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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Pure Starter Rankings

A look at the best starting pitchers in baseball without WINS!

Zack Godley has a 2.58 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP but only 3 wins. How high does he rank when wins are no longer a factor?
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Check out my Pure Reliever Rankings here! In that post, I took away wins and saves from relief pitchers in an effort to show their true value. It was very eye opening to see how many relievers, closers especially, rely almost entirely on saves. In this post I put that same analysis to the test with starting pitchers.

The Formula

'Pure Starter Ranking' is calculated by using a starting pitcher's overall performance MINUS WINS. Similar to the research on relievers, I started with the pitcher's overall performance based on a standard 5 category rotisserie league. I first took away saves, which was really only a way to take away the negative impact it was having on the overall performance. Then, I took away WINS. This made some noticeable changes, which will be discussed further below.

Here are the results (ranking are through July 9th):

Pure Starter Rankings

PLAYER, TEAM K W ERA WHIP PR PR Rank PR - Wins Pure Starter Rank Change
PLAYER, TEAM K W ERA WHIP PR PR Rank PR - Wins Pure Starter Rank Change
Max Scherzer, Wsh 3.88 2.73 3.24 4.57 14.42 2 11.69 1 1
Clayton Kershaw, LAD 3.48 4.11 3.2 3.85 14.64 1 10.53 2 -1
Chris Sale, Bos 4.02 3.08 2.3 3.56 12.96 3 9.88 3 0
Zack Greinke, Ari 2.7 3.08 2.01 2.61 10.4 4 7.32 4 0
Alex Wood, LAD 1.74 2.73 2.76 2.61 9.84 5 7.11 5 0
Corey Kluber, Cle 2.47 1.69 1.79 2.3 8.25 7 6.56 6 1
Dallas Keuchel, Hou 0.95 2.38 2.64 2.59 8.56 6 6.18 7 -1
Robbie Ray, Ari 2.98 2.04 1.74 0.88 7.64 12 5.6 8 4
Ervin Santana, Min 1.57 2.73 1.87 2.02 8.19 9 5.46 9 0
Stephen Strasburg, Wsh 2.61 2.38 1.21 1.58 7.78 11 5.4 10 1
Yu Darvish, Tex 2.53 1.34 1.18 1.63 6.68 17 5.34 11 6
Carlos Martinez, StL 2.61 1.34 1.27 1.37 6.59 19 5.25 12 7
Carlos Carrasco, Cle 2.22 2.73 1.14 1.84 7.93 10 5.2 13 -3
Luis Severino, NYY 2.5 1 1.02 1.61 6.13 22 5.13 14 8
Dan Straily, Mia 1.74 1.69 1.29 2.06 6.78 15 5.09 15 0
Gio Gonzalez, Wsh 2.11 1.69 1.97 0.85 6.62 18 4.93 16 2
Jason Vargas, KC 1.21 3.42 2.18 1.38 8.19 8 4.77 17 -9
