Fantasy baseball | Relief pitcher draft strategy: Chase holds, setup men instead of low-skill closers
In the past, we’ve provided plenty of information for users in leagues that count holds as a category. Much like point-per-reception leagues in fantasy football, I think they add another dimension to a sport that has been stuck with the same 10 categories for long enough. Not everyone agrees.
According to an annual poll conducted by the baseball minds at www.baseballhq.com, creators of Ron Shandler’s Baseball Forecaster, 20% of their users play in holds leagues. Three percent of those players don’t like it.
There will always be some people who won’t convert. It’s not you, it’s us holds lovers. We have plenty of other fantasy baseball words throughout the site and lots of great friends in our links if you don’t want to hear anything else about holds. But before you go, understand that setup men are good plays even in leagues that do not count holds. For those of you on the fence, or who want to win the holds category, let’s keep going.
I love holds leagues and I think players who earn holds provide a strategic edge to owners who want to take advantage of it. In other words, you are going to have an edge over those dudes (and dudettes) who clicked away a paragraph ago.
In leagues that count holds and the other five categories, the setup men are probably the best investments in the game for a number of reasons. In standard leagues they provide a considerable value as well:
- Even in the most veteran, progressive leagues, setup men are cheaper to own than players at any other position. Glass half-full: You can draft a $2 (or 20th-round) setup man who returns at $20. Glass half-empty: You’ll feel less buyer’s remorse dumping that $2 setup man than that $20 flop of a closer you had to overpay for mid-draft.
- The best setup men keep their ERAs and WHIPs low. Many of them maintain excellence with a nice K/9 rate. Some of them even snipe a difference-making number of wins.
- The best setup men are typically first in line when the closer faceplants and/or needs a few games off for injury, rest, etc. Some of 2011’s most sought-after setup men on draft day, Jordan Walden and Ryan Madson come to mind immediately, didn’t have the opportunity to compile large holds numbers because they replaced their teams’ closers. Both Walden and Madson finished with more than 30 saves at a fraction of the cost of the closers they replaced.
- Last year, Tyler Clippard had an ADP in the 250-300 range. He didn’t have any saves, but Clippard had a 1.83 ERA, struck out 104 batters in 88 innings and had a 0.83 WHIP. So, he contributed to fantasy owners’ ERA, WHIP and strikeouts while compiling 38 holds.
Too many fantasy owners ignore setup men for those bottom tier closers who will likely be out of a job by May 1. Many times it doesn’t take much effort to pick out the volatile bullpen situations. Draft the highly skilled replacement, not the guy on the verge of losing his grip.
There are, of course, drawbacks. The biggest two drawbacks: Some of the best setup men will not get the opportunity to earn saves and there can be a lot of player turnover in the setup ranks. Player turnover might be the biggest culprit for holds haters. However, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find setup men. It just takes a few simple steps, which we will review in Part II of this conversation.
I’ll leave you with 2011’s hold leaders. Many of the names will be in the conversation about 2012’s top setup men.
2011 MLB Holds leaders
|3||Daniel Bard||Red Sox||34|
|6||Mike Adams||– – –||32|
|12||Jesse Crain||White Sox||24|
|16||Koji Uehara||– – –||22|
|20||Matt Thornton||White Sox||20|
|23||Marc Rzepczynski||– – –||18|
|28||Francisco Rodriguez||– – –||17|
|32||Chris Sale||White Sox||16|
|42||Jason Frasor||– – –||14|
|54||Alfredo Aceves||Red Sox||11|
|60||Brad Ziegler||– – –||10|
|60||Matt Albers||Red Sox||10|