fantasy sports can be the same way. In Fantasy Football, many people think PPR relies too much on receptions, while standard scoring doesn't reward it enough. Therefore, Half-PPR was born.
Fantasy Baseball has a similar problem. Popular stats like Wins and Quality Starts may not be "just right" for pitchers in Fantasy Baseball. This has led to the creation of a new stat: Quality Appearances. This creates the question: Should we be using Quality Appearances instead of Quality Starts?
2023 Fantasy Baseball: Quality Appearances vs Quality Starts and Wins
Why are Pitcher Wins No Longer a Good Scoring Category?
It has been established in recent years that pitcher wins are far from the be all end all stat that it used to be regarded as. On the diamond, we saw Jacob deGrom win the Cy Young with a 10-9 record. Many people are finally coming around to the fact that a stat that can reward you for giving up six runs while sometimes punishing you for limiting the opposition to a single run may not be the best way to determine the value of a pitcher.
Pitcher wins put way too much value onto a team with a good offense to give their pitcher run support, instead of placing the value on the skill of the pitcher themselves. This lowered the value of many talented pitchers like deGrom, who were stuck on underperforming teams.
Why Is Quality Starts No Longer a Good Scoring Category?
One possible solution that many leagues found was tracking quality starts instead of wins. While a pitcher win is pretty self-explanatory, there is a set formula for a quality start, as pitchers must throw at least six innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs.
While the QS stat rewards strong starts from starting pitchers without relying on outside factors, it is still becoming a flawed scoring category.
Why? Starters are going deep into games far less now than just five or ten years ago. This breakdown from FantasyPros shows the decline in the percentage of starts that result in a quality start, dropping 17% from 2014-2019.
There are a couple of contributing factors to why quality starts are on the decline. First, managers are growing considerably weary of leaving a starter in for the third time through the batting order. This is due to hitters having better numbers against pitchers the more times they face them in a game. Without facing a lineup for the third time, it is nearly impossible to go a full six innings before a starter is lifted in order to get a matchup advantage in a big spot.
Additionally, pitchers are now throwing harder than ever. As sports medicine has evolved, teams are figuring out that the best way to keep a pitcher healthy is to not have him throw 120 pitches a night, especially when most fastballs sit in the mid-90s for starters. This has led to managers having a quicker hook for starters, who often exit closer to 75 pitches than 100. Throwing fewer pitches means fewer innings, lessening the chance of a quality start.
Why Switch to Quality Appearances
First off, what are quality appearances? Unlike wins or quality starts, there are many ways to record a quality appearance.
Quality Appearances (QA)
- IP >= 1 1/3 & <= 2 1/3 and ER = 0
- IP >= 2 2/3 & <= 5 and ER <= 1
- IP >= 5 1/3 & <= 7 2/3 and ER <= 2
- IP >= 8 and ER <= 3
Quality Appearances 2 (QA2)
- 1 point if IP >= 2 and <= 3 2/3 and ERA <= 4.50
- 2 points if IP >= 4 0/3 and <= 6 0/3 and ERA <= 4.50
- 3 points if IP >= 6 1/3 and <= 7 2/3 and ERA <= 4.50
- 4 points if IP >= 8 and 9 and ERA <= 4.50
Quality Appearances 3 (QA3)
- IP >= 5 and ERA <= 4.50
Quality Appearances 4 (QA4)
- IP >= 4 and ERA <= 4.50
Quality Appearances 5 (QA5)
- IP >=1 & IP <= 4 2/3 and ERA <= 4.50
Quality Appearances 6 (QA6)
- IP >= 4 & IP <= 4 2/3 and ERA <= 1.00
- IP >= 5 & IP <= 6 2/3 and ERA <= 2.00
- IP >= 7 and ERA <= 3.00
Quality Appearances 7 (QA7)
- IP >= 4 & IP <= 4 2/3 and ER <= 1
- IP >= 5 & IP <= 6 2/3 and ER <= 2
- IP >= 7 and ER <= 3
Quality Appearances 8 (QA8)
- IP >= 5 and ER <= 2
Quality Appearances 9 (QA9)
- IP >= 5 and ERA <= 3.70
It is important to note that the Quality Appearances category is a Fantrax exclusive service. If you want to move your league over just register for a free account.