Lance McCullers Jr., Hou 1.99 1.69 1.47 1.29 6.44 20 4.75 18 2
Michael Fulmer, Det 1.38 2.38 1.56 1.7 7.02 13 4.64 19 -6
Chase Anderson, Mil 1.4 1.34 1.64 1.48 5.86 25 4.52 20 5
Zack Godley, Ari 0.84 0.3 1.62 2.04 4.8 32 4.5 21 11
Jacob deGrom, NYM 2.67 2.38 0.91 0.91 6.87 14 4.49 22 -8
Ivan Nova, Pit 0.9 2.38 1.58 1.92 6.78 16 4.4 23 -7
Chris Archer, TB 3.14 1.69 0.56 0.69 6.08 23 4.39 24 -1
Jimmy Nelson, Mil 2.33 2.04 1.35 0.67 6.39 21 4.35 25 -4
Mike Leake, StL 1.09 1.34 1.59 1.46 5.48 27 4.14 26 1
Lance Lynn, StL 1.63 1.69 0.92 1.43 5.67 26 3.98 27 -1
Jeff Samardzija, SF 2.58 0.65 -0.31 1.44 4.36 37 3.71 28 9
James Paxton, Sea 1.57 1.69 1.18 0.93 5.37 28 3.68 29 -1
Marcus Stroman, Tor 1.63 2.38 1.4 0.56 5.97 24 3.59 30 -6
Sean Manaea, Oak 1.63 1.69 0.68 0.84 4.84 31 3.15 31 0
Jose Berrios, Min 0.95 2.04 0.77 1.38 5.14 29 3.1 32 -3
Brandon McCarthy, LAD 0.65 1.34 1.24 1.2 4.43 35 3.09 33 2
Brad Peacock, Hou 1.38 1.69 1.44 0.2 4.71 33 3.02 34 -1
Aaron Nola, Phi 1.29 1.34 0.79 0.91 4.33 38 2.99 35 3
Jordan Montgomery, NYY 1.46 1.34 0.8 0.73 4.33 39 2.99 36 3
Mike Clevinger, Cle 0.87 1 1.1 0.87 3.84 46 2.84 37 9
Ariel Miranda, Sea 1.26 1.69 0.24 1.31 4.5 34 2.81 38 -4
Alex Cobb, TB 1.15 1.69 0.81 0.76 4.41 36 2.72 39 -3
Drew Pomeranz, Bos 1.77 2.38 0.84 -0.1 4.89 30 2.51 40 -10
Jacob Faria, TB 0.06 0.65 1.25 1.18 3.14 56 2.49 41 15
Scott Feldman, Cin 1.43 1.69 0.5 0.51 4.13 41 2.44 42 -1
Eduardo Rodriguez, Bos�SP 0.84 0.65 0.67 0.9 3.06 57 2.41 43 14
Jose Urena, Mia 0.65 1.69 0.87 0.76 3.97 43 2.28 44 -1
Jon Lester, ChC 2.11 1 0.13 -0.02 3.22 54 2.22 45 9
Sonny Gray, Oak 1.09 0.65 0.35 0.75 2.84 61 2.19 46 15
Mike Fiers, Hou 1.46 1 0.58 0.1 3.14 55 2.14 47 8
Jake Arrieta, ChC 1.88 2.04 0 0.26 4.18 40 2.14 48 -8
Ian Kennedy, KC 1.15 0.3 -0.11 1.03 2.37 69 2.07 49 20
Dylan Bundy, Bal 1.38 2.04 0.02 0.65 4.09 42 2.05 50 -8
Rich Hill, LAD 0.98 1 0.55 0.51 3.04 58 2.04 51 7
Jameson Taillon, Pit�SP 0.67 1 1.37 0 3.04 59 2.04 52 7
Jose Quintana, CWS 2.08 0.65 -0.17 0.12 2.68 63 2.03 53 10
Kenta Maeda, LAD 1.18 1.69 -0.04 0.84 3.67 47 1.98 54 -7
Trevor Cahill, SD 0.79 0.3 0.69 0.46 2.24 72 1.94 55 17
Michael Pineda, NYY 1.6 2.04 -0.05 0.35 3.94 44 1.9 56 -12
Mike Foltynewicz, Atl 1.29 1.69 0.66 -0.1 3.54 49 1.85 57 -8
Jhoulys Chacin, SD 1.49 2.04 0.03 0.32 3.88 45 1.84 58 -13
Gerrit Cole, Pit 1.66 1.69 -0.1 0.28 3.53 51 1.84 59 -8
