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STILL Against Quality Starts

Back in April, I put together this post, which told the story of the how I came to be a proponent of using "Quality Starts" over "Wins" as a fantasy category. I explained:

Ten years ago, I was a big proponent of switching wins to quality starts as a rotisserie scoring category. My home dynasty league in its ninth season uses quality starts, and I pushed hard for that in the beginning. After all, wins are dumb, right? Your starter pitches a great game and he gets Jacob deGrom'd. In the alternative, the starter goes five innings, gives up six runs, and still gets the win because his team's offense carried him. These are gripes I carried around for a decade before quality starts became a thing, so I was a happy convert, but times have changed.

The piece went on to explain that, after a peak in 2014, quality starts began to rapidly decline season over season:

From the quality start peak of 2,623 in 2014, quality starts have declined to 1,404 in 2020. That's a decline of nearly 47%, or nearly half of the 2014 total! You can take issue with the prorated 2020 season, but the trend is the same no matter how you look at 2020. Where is the bottom?

I've now updated the chart from that post to include 2021's quality starts total. Take a look:

It does appear as though the short 2020 season was, indeed, an outlier, which makes sense given the nature of the 60-game sprint season. After all, the real quality starts total in 2020 was 520 (1404 is 520 prorated out to 162 games). Pitchers had a short spring training and only two months to work. They never had an opportunity to truly stretch out.


Despite the extreme 2020 blip making it appear as though quality starts have hit bottom and are now on the rise, the overall trend continues at the same pace from before. Full-season 2021 quality starts (1585) showed an 11.6% decrease from full-season 2019 quality starts and it appears as though we are still looking for the bottom.


My home dynasty league is still using quality starts and I plan to once again make the case for the switch to wins. As I explained in the piece from April:

Want to know what has not declined at all? Wins!
The increased utilization of bullpens probably means that starters are getting fewer wins than they were before, but that win has to fall somewhere. Given that saves are being spread out across multiple relievers at an increasing rate, and that relievers are being utilized more in general, fantasy players should be pleased when a reliever gets a win. Don't you remember how awesome junk wins are?

Quality starts are dying, but wins are constant. Every game has a winner, even if it is more commonly awarded to a reliever. When you consider the increasingly common practice of teams spreading saves across multiple bullpen arms, it makes sense for fantasy games to lean into that. A reliever who earns 5 saves is relatively unusable in a quality starts league, but if that same reliever wins 7 games and the league counts those wins, players have to give serious thought to how they approach building a pitching staff.


Ten years ago, the movement to convert leagues from Wins to Quality Starts had a good argument. The game has once again changed and that argument no longer exists.


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