Fantasy baseball points rankings: Why quality starts and hitting streaks are overvalued

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

In the 1980s, looking at baseball statistics to determine the "best" pitchers was actually quite a basic exercise. At the end of the season, if you had 20 wins, a sub-3.00 ERA and 300 strikeouts, you were among the elite. If at any point of the season you were on pace for anything less than those milestones, you were simply not worthy of "ace" status. Meanwhile, the top hitters were the ones whose baseball cards ended up with a .300 batting average, 30 HRs and 100 RBIs printed on the back. Period, full stop.

Since then, however, sabermetrics has entered the mix and we've got a whole cavalcade of statistics that fantasy owners can use to further help identify players who are strong contributors to their teams. However, amid all of the helpful stats, there's also a lot of noise in terms of stats that may sound good, but deliver little actual value. Among them are two of the biggest purveyors of "fake news" for fantasy owners: quality starts and hitting streaks.

Take Max Fried, for example. The young Atlanta Braves starter had a quality start yesterday, striking out seven batters in the process. Yet he did so with the minimum six innings pitched and the maximum three runs allowed, a 4.50 ERA for the day. So, while it was certainly a decent outing, and one worth double-digit fantasy points in ESPN scoring, it was by no means great.

In fact, Fried finish as just the No. 16 pitcher on the day. What does that say about the quality of quality? So far this season, there have been 89 "minimum effort" quality starts like Fried's and, of the bunch, only 41 of them saw the starter average a strikeout per inning. Heck, on June 6, the "quality start" from Baltimore's David Hess against the Rangers earned you just as many points as if you had started my ESPN colleague Eric Karabell. Yuck!

Take a look at the 28 pitchers with at least eight quality starts this season, and you'll certainly see the likes of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke. However, you'll also see Wade Miley (4-3, 2.76 ERA in his eight quality starts), Jose Urena (6.1 K/9 and a 1.12 WHIP in his eight QS), and Marcus Stroman (2-3, with only a 2.63 K/BB in his eight QS). The stat, while still better than "wins" as a metric, still means quite little.

Moving on to those home plate wood-wielders, Pittsburgh's Bryan Reynolds went 2-for-4 yesterday to extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Nobody will deny that the outfielder's .400 average during his current hot streak is a good thing for his fantasy owners. That said, if he had struck out instead of walked in a June 1 pinch-hit outing, his batting average would remain stellar, but the hitting streak itself disappears. It's smoke and mirrors.

Let's take a look at DJ LeMahieu. On May 24, his batting average for the season was .324. He then went on his second 11-game hitting streak of the season, after which his batting average was .323. Yes, generally speaking a hitting streak is a good thing, but sometimes it's just business as usual for a player.

Sometimes, even for extended runs of close to two weeks during which many people might feel a batter is hot, they might in fact be ice cold (for them). Case in point, entering play on May 22, Colorado's Raimel Tapia was hitting .292. On June 4, after an 0-for-4 ended his 12-game hitting streak, Tapia was hitting just .271!

Don't be fooled by the flash of these numbers. They may well be true, and certainly sound good in theory, but often don't really signify anything much at all.

Top 300 rest-of-season rankings

The following list reflects AJ's rankings for points leagues, going forward. Note that this is different from a ranking of how each player has played thus far in 2019. For a ranking of performance to-date, check out the ESPN Player Rater.