Relievers: Wild Wild West
We're less than a week into the fantasy baseball season, and already people are running to the waiver-wire to address the need to fill the saves category in the fantasy game (is this a great time to bring up why we should include Solds as the fifth fantasy category in place of saves? Solds is saves+holds, and it would give middle relievers as much of a chance to be productive as a closer, so instead of worry about who to roster cause you need a closer, you could simply add the best reliever and be done with it). I'm doing to address the hottest situations of the last few days – Nationals, Rays and Red Sox – right after I break down some thoughts on how everyone should be looking at these situations.
I know that everyone didn't purchase the 2012 Baseball Guys Draft Guide, if you did you're likely not in the predicament that some people now find themselves in, but here are a few salient bits of information that I suggested people keep in mind when putting together a team.
When choosing a reliever, target arms that:
Have a K/9 rate of 7.50 or better. Have a BB/9 rate under 3.00 Have a K/BB rate of at least 2.50 It would also be great if they have a GB/FB ratio of 1.50 or better.
* The article PITCHING TARGETS in the Draft Guide breaks these numbers down in much greater detail giving lists of pitchers that qualify.
This also brings up the point that I always preach:
Target skills, not roles.
I want the best pitchers on my team. I have no idea how/when/why a manger might change what he will do in the 9th inning. In simple terms – I don't want a guy on my team merely cause he is the closer. I want a guy on my team who has the skills to be successful. At some point you need saves, and if you have to roster a guy with poor ratios to get them then so be it, but there is little reason to desperately try and grab “closers” with poor skills off the waiver-wire in the first week of the season. Remember that. It's a long year, 162 games worth, and just cause a guy is set to close right now doesn't mean he will be closing in August.
NATIONALS Closer: Drew Storen (likely out until late April) Replacements: Brad Lidge, Henry Rodriguez
This is a bad situation to jump into. It was announced today that Lidge and Rodriguez will alternate working the ninth inning game after game. If you're in a weekly league, it's almost impossible to use either guy given that fact. Even in a roto league, be very careful here. If Storen is back in three weeks as expected, how much are you willing to pay for 2-3 saves if you add either backup option?
RAYS Closer: Kyle Farnsworth (elbow strain. No structural damage) Replacement: Joel Peralta, Fernando Rodney, J.P. Howell, Jake McGee
Farnsworth could miss two weeks or two months, we don't really know, though expectations are that he won't be out long-term. Unfortunately, it looks like the Rays will go with a closer by committee situation. So what do you do here? Rodney is a disaster and his skill set doesn't come close to matching my “rules” from above. Howell does have a strong skill set but he walks too many batters (4.19 per nine for his career), is left handed and he threw just 30.2 innings last season. That leaves Peralta as the best choice, not just by default either, but also because of his skills. The last two seasons for Peralta have led to some impressive numbers: 8.49 K/9, 2.08 BB/9 an a 4.07 K/BB. The only thing he doesn't do is induce grounders (his GB/FB ratio for his career is atrocious at 0.66).
RED SOX Closer: Andrew Bailey (thumb surgery, out 3-4 months) Replacement: Alfredo Aceves, Mark Melancon
This is the situation that has me most surprised. Bailey goes down, he's out at least the first half of the 2012 season, and the Sox name Aceves the closer. What ensues is a stampede to the waiver-wire to add Aceves as everyone suddenly seems to think he's an elite closer. I'm not kidding. EVERYWHERE I look people are pushing, shoving, lying and stealing in order to add Aceves. A brief example of that is my Twitter Poll that I ran for two hours today. Of the four options people were given to add to their staff, Aceves was chosen 64 percent of the time. Why? I suggest it's merely because he is a Red Sox (over at Fleaflicker it doesn't seem that the craziness has taken full hold). Let's break Aceves down.
His career K/9 mark is 6.26, well below the 7.50 mark I like to target. His BB/9 mark is 2.70 for his career, below the 3.00 mark I like to target. His K/BB ratio is 2.32, below the 2.50 mark I like to target. His GB/FB ratio is 0.88, below the 1.50 mark I like to target.
Furthermore, even if you don't like my targets, consider this. His career K/9 mark is below the big league average. His career K/BB ratio is one tenth better the big league average. His GB/FB is well below the big league average.
To summarize, Aceves is a pitcher with average big league skills. Period. Just take a look at his xFIP. For his career that mark is 4.54, more than a run an a half above his 2.93 raw ERA. Simply put he's the anti-Ricky Nolasco. Aceves is someone who has had success that he hasn't completely deserved. Moreover, and people seem to be looking right past this, he has no experience in the ninth inning with four career saves. I've said it, but let me write it for you all one more time; Mark Melancon is a more highly skilled pitcher. His K-rate is better, he generates a significantly higher ground ball rate (his 2.64 GB/FB ratio last season is better than what you get when you combined Aceves' marks the past two years – 2.52), and Melancon is the one who has experience working the 9th inning (20 saves last year for the Astros). Please heed my warning an avoid going all in on Aceves. If you do, the odds say that you will likely regret it.
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Fri 7-10 PM EDT), Ray also hosts his own show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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