Never has the value of middle relief pitching been higher in baseball, and that carries over to the fantasy side of the sport, too. The role of those pitchers who are called upon to replace a struggling (or perhaps injured) starting pitcher has grown tremendously over the course of the last few seasons, especially. A relief pitcher that can jump in and work effectively to shut down the opponent’s hitters, thereby keeping his team in a position to come back and scratch out a victory has become an essential tool for every winning manager and MLB team.

One major impetus for teams rostering shut-down middle inning pitchers has to do with the reduction in starting pitcher inning loads. Over each of the past season, there were only 13...