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December 3, 2015

Fantasy Categorical Breakdowns

Pitcher Wins: The General Landscape

by J.J. Jansons

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As the BP Fantasy Team maniacally moves forward in our Fantasy Categorical Breakdowns series, be sure to catch up with previous installments over the past couple of weeks. We’re providing a 10,000-foot view of each category—such as this article here—to go with a specific article on 2015 over/underachievers and another one targeted for deeper leagues. This series is tackling two birds with one stone: (1) breaking down individual player performances; and (2) re-calibrating the fantasy discussion by placing roster strategy at the center.

Wilson Karaman, who just needs some tasty waves and a cool buzz to be fine, will be around tomorrow to look at pitcher wins as they relate to shallower leagues, and J.P. Breen will be telling you exactly how many wins Zach Davies and other deep-league starters will earn in 2016 shortly thereafter.


As more and more reliever specialization creeps into the game, many progressive fantasy leagues have cut bait entirely with pitcher wins as a category, in favor of quality starts, and certainly every Shelby Miller owner in that played in a league with pitcher wins as a category this season was likely screaming for their league to do so. Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez paced the 95-win World Series champion Kansas City Royals rotation with 13 wins apiece this season, with Chris Young (the former basketball player version) the only other pitcher to crack double digits (11). Reliever Wade Davis finished fourth on the team with eight wins, and the number of starters reaching 10 or more wins has been declining since 2010:


Starting Pitcher Wins 2010-2015 (Min. 100 IP)

Year

10+ Win Totals

15+ Win Totals

18+ Win Totals

2010

89

24

6

2011

85

20

6

2012

84

27

7

2013

82

16

4

2014

81

25

7

2015

70

13

8

With mounds of quality research being produced over the last few years about how dangerous it can be for starting pitchers to face a lineup three or more times, it’s likely that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Russell A. Carleton looked at how the Tampa Bay Rays handled the third-time-through-the-order conundrum with their starters this season, particularly Nathan Karns (seven wins in 26 starts, 144 IP), Alex Colome (three wins in 13 starts, 69 IP), and Matt Andriese (two wins, eight starts, 35.1 IP). Tampa’s reluctance to extend starters into the latter third of the game was demonstrated with pretty much everybody not named Chris Archer, as even a quality starter like Jake Odorizzi (owner of a 3.35 ERA, 91 cFIP) was only allowed to work a bit north of six innings per start over his 28 turns, pitching 169 1/3 innings this season.

As Wilson Karaman astutely pointed out in his ERA piece, National League starters averaged 5.77 innings per start in 2015 (lowest since 2008) and American League hurlers worked 5.85 innings on average per outing, their lowest collective mark since 2007. The league ERA for starters in 2010 was 4.15, and this season it was 4.10. 27 starters reached 10 or more wins with an above-league-average ERA in 2010 and this season that number fell to 18, suggesting that managers aren’t letting back-end types like Kevin Correia, Carlos Silva, Chris Narveson, and Chris Volstad—all of whom remarkably were double digit winners in 2010—pitch as deep into ballgames as they once did, preferring to let their bullpens do the heavy lifting from the sixth inning on.

If more teams follow Tampa’s lead and start to give quicker hooks to their back-end starters, fantasy owners may have to pony up more for elite starters on quality teams come draft day. Otherwise, they’ll be forced to suffer in ERA and deploy the likes of Drew Hutchinson or Colby Lewis to chase wins—or worse yet, look to the vultures to close the gap.

J.J. Jansons is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see J.J.'s other articles. You can contact J.J. by clicking here

Related Content:  Fantasy,  Wins

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Transaction Analysis: ... (12/02)
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