Middle Relievers are People Too
Todd reviews some high-strikeout middle relievers for holds
Today’s category of interest is holds with a tilt towards some under-the-radar relievers that can help you even if your league doesn’t score holds. The non-holds format these relievers can aid the most are daily leagues with a readily attainable innings maximum. The idea is instead of having a starter that isn’t scheduled to work that day you have one of these relievers active. The key is leagues with easily reachable innings caps may score strikeouts but the category is essentially K/9. If everyone accrues the maximum innings, the team with the best K/9 will win the strikeout category. As such, deploying middle relievers with stellar K-rates give you a foundation of innings superior to those you can garner using available starting pitchers.
Here are nine middle relievers that possess exceptional strikeout rates as well as being used in high leverage situations so they are candidates to rack up holds.
Kevin Siegrist, St. Louis Cardinals (18.2 IP, 3.86 ERA, 12.5 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, 12 holds) – Carlos Martinez gets the hype but Siegrist is the guy Mike Metheny relies upon to bridge to the ninth. Siegrist may lose an opportunity or two now that Jason Motte is back in the fold but the Cards like to utilize several relievers in matchup situations so he’ll still get holds.
Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays (19.2 IP, 4.12 ERA, 13.7 K/9, 5.9 BB/9, 11 holds) – Cecil has taken very well to his bullpen conversion where his limited pitch arsenal plays better. He’s walking a few too many and works in a hitter-friendly park but his strikeout rate is the third best on this list and Toronto trusts him with eighth inning duty and there’s really no competition.
Will Smith, Milwaukee Brewers (21.67 IP, 0.42 ERA, 12.9 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, 11 holds) – There’s an impending correction due for Smith’s ERA, especially if he continues with such a high walk rate but his K-rate more than makes up for it so long term Smith’s ratios will still be palatable even after the regression.
Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates (22.33 IP, 1.21 ERA, 12.1 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 11 holds) – Watson has the best all-around skill set of the list and is thus the most qualified to be on an NL-only roster as well as in holds leagues. Pittsburgh has a strong bullpen so the potential of Watson being hung out to dry is minimal. If I had my choice of the entire list, Watson would be my guy.
Joba Chamberlain, Detroit Tigers (19.67 IP, 3.2 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, 9 holds) – Yes, that Joba like there’s another. It took longer than expected but Chamberlain’s skills are finally shining through and Detroit is using him in high leverage scenarios.
David Carpenter, Atlanta Braves (20.33 IP, 2.66 ERA, 10.6 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 9 holds) – Carpenter’s strikeouts may not be quite as strong as some of the others but his walks are less frequent so his ratios are safer. Plus, Atlanta is very protective of their relievers so he won’t be asked to take one for the team.
Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals (20.33 IP, 1.77 ERA, 16.8 K/9, 4 BB/9, 8 holds) – While most relievers were starters at one point, Davis joins Cecil and Chamberlain as highly regarded prospects that struggled as a starter at the Major League level but have found homes in the bullpen. It’s likely to come down a bit but Davis is currently sporting a Kimbrel-like strikeout rate. The walks are high but when you only need about one batted ball out an inning, a walk every other game isn’t going to inflict much damage.
Drew Storen, Washington Nationals (15.33 IP, 1.17 ERA, 10 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 7 holds) – Storen has (in my not so humble opinion) been saddled with the “can’t close” label. His skills are definitely closer-worthy but for now, he has to settle for holds.
Dellin Betances, New York Yankees (26 IP, 1.73 ERA, 15.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 4 holds) – Injuries curtailed Betances starting career but he’s got the look of an absolutely dominant reliever. His bug-a-boo has been walks but he has that under control without sacrificing whiffs.