J.A. Happ, Tor 0.7 0.3 0.67 0.44 2.11 76 1.81 60 16
Taijuan Walker, Ari 1.04 1.34 0.72 -0.07 3.03 60 1.69 61 -1
CC Sabathia, NYY 0.79 1.69 0.54 0.33 3.35 53 1.66 62 -9
Danny Duffy, KC 0.9 1 0.61 0.14 2.65 65 1.65 63 2
Cole Hamels, Tex -0.2 0.65 0.6 1.09 2.14 75 1.49 64 11
Charlie Morton, Hou 0.93 1.34 0.46 0.02 2.75 62 1.41 65 -3
Jeff Hoffman, Col 0.42 1 0.15 0.81 2.38 68 1.38 66 2
JC Ramirez, LAA 1.29 2.04 -0.13 0.2 3.4 52 1.36 67 -15
Matt Andriese, TB 0.56 1 0.67 0.13 2.36 70 1.36 68 2
Kyle Hendricks, ChC 0.45 0.65 0.22 0.66 1.98 81 1.33 69 12
Johnny Cueto, SF 1.77 1.34 -0.22 -0.23 2.66 64 1.32 70 -6
Antonio Senzatela, Col 0.93 2.38 -0.32 0.63 3.62 48 1.24 71 -23
Michael Wacha, StL 1.43 1.34 0.27 -0.51 2.53 66 1.19 72 -6
Matt Garza, Mil 0.45 0.65 0.35 0.36 1.81 86 1.16 73 13
Kyle Freeland, Col 0.84 2.38 0.73 -0.42 3.53 50 1.15 74 -24
R.A. Dickey, Atl 0.95 1.34 0.15 -0.01 2.43 67 1.09 75 -8
Steven Matz, NYM -0.34 -0.04 0.72 0.69 1.03 96 1.07 76 20
David Price, Bos 0.42 0.65 0.33 0.31 1.71 87 1.06 77 10
Jeremy Hellickson, Phi 0.5 1 -0.17 0.69 2.02 79 1.02 78 1
Matt Shoemaker, LAA 0.95 1.34 -0.17 0.22 2.34 71 1 79 -8
Edinson Volquez, Mia 1.29 0.65 0.18 -0.51 1.61 88 0.96 80 8
Jake Odorizzi, TB 1.04 1 -0.29 0.15 1.9 83 0.9 81 2
Tyler Chatwood, Col 1.46 1.34 -0.08 -0.54 2.18 74 0.84 82 -8
Tim Adleman, Cin 1.18 1 -0.39 0.04 1.83 85 0.83 83 2
Rick Porcello, Bos 2.08 0.65 -0.55 -0.72 1.46 91 0.81 84 7
Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD 0.95 0.3 0.13 -0.34 1.04 95 0.74 85 10
German Marquez, Col 0.9 1.34 -0.01 -0.35 1.88 84 0.54 86 -2
Andrew Triggs, Oak 0.42 1 0.07 0.04 1.53 89 0.53 87 2
John Lackey, ChC 1.43 1 -1.02 0.08 1.49 90 0.49 88 2
Andrew Cashner, Tex 0.14 0.65 0.84 -0.51 1.12 93 0.47 89 4
Marco Estrada, Tor 2.11 0.65 -1 -0.66 1.1 94 0.45 90 4
Trevor Bauer, Cle 1.91 1.69 -1.03 -0.48 2.09 77 0.4 91 -14
Masahiro Tanaka, NYY 1.91 1.69 -1.38 -0.23 1.99 80 0.3 92 -12
Julio Teheran, Atl 1.12 1.69 -0.55 -0.31 1.95 82 0.26 93 -11
Justin Verlander, Det 1.77 1 -0.48 -1.27 1.02 97 0.02 94 3
Patrick Corbin, Ari 1.68 1.34 -0.44 -1.31 1.27 92 -0.07 95 -3
Felix Hernandez, Sea 0.31 0.65 -0.06 -0.48 0.42 100 -0.23 96 4
Joe Ross, Wsh 0.93 1 -0.63 -0.69 0.61 99 -0.39 97 2
Adam Wainwright, StL 1.52 2.73 -1 -1.04 2.21 73 -0.52 98 -25
Tanner Roark, Wsh 1.26 1.34 -1.13 -0.76 0.71 98 -0.63 99 -1
Zach Davies, Mil 0.79 2.73 -0.65 -0.8 2.07 78 -0.66 100 -22

