Holds update for 4.11.11: Who’s the best setup man early?

The best fantasy setup man in 2011? It’s Tony Sipp. It’s too early too put too much faith into these rankings, but Sipp’s been masterful so far. He’s got three Ks, allowed just one baserunner and no earned runs in four innings of work.

Most importantly for those of you reading about setup men and holds, Sipp leads the major leagues with four holds.

He’s not going to lead all relievers in Ks, but he’ll probably throw a sub 2.50 ERA at us. And something tells me that if the Indians are going to win, they’re going to win close. Something also tells me Sipp is probably available in your league.

Who’s next? Who should you add (other than Sipp)? Who should you ignore? Let’s talk rankings.

Like a mad scientist I’ve concocted a formula that tells us who’s good, who’s bad and who’s actually better or worse than they look.

I’m not going to go through all the details, but here are the key points:

1. The formula to determine good/bad players factors in all of the 5×5 categories evenly. However, it gives an extra bonus (x1.5) for holds.

2. To determine if a player is stuck in his own head or playing out of his mind, we’re going to look at some key advanced statistics:

  • Fielding Independent Pitching compared to ERA. If a player’s FIP is sky high and his ERA is low, the pitcher may be getting lucky. Conversely, if his FIP is below average but his ERA is pushing 7.00, we should expect him to get better
  • Walks per nine innings will give us an idea what kind of control the pitcher is displaying.
  • Strikeouts per nine innings will tell us how much a pitcher is dominating batters.

We must remember that it is very early in the season so performances will fluctuate wildly. Next week’s rankings could see massive upheaval. But, for now, let’s talk about the setup men who are dominating fantasy baseball so far in 2011.

Top 10 fantasy setup men in 2011

1. Tony Sipp, Indians: His FIP backs up this lofty ranking.

2. Jordan Walden, Angels: Boosted by a save, Walden also has 7 Ks in just 5.1 innings.

3. Marc Rzepczynski, Blue Jays: Rumpelstiltskin is easier to type, but Rzepczynski has already thrown 5.2 innings of shutout baseball in 2011. His K/9 is more dominant than Jonny Venters’ and Joaquin Benoit’s.

4. Joaquin Benoit, Tigers: Benoit has two holds, but his disappointing K rate and low usage (just four innings) have cost him in our first re-ranking.

5. Jonny Venters, Braves: He has three holds, but baserunners have plated against him. His ERA is still a miniscule 1.80.

6. Tyler Clippard, Nationals: Clippard is still dealing high-K stuff, but like last season his WHIP could cause some headaches. He has two holds, but also has allowed five baserunners — two via walk — in just 6.2 innings.

7. Jason Berken, Orioles: He’s got the highest K rate in the top 10 (15+/9). His current skills (low walks, 0.52 FIP) make him look legit.

8. Matt Guerrier, Dodgers: Guerrier has been far more effective than Hong Chih-Kuo, but he’s also allowed four baserunners in just five innings. Guerrier’s two holds so far have been nice, but his FIP (3.40) points to an upcoming debacle.

9. Phil Coke, Tigers: There are 86 players with at least one hold and Coke leads them all with 9 innings pitched. The extra work has helped him reach 7 Ks, but has also cost him with a 4.00 ERA, and 10 baserunners. His skills say he isn’t bound to get much better. Don’t be surprised if he falls off this list next week.

10. Rafael Betancourt, Rockies: With three holds, he’s in a tie for second place in baseball so far in 2011. He’s also not pitching that great. He’s given up a homer, but he does that a lot. He’s also given up two hits and walked two in just five innings. At that rate he’s bound to give up a multi-run homer which is not something those of you in head-to-head leagues want to see.

Notice how several of those names have some issues? Those issues could make them less valuable as the season progresses.

It’s the higher skilled players that are likely to take their place in the rankings. Let’s throw the fantasy indicators out the door for now and look at the 10 players who have displayed the best skills so far:

Setup men with skill

1. Berken, Orioles: Berken is one of two players on both lists.

2. Matt Reynolds, Rockies: Our first example of great divergence between skills and fantasy. Reynolds has a 9.00 ERA, but he also has a hold and four Ks in two innings. He allowed two runs both earned, but also allowed just two baserunners. That’s a ridiculously bad strand rate.

3. Bill Bray, Reds: Bray has four Ks in 2.2 innings. He hasn’t allowed a baserunner.

4. Walden, Angels: Like Berken, Walden has also put up impressive fantasy and skills numbers so far this season.

5. Ryan Madson, Phillies: Madson has three Ks in just two innings and hasn’t allowed a baserunner.

6. Sergio Romo, Giants: The two hits he’s allowed are the only blemishes.

7. Aaron Crow, Royals: Crow’s allowed five hits and walked one, but he’s also struck out eight in 6.1 innings.

8. Juan Gutierrez, Diamondbacks: Gutierrez has allowed six runs but only two earned in three innings. That means he’s taken the mound in at least one really, really bad situation. That can lead to an extra walk or hit. He’s also struck out six batters. Unless he keeps getting called on in impossible situations, he should bounce back.

9. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees: He’s plunked a batter and allowed three hits, but he struck out four and has two holds already. Considering how bad Rafael Soriano has been, Chamberlain’s revival could mean he won’t lose as many holds as once thought.

10. Jose Veras, Pirates: His FIP (1.95) indicates that he is significantly better than his 7.36 ERA. So does his K rate (14.06 per nine innings).

Now let’s take a look at a handful of other players we should keep an eye on:

Flying too close to the sun

Randy Choate, Marlins: Two walks, one hit in just 1.1 innings. That 0.00 ERA is an illusion.

Jose Mijares, Twins: Mijares’ perfect ERA is unsustainable as long as he’s walking a batter an inning (3 BB/3.1 IP)

Darren Oliver, Rangers: He’s got two holds and a 2.45 ERA, but he also has a blown save and his 7.58 FIP points to disaster.

In a holding pattern

They’ve been horrible and their FIP only points to slight improvements, but it’s too early to give up on Evan Meek, Pirates; Daniel Bard, Red Sox or Rafael Soriano, Yankees.

Some quick notes on the formulas and statistics: All 86 players with at least one hold were sampled. … The average statistics for the 86 players: 0.17 wins, 3.05 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.30 Ks, 0.03 SVs, 0.29 HRs allowed. … Statistics were current as of the Sunday morning (4.10.11).

1 Response to “Holds update for 4.11.11: Who’s the best setup man early?”


  1. CJones

    Great analysis of the small sample size that we have thus far.

    It’s still early to tell who will and who will not perform, but I think you have to keep Kuo rostered at this point just based on last year alone. Also, Takahashi (SP,RP) has 2 holds, but he needs to get his ERA/WHIP down in order to capitalize on his preferred eligibility.