Saves are dumb and arbitrary. Managers use their relievers in sub-optimal ways because of this made-up stat, and player compensation is stupidly affected by this stat that says little about a player’s abilities. But the dumbest thing about the save is the importance it has in fantasy baseball.
It’s easy to understand why the save is such an integral part of fantasy baseball. We’re trying to make the fantasy game as much like the real game as possible, and relievers are unquestionably a huge part of the game. We don’t have many stats that are specific to relief pitchers, so we use the one we made up just for them. But that doesn’t mean it’s not dumb.
As proof of this stupidity, consider that save-less relievers Ross Stripling, Jose Leclerc, Heath Hembree and Blake Parker are four of only nine relievers to have racked up half a win worth of WAR this season, and yet none of them rank in the top 50 relievers according to ESPN’s player rater. That’s no knock on the player rater, it’s just a knock on the variables we require the player rater to compute.
That’s all said to point how dumb it is that this article is about to go through every team which has more than one player who has recorded a save. But fantasy players need to know why managers are using different pitchers in save situations and what it might mean for reliever usage going forward. For brevity’s sake, we’ll skip the teams where only two players have recorded a save and one of them has a single save earned on a day where the regular closer was unavailable.
Britton recorded every save for the O’s before going on the DL, and Brach converted the next three save opportunities the O’s had after Britton’s injury. All three of Brach’s saves came on consecutive days, so O’Day got the save on what would have been Brach’s fourth straight day. Britton will unquestionably get the job back when he’s healthy, and Brach is a safe bet to stick in the role until then.
No Cincy reliever has recorded a save since 4/15, so it’s a bit tough to parse the current pecking order. Iglesias is presumed to be the closer, but his last five outings have all been multi-inning outings, which doesn’t jive with the traditional closer role. Storen is seeing the more traditional inning-per-appearance usage, so he might end up being the guy with Iglesias being used more in an effector role. If you’re speculating, Storen, who is only owned in 2.7 percent of ESPN leagues, might be worth an add.
McGee’s one save was back on 4/7, and Holland literally hasn’t appeared in a game and not recorded a save this season. The job is squarely Holland’s.
Alex Wilson’s save came on a day that would have been three straight days for both Rodriguez and Justin Wilson, so Alex can be ignored. And Justin’s save came on a day after K-Rod threw 29 pitches in the process of blowing save. That was all the way back on 4/8. The job is K-Rod’s for now, but with a 5.87 ERA and 1.83 WHIP, it could easily be someone else’s soon. Justin hasn’t allowed an earned run in 8.2 innings and has 12 strikeouts in that span, so he’s the most likely candidate to take the job.
Devo got one of those weird multi-inning saves; the job is Giles’.
Los Angeles Angels
Bedrosian went on the DL on Saturday, and Norris got his save later that night. Norris is obviously worth and add since he got the first opportunity after Bedrosian went on the DL, but the aforementioned Blake Parker is also worth keeping an eye on. Bedrosian will likely get the job back when he’s healthy, so don’t go nuts on a bid for Norris. And it might be a better idea to spend less capital to pick up Parker, who could just as easily end up getting saves and who will provide you better numbers in other categories.
Feliz is 5-for-6 this season, and the one blown save was a 33-pitch outing that led to Barnes getting his one save on the next night. Feliz’s job is safe for now.
Haley’s save was of the multi-inning variety, and he’s now on the DL anyway.
Doolittle’s save was back on 4/10, and Madson’s save came on a day after Casilla had made consecutive appearances, so Casilla has the job for now. But Madson and Doolittle have pitched better so far this season, while Casilla has a 7:4 K:BB ratio in eight innings. This is a fluid situation, and Madson and Doolittle are worth speculating on. Madson is probably the better option given he got the save on 4/22 when Casilla was unavailable.
Gomez started the season with the job and quickly lost it with Benoit being named as his replacement. But it’s Neris that has the last two saves for the Phils, and he is unquestionably the best pitcher of the bunch. Neris is the guy you want, even if Pete Mackanin won’t come out and name him the closer.
St. Louis Cardinals
After allowing six runs in his first five appearances, Oh has four straight appearances without allowing a run and a streak of five straight save conversions. Rosenthal’s one save was on a day that would have been three straight for Oh, so it seems Oh has held on to the job despite his early struggles. But Rosenthal is probably one of the better speculative one-save guys to add.
Primarily thanks to a man who has yet to record a save, Sam Dyson, the Rangers are tied for the league lead in blown saves. Dyson is currently on the DL, and it’s Bush who has the most recent save on 4/23. Both Bush and Leclerc have pitched very well so far, so they’re both speculative add options. Bush is obviously the better option since he got the most recent save, but Leclerc is the under-the-radar add.
Toronto Blue Jays
Despite the appearance of a cluster, this job is Osuna’s. He started the season injured and has only seen two save opportunities since being back in the pen (1-for-2). Biagini has the team’s most recent save, but that came on a day that would have made for three straight for Osuna, with whom the Jays are understandably being careful.
Treinen’s last save was on 4/7, so this is a two-horse race for now. Kelley was named the primary closer about a week ago and recorded three saves between 4/18 and 4/21. Glover got the save on Saturday after Kelley had been used on Thursday and Friday. But on Sunday the Nats came back to Glover to get the save again even though Kelley hadn’t pitched the day before. At this point, both Glover and Kelley are worth owning.