Interesting Finds

The top 7 SP in standard scoring make up the top 7 in the Pure Starter Rankings. Wins clearly aren’t making these guys. They have been dominant beyond that. Max Scherzer leaps over Clayton Kershaw to take the top spot. Scherzer has more strikeouts and a better ERA and WHIP so this ranking should come at no surprise. Not only are those 2 along with Chris Sale the best 3 SP in fantasy, they are also the top 3 overall players in fantasy!

Of the remaining top 10 in standard scoring, Jason Vargas takes the biggest fall dropping to #17 in the Pure Starter Rankings. Vargas has solid ratios at 2.62 ERA and 1.15 WHIP but his low strikeout rate (6.6 K/9) keeps him from being an ELITE option at SP. Without his 12 wins on the season, Vargas looks like a top 20 option opposed to his #8 rank in standard scoring. Vargas looks like a candidate to regress in the 2nd half due to the low K rate.

He’s a few blind resumes:
Player A: 2.62 ERA 1.15 WHIP 6.6 K/9 12 wins
Player B: 3.40 ERA 1.16 WHIP 9.9 K/9 6 wins
Player C: 3.54 ERA 1.12 WHIP 10.5 K/9 5 wins

Player A is Vargas who we talked about earlier. Player B is Cardinals starter Carlos Martinez. Martinez has increased his K/9 by almost 2 compared to last year. This has turned Martinez into a top 10 SP option in fantasy. The ERA and low win total make him the #19 SP in standard scoring but he moves up to #12 in the Pure Starter ranks. Player C is Yankees starter Luis Severino. Despite some dominant outings, Severino has just 5 wins at the All-Star break. After a promising rookie year, followed by a dreadful 2nd season, Severino has improve his K/9 by 2.1 batters and lowered his BB/9 by nearly 1. This has improved his K/BB ratio from 2.64 in 2016 to 4.59 in 2017.

The Julio Teheran Class

Teheran was one of the reasons I started this column. Last season, Teheran was a great pitcher, but he never won any games. This was at no fault of his own. It is also a reason I was high on Teheran coming into this year with an improved offense. This has yet to pan out, but the idea here is to shed some light on a few SP who have been pitching great despite low win totals.

Zack Godley moves up 11 spots when wins are taken out of the equation. Godley has a 2.58 ERA with a 0.95 WHIP over 11 starts. He has yet to allow more than 3 runs in ANY of those 11 starts. 8 for 11 in quality starts. BUT he has just 3 wins! Godley’s FIP of 3.10 would suggest this is a legit feat he is pulling off. Buy low on Godley now and hope the Diamondbacks can provide him more run support going forward.

Others whose value is much higher without factoring in wins include:
Jeff Samardzija #37 to #28
Jacob Faria #56 to #41
Sonny Gray #61 to #46
Ian Kennedy #69 to #49
Trevor Cahill #72 to #55

The Jordan Zimmermann class

Last season, Zimmermann got some of the best luck wins of 2016. This class of SP are pitchers whose value is tied to wins. Many of whom are not helping their fantasy owners outside of that 1 category.

As discussed earlier, without wins Jason Vargas looks more top 20 than top 10. I’m still skeptical that he can finish even top 30 by season’s end. Antonio Senzatela was on a great run to start the season. Through 10 starts he was 7-1 with a 3.19 ERA. He had just a 5.37 K/9 during that time frame. His next 5 starts resulted in a 8.54 ERA and 2.70 WHIP. He still managed to win 2 of those starts. Without his 9 wins, Senzatela drops 23 spots and is the #71 Pure Starter. Senzatela has since been moved to the bullpen and then optioned to AAA by the Rockies.

Others whose value is tied heavily into wins included:
Ivan Nova #16 to #23
Drew Pomeranz #30 to #40
Michael Pineda #44 to #56
Kyle Freeland #50 to #74
Adam Wainwright #73 to #98
Zach Davies #78 to #100

Conclusion

Now this formula is not foolproof. Some pitchers increased their values because they missed time due to injuries. This resulted in a lower win total, thus overemphasizing their value. I attempted to filter scenarios like this as best I could. I also tried to remove pitchers who had moved in and out of a relief role which seems to skew their stats. Others contributed greatly if they had high strikeout total. Rick Porcello and his 109 Ks are great, his 4.75 ERA and 1.43 WHIP is not. The inverse is also true. Some pitchers with higher wins totals and solid ERA and WHIP numbers could not regain as much of their value due to low strikeout totals.

As expected, a number of pitchers from poor performing teams benefited from this formula while others on better performing teams were exposed. This is not to say they aren’t good pitchers, it’s more so to even the playing field. This purpose of this data is to give you a better idea of pitchers who made be overrated and those who are having great seasons under the radar. I hope you enjoyed!

Please leave comments if you have any further questions and feel free to let me know what you found most interesting in this research. Thanks for the read!