We all know that closers have a ton of value on draft day. After all, they are the only way that we can fill the saves category. But what about those relievers that don’t work the 9th inning â what is their value?
There is a problem with relievers. The issue is how we evaluate players. Here’s a simple example to show what I mean.
In 2011 Kevin Gregg earned more fantasy value than Darren Oliver despite the fact that he was roundly out pitched by Oliver. Compare their efforts.
Gregg: 4.37 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 7.99 K/9, 1.33 K/BB
Oliver: 2.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 7.76 K/9, 4.00 K/BB
How in the world was Gregg more valuable in 2011? You already know the answer; it’s because he racked up 22 saves to to two for Oliver.
So what can be done? Some leagues have attempted to level the playing field by adding holds. That’s a solid idea. It adds extra value to middle relievers and gets those bullpen arms on a more level playing field. However, when you add a sixth pitching category you then have to add a sixth hitting category to balance out the pitching and hitting. So why not do this â count SOLDS. Simply, Solds is saves+holds. Adding Solds will leave you with five categories and not six for pitching so you don’t have to worry about adding anything on the offensive side of the ledger. It would also result in middle relievers value skyrocketing. No longer would we be so concerned about what role a reliever holds as we are about the skills he brings to the part. I know that I’m not a fan of rostering a guy like Gregg who I know will kill my ratios, but if I need the saves, what choice do I have? If you count Solds instead of saves, then you have the option to pass on a junker like Gregg.
I don’t assume that I will be able to change anyone’s mind with this column, and it’s likely too late to implement such a change in the fabric of the fantasy game for the 2012 season, so instead I’ll focus on pointing out just how valuable selecting the right middle relievers can be to building an elite pitching staff.
Let’s take a look at some ADP numbers from MockDraftCentral.
Heath Bell has an ADP of 128 at the moment, insides the top-10 for relievers. He’s certainly a solid relief arm, one that is likely to rack up the saves in Florida, but is he going to help your team in ratio categories more so than a Brandon League (187 ADP) or Rafael Betancourt (203)? That’s debatable. Let’s take a look at each man’s ERA, WHIP and K/9 marks from 2011.
H. Bell: 2.44 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 7.32 K/9
League: 2.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 6.60 K/9
Rafael: 2.89 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.54 K/9
Obviously what people are doing is buying the saves that Bell will bring, and they are banking, because of his past performance, that he is more likely to be a 35+ save guy in 2012 than either of the other two arms. Clearly League and Bentancourt might be the equal of Bell in terms of skill â trust me, if you dig deeper than ERA/WHIP/K/9 that statement will play itself out â but people are buying the saves. However, is that the best way to build value in a pitching staff?
Let me spend a moment to explain something that many people seem to overlook.
On draft day 2011 you spent $32 of your $260 budget to roster Roy Halladay. If there is any starting pitcher that you can feel pretty darn secure about posting a top-10 season, it’s Halladay, so there was no reason to worry about adding him to your roster last year. However, this is only half the point. The other side of the coin is this â even if Halladay excels as he did last year, how much profit is he going to earn for you? If he has a great season, one that produces $38 in value, he has only turned a profit of +$6. Now, what if you drafted Yovani Gallardo for $13? Let’s say he had a strong season, which he did, and turns in numbers that lead to $22 in value. Gallardo is a +$9 in this scenario which means two things: (A) Gallardo produced more profit than Halladay and (B) you spent less money on Gallardo at the draft table which left you more money to spend to strengthen other positions.
Transition that same line of thought to the bullpen. Are you so sure that spending $13 on Brian Wilson is a better investment than spending $6 on Rafael Betancourt? Of course will be your response since Wilson is more of a âlockâ to register a huge save total. I wouldn’t argue with you there, but don’t forget, you’d have an extra $7 to spend. What if in addition to Bentancourt you also added Sergio Santos for $7. You’ve spent the same total of $13 dollars for each team, but doesn’t team #2, with two options, have at least a break even chance of producing as many saves as will Wilson? Better yet, those two arms will help your pitching staff in a more appreciable way. Let’s assume the following.
Let’s posit a team with 1,250 innings pitched before adding our relievers. Let’s say that team had a 3.50 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 1,000 strikeouts. What effect would adding Wilson or Bentancourt have had to this hypothetical club in 2011?
Team Wilson: 3.48 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.27 K/9 in 1,305 IP
Team Betancourt: 3.47 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.36 K/9 in 1,312.1 IP
Remember, Team Betancourt, who had the extra $7 to spend, could have also added an arm like Santos to the party and further increased the advantage for their team over Team Wilson. In fact, Santos + Bentancourt would have netted you 38 saves last season, two more than Brian Wilson’s total for the Giants.
Let’s take one more example to illustrate just how valuable middle reliever arms can be to your clubs. In this example we’ll construct two teams like we just did. However, this time we’ll pit middle relievers against a superstar on the hill.
Team #1: Roy Halladay
Team #2: Rafael Bentancourt, Koji Uehara, Sean Marshall
If we looks back to draft day 2011 you could have the three relievers for $5 (or less), in a mixed league. We set the cost of Halladay at $32 dollars above, so clearly you would have had a financial windfall that would have enabled you to have a whole lot of extra money laying around to bolster the rest of your club if you added the three relievers over Halladay. You already know which team produced a better return on investment, it was the bullpen arms of course, but are you aware just how well the trio of arms stacks up to the mighty Halladay in terms of raw production?
Team Halladay: 19-6, 2.35 ERA, 220 Ks, 1.04 WHIP in 233.2 IP
Team Reliever: 10-9, 2.48 ERA, 237 Ks, 0.91 WHIP with 13 saves in 203 IP.
A huge advantage for Halladay in the win column, but the relievers have 13 saves to help make up that difference. Plus, the relievers actually bettered the might Halladay in Ks and WHIP, more than enough to offset the slight âlossâ in the ERA column.
Obviously I’m cherry picking here by choosing three of the better relievers in baseball last year. But the point is still valid â if you know how to evaluate pitchers, and be smart about controlling your budget on draft day, you can roster a pitching staff that can compete with the bigger spenders in the league. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a couple of horses on your staff, but you can have a lot of success with a staff filled with a bunch of #3 arms if you augment them with a judicious smattering of quality middle relief arms.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray’s baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
Tags: Brandon League, Brian Wilson, Fantasy Baseball, Heath Bel, Kevin Gregg, MLB, Rafael Betancourt, Roy Halladay, Sergio Santos, Yovani Gallardo