The variances in Quality Appearances allow for all pitchers to be able to have an equal chance of helping Fantasy managers. One big problem with pitcher wins and quality starts is that it leaves middle relievers out of many rosters. The only reliever-specific stat in many leagues is saves. This leaves very talented middle relievers to only add value in categories likes strikeouts, ERA and WHIP.
While some middle relievers are among the best bullpen arms in baseball, they often go in the late rounds or undrafted. Quality Appearances would allow Fantasy managers to draft non-closer relief pitchers with confidence.
Using Quality Appearances also accounts for openers. Since the opener became somewhat popular in 2018, we have seen it across the regular season and even into the World Series. In fact, the Rays have used an opener over 150 times since 2018. However, while openers start the game, they rarely see the same hitter twice. This disqualifies them for being eligible for a win or quality start. If your league implements a QA such as QA1, QA2, or QA5, openers and relievers could qualify for a QA by pitching one to two innings.
Quality Appearances also account for some late-game fatigue. If a starter is able to go eight innings but gives up a two-run homer in the eighth to push his outing to four total runs, he still had a pretty solid start. However, he would not qualify for a QS, as he gave up four runs. QA6 and QA7 provide some leniency for this. While the requirements in these QA subcategories can be a lot to unpack, it allows for a pitcher to give up more runs the deeper he goes into a game.
Comparison Between Different Types of Quality Appearances
There are nine different types of quality starts that your league can implement. The ones that we will discuss here are my two personal favorites: QA3 and QA7.
QA3 is similar to QS, but is a little more adaptive to modern baseball, as starters only have to go five innings to qualify. Additionally, while a starter can't give up more than three runs for a QS, QA3 is a little more forgiving. If a starter gives up four runs but is able to go eight or nine innings, he will still earn a Quality Appearance. In this scenario, the starter's ERA for the game will still be 4.50 or below, so he can still qualify for a QA.
QA7 is also a very useful stat but operates differently than QA3. QA7 is a little more complicated but may be the best at defining what a quality appearance is. It includes starters who usually get taken out after four or five innings. This is becoming a very common sight, and a stat benefiting these pitchers is welcome. However, QA7 requires a starter to be almost perfect in their short outings, giving up one run or fewer if they go less than five innings. QA7 provides more forgiveness for starters who make it deeper into games.
2023 Fantasy Baseball: Quality Appearances vs Quality Starts and Wins
min 75 IP in 2022
QA7 vs QS & W
min 75 IP in 2022
QA3 vs QS & W
QA-QS shows the discrepancy between Quality Appearances and Quality Starts by a pitcher. While many top-tier pitchers on this list don't have more Quality Appearances than Quality Starts, we can see that a few pitchers do.
Dylan Cease, Carlos Rodon, Julio Urias, Nestor Cortes, and Christian Javier are all great young pitchers who struggled to pitch deep into games. While most top-tier starters frequently go six innings and therefore qualify for Quality Starts, this isn't the case for these pitchers. These starters would receive more QA's, which we established rewards pitchers who are dominant over four or five innings of work.
Framber Valdez and Yu Darvish actually have five fewer QA7s than QS.
However, almost all of these pitchers would receive a lot more QA's than Wins. Even though wins are attributed to a pitcher, they are essentially a team stat. A pitcher needs to receive run support and avoid a bullpen that blows a lead to receive a win. A Quality Appearance is almost entirely in the control of the pitcher.
There are four pitchers who don't have more Quality Appearances than Wins - Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, and Chris Bassitt. Their teams provided both great run support and a good bullpen that rarely blew leads. These pitchers wouldn't have been affected as much by a switch from Wins to QA. However, this change would be welcomed by 90% of pitchers who are snake bitten by a bad lineup and bullpen.
Final Thought on 2023 Fantasy Baseball: Quality Appearances vs Quality Starts and Wins
The addition of Quality Appearances is the best way to adjust to modern baseball managerial tactics while making relievers more viable.
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