<
>

Fantasy baseball points ranks: Luckiest, unluckiest starting pitchers

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Time and time again, you've heard fantasy baseball analysts say something along the lines of the following: "Wins are a flawed statistic because it says little about how well a pitcher has performed." And it's completely true.

On Saturday, Adam Plutko of the Cleveland Indians took the loss despite a game score of 72, while Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox got the win with a game score of 24. Wins are simply not a stat that should be used in any fantasy baseball scoring format.

However, we must be realistic and accept that, during the course of a season, a pitcher's record does have some analytical value. After all, few pitchers are going to win 15 games with a 5.00 ERA. That's happened just 23 times since 1902 and not once in the past dozen seasons.

Similarly, you're not going to see pitchers with a 2.50 ERA lose 15 games. While that may have been commonplace in the halcyon days when pitchers regularly threw complete games in four-man rotations, since 1940 it's happened only 11 times and not since Orel Hershiser in 1989.

From a fantasy point of view, what a win-loss record can help indicate is whether or not a pitcher is winning or losing more often than he should be, given the combination of his ERA and the average run support his lineup is giving him when he takes the mound.

During the course of a season, Pythagorean expectation (PE) is used to figure out what a team's record "should be," given its run differential. Generally speaking, the larger the sample size, the closer to the actual win percentage of a club this estimate becomes. So why can't we do the same for starting pitchers, if only to see which hurlers have been getting unlucky in the win department and which ones are somewhat overachieving in that regard?

Take Justin Verlander, for example. The Houston ace is 12-4 this season with a 2.99 ERA and getting an average of 5.14 runs from his lineup each time he takes the mound. That's a .750 win percentage. Throw those numbers into the Pythagorean expectation and it tells you that Verlander "should have" a .747 win percentage. That's pretty darn close to accurate, and most pitchers will end up, at the very least, within shouting distance of this number the more starts they accumulate.

Of course, there will always be outliers, and those outliers may well be due for some luck to balance the ledger before October arrives. Here's a quick look:

On the flip side, here are a few pitchers who could be due for a few more L's going forward:

Top 300 rest-of-season rankings

The following list reflects my 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.