Productive Performances

Thumbnail image for la_g_kershaw1_200.jpgAny true follower of baseball statistics knows that what constitutes a “Quality Start” is completely bogus. It doesn’t take a math whiz to calculate that six innings and three earned runs equates to a 4.50 ERA, which is pretty much mediocre to bad, not quality.  On the other hand, Clayton Kershaw fires 5 2/3 shutout innings, K’s eight and gets pulled to preserve his arm because his team is up 14-0 in the sixth, well, no Quality Start for him.

At the very least, if a pitcher throws a quality start it usually means he’s keeping his team in the game, so the stat isn’t completely devoid of value in the real world. But in the Fantasy World, QS is a term that should never be uttered or written. It takes no account of WHIP or strikeouts, and no one wants a guy with an ERA much north of four on their roster.

So let’s create with a term that represents a valuable outing from a fantasy starter in a league with the typical five pitching categories. We’ll keep it simple and call it Productive Performances. I thought Fruitful Fantasy Flings, while more artistic, was a little over the top (suggestions welcome).

If you don’t feel like taking the time to understand the convoluted way I came up with this term, skip down to the rankings. All you need to know is that a Productive Performance is an outing that appreciably benefits a fantasy team’s pitching totals without damaging any one particular category.

To earn a Productive Performance (PP), a pitcher needs to positively contribute in three out of the four categories that starters impact – Wins, ERA, WHIP and Ks – and the ERA for that start must be 4.50 or below. Here are the standards I’ve come up with needed to qualify as positive – basically an above-average output that legitimately helps a team’s weekly totals in that category:

  • A win 

  • An ERA of 3.68 or below (Allowing three earned runs over 7 1/3 innings equates to a 3.68 ERA)

  • A WHIP of 1.29 or below

  • At least five strikeouts

However, if a pitcher qualifies in only two of the categories, but one of them is an exceptional output, he will notch a PP as long as his ERA and WHIP are both equal to or below 4.50 and 1.50, respectively.  Stay with me here…

Here is what qualifies as exceptional:

  • A win

  • An ERA of 3.00 or below

  • A WHIP below 1.00

  • At least 7 Ks

There are two other specific types of outings that qualify: Because why not make this more confusing? If the starter allows three earned runs over exactly seven innings (ERA of 3.86) while earning a win and keeping his WHIP at 1.65 or below, he’ll have netted a Productive Performance regardless of his strikeout total. Also, any time a guy throws at least six innings without allowing an earned run, it’s a PP no matter what the other numbers are like. These performances are just too valuable in the real world to ignore.

OK then…here are the top-10 ranked pitchers in Productive Performances this season: 

1. Adam Wainwright – 18
T-2.  Josh Johnson – 17
Roy Halladay – 17
Jered Weaver – 17
Tim Hudson – 17
T-6. Clayton Kershaw – 16
Carl Pavano – 16
T-8. Felix Hernandez – 15
Brett Myers – 15
Tim Lincecum – 15
Ubaldo Jimenez – 15                                                                                 

  • What stands out here is that King Felix has not exactly been the elite fantasy force that his American League-leading 19 Quality Starts would try to suggest. Also, CC Sabathia, Chris Carpenter an
    d Matt Cain, all ranked in the Top-9 in Quality Starts, are nowhere to be seen on this list. You may not have realized it, but Carl Pavano and Brett Myers have been killer fantasy starters all year.

Finally, so you can get some use out of all this confusion, here’s a list of starters available in at least 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues with the most PPs over the last two months:                   

Jon Niese – 7  

Joe Saunders – 7                                                                                                                                                       

Vin Mazzaro – 7                                                                 
Jake Westbrook – 6 (should rise rapidly after trade to Cards)                                           
Wade LeBlanc – 6                                                                                                  
Wade Davis – 6 (four straight)                                                                       &nb
Dave Bush – 6                                                                                                                          
Freddy Garcia – 6                                                                                                           
Travis Wood – 5 (only seven total starts)                                                                            
Brandon Morrow – 5                                                                                                       
Ian Kennedy – 5                                                                                                                        
Kyle Kendrick – 5                                                                                                                   
Jason Hammel – 5                                                                                                                     
Jeremy Guthrie – 5

  • Thumbnail image for medium_09-02-mets-niese.jpgAll these guys are very useful for spot starts, while Niese, Mazzaro, Davis, Westbrook and Wood should garner serious consideration in all formats.

So if I ever become President of the non-existent Fantasy Baseball Association, Productive Performances is sure to be the principle measurement of a starter’s value in all leagues. But until that time, you’re not likely to see this term again except on this blog, serving as a future barometer for relevant fantasy hurlers. Good talk.


I think pitchers should be ranked on a -5 to 5 scale, where 0 is average.

I find this statistic fascinating. And I wanna see more of it. Please spread this around as much as you can. Great work.

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