It’s the era of the pitcher, right? Then why are all my teams struggling in ERA and WHIP? My guys must not have received the message. I’m looking at you, T.J. House. And don’t get me started on Drew Hutchison.

One of the biggest conundrums facing fantasy owners when one of their starting pitchers is scuffling is whether to sit them on reserve until they have a good outing or two or ride it out. I admit that I’m more forgiving than most, but too many owners bench pitchers when they should keep them active.

While this is a bit of an oversimplification, there are two types of starting pitchers: those that are in your lineup regardless and those with whom you play match-ups. Even if they’re underperforming, if you chose a pitcher with the intent on leaving him in your lineup, resist the urge to sit him. When you drafted the hurler you did so with a certain season-ending expectation. Rolled into this is likely some downs as well as many more ups. What ends up happening if you reserve a guy until he gets it together is you’ll have all of the bad stuff active while missing out of some of the good stuff so the overall contribution is less than what was original anticipated.

On the other hand, it’s viable to sit back-end rotation sorts until they prove worth of starting. Everything is league contextual, with the quality of replacements being the key. Chances are you have another option to use in lieu of the slow-starter since you’re using him in spots to begin with.

Someone like Ian Kennedy should be in your lineup for every start in Petco, even though he’s coming back from an injury and not looking in mid-season form just yet. You planned on using him for every home game so stay true to the plan. 

T.J. House is one of the biggest disappointments in the league as many expected more based on last season’s very good peripherals and high ground ball rate. His track record isn’t established enough to let him work out his issues while active. Despite being somewhat protected by the pitcher-friendly Progressive Field, you’re not going to lose if you wait for House to come around.

Then there’s Drew Hutchison. He’s in the same boat as House but he likely cost you more in large part due to his strikeout potential. On the other hand, his track record also short and Rogers Centre is no picnic for pitchers. What do you do? Again, it depends on quality of replacement but you picked Hutchison for his tremendous upside, knowing there will be risks. Having Hutchison on reserve likely means you’ll miss out on the 8-inning, 11-strikeout effort that balances his seasonal numbers. So unless we’re talking a ten or maybe twelve team mixed league, Hutchison should be active.

Hopefully, if you opt to reserve a starter you have an option on reserve to use in his stead. That said it’s entirely possible there’s no one available you trust, due to the preponderance of early-season pitching injuries and the need for their owners to fish for replacements.

That’s where the high-strikeout middle reliever comes into play. Today’s category impact will be pitching ratios, ERA and WHIP and how you can keep them in line while you let your ailing pitcher heal or your strugglers get back on track. Here are some under-the-radar middle relievers available in many leagues to get you some whiffs while protecting your ERA and WHIP.

Yimi Garcia, Los Angeles Dodgers: Chances are we’re a week too late with Garcia as he’s no longer a secret, getting some ninth-inning love. Now that Joel Peralta is on the shelf with a dead arm, Garcia is in line to get some of saves until Kenley Jansen is back. His 14.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 makes Jansen envious. There’s a chance Garcia is released in a few weeks when Jansen returns. Don’t blink, pick him up.

Chris Hatcher, Los Angeles Dodgers: The only reason Garcia isn’t the primary closer is Hatcher is a veteran and Don Mattingly is old school. To his credit, Hatcher’s, 16.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 are nothing to sneeze at but his history suggests he won’t continue in that stratosphere. Still, even if he’s not closing he should continue to fan enough hitters to be used regardless.

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins: Ramos has always been one skill away from being one of the best set-up men in the game and thus far, he’s doing just that. Ramos came into the season with a career BB/9 of 5.3. It’s only 12 2/3rds innings but with a 2.8 BB/9, Ramos is off to a great start. Whiffs have never been an issue and remain that way, as evidenced by a 12.8 K/9 (career 10.0 K/9).

Aaron Barrett, Washington Nationals: Already a highly skilled reliever, a 14:2 K:BB in his first 9 2/3rds frames ranks Barrett among the league’s better set-up men. He’s not getting ninth inning duties but he’s being used in close games as he’s vulture two wins and a hold.

Nick Hagadone, Cleveland Indians: Hagadone is more than a LOOGY but he also won’t rack up the innings of others since he is often asked to get fewer than three outs and doesn’t always get to pitch an entire inning. Still, he’s worthy of a fill-in pickup in the vein of this discussion. He’s only tossed 7 2/3rd stanzas but he has 11 whiffs to only three free passes over that span.

Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers: Don’t let the park scare you away. Since some renovations, Globe Life Park plays much less hitter friendly. Tolleson has a 12.5 K/9 and 1.0 BB/9 over 9 1/3rd innings. With three holds, Tolleson is being used in high-leverage situations which puts him in line for saves if Neftali Feliz continues to falter or gets hurt.

Arquimedes Caminero, Pittsburgh Pirates: Here’s your, “Who’s he?” offering. Caminero is quietly having a strong start to the season, whiffing 13 while walking only three in 10 2/3rds innings. He has four holds which indicates the team trusts him with the game in doubt and with Mark Melancon trying to get it done with less velocity, Caminero may be called upon to get saves

Please understand none of these options are likely to keep up their early-season peripherals. However, they’ll all still sport fine skills and can be used to impact your ERA and WHIP until better options are available to use as starters.