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I was trying to insert that catchy Beastie Boys song in your head, so if it worked, hooray for you.  Go ahead and try and pat yourself on the back with your baby T-Rex arms.  So we come to this, it has been much ballyhooed and asked for frequently.  I figured I would take some time away from inoculating babies in third world countries and devout my charity work to you all.

The hold category is about as consistent as my minute-to-minute thinking process, at any moment I can just jump up and have to run into the other room like a cat. From year to year the turnover of the top relief core is fairly consistent; last year only 28 players accounted for 20 plus holds. The one trend I look closely at is the rate a RP comes into a game with the lead, after all that’s where the stat comes in to play.  Couple that with a successful Inherited Run Scoring (IRS) percentage, and that’s where hold success is born.  So here is my top flight list of guys who will garner the most holds this year.  I also added my projections for S’s and G’s.

1. Mitchell Boggs – When you’re looking for a stout RP with all the qualities you need.  Great SP, check.  A manager who knows how to use a bullpen, check.  Filthy nasty stuff with a set role, check.
6-2/2.10 ERA/65 K’s/38 Holds

2. Vinnie Pestano – Of the Newark Pestano’s.    Baby’s laughter, the smell after a rain storm and owning Vinnie – all things I like.  Has future closer dibs in Cleveland if Perez ever gets the heck out da way.
4-3/2.48 ERA/88 K’s/38 Holds

3. David Robertson – Unlike Vinnie his team is going to win more games then they lose, prolly. Wins and leads are key here.  Stout K rate and unhittableness are good helpers.  3-5/2.36 ERA/90 K’s/37 Holds

4. Joel Peralta – Sick 5/1 K/BB rate.  He has a little neck quirk but it’s only spring training.  I get a stiff neck when I don’t sleep with the same pillow for one night.  Last RH guy in the best bullpen in the AL, IMO.
3-5/2.05 ERA/80 K’s/34 Holds

5. Jake McGee – The LH twin from the other other Bay area.  With Peralta, he forms the top LH/RH combo in baseball setting up.  Dude is filthy, (6/1 K/BB) like a crazy bum who yells for no reason.
6-2 /1.90 ERA/78 K’s/32Holds

6. Eric O’Flaherty – The everyday Irish whelp.  He goes  unnoticed by many due to Venters’ and Kimbrel’s stoutness. Just goes about and is the last LH set-up guy in front of the best closer in baseball.
3-1/2.15 ERA/65 K’s/31Holds

7. Mike Adams – Year in year out he has the staying power to go from great situation to great situation.  Dude pitches like he is throwing ultimate, not baseball.  Typical ground ball pitcher shouldn’t be affected by ‘Zen Park. 4-2/2.20 ERA/74 K’s/31 Holds.

8. David Hernandez – It’s always nice to work with a Putz in front of you cause it makes you look better. But Hernandez doesn’t need any help.  I ran into him at the airport before Spring Training and asked him if those were Haggar slacks he was wearing, he definitively answered “Hell no bitch, they polo.” Gotta love it.  6-5/2.35 ERA/90 K’s/28 Holds/5 Saves

9. Tyler Clippard – Washington has best top to bottom staff in baseball. Setup shined, Closing shined.  All you need is Scatman Crothers talking in your head.  You like ice cream, Doc?  Yeah, I thought so.
3-4/2.18 ERA /80 K’s/31 Holds

10A. Kenley Jansen – Will get some saves love during the year so he doesn’t rate as high as this is a Holds write-up.  Heart issues are worrisome, but that all goes away with some K’s.
3-5/2.70 ERA/100 K’s/18 Holds/14 Saves

10B. Ernesto Frieri – Is basically the same situation as the guy above.  Huge K potential with a possible step up into a more relevant stat category early on.  Madson’s health makes HMO’s quiver.
4-3/2.80 ERA/90 K’s/20 Holds/10 Saves

11. Edward Mujica – Love the arms in the back of the ‘Lou’s pen, who are perennial leaders in Holds and games entered with the lead.  ERA was just over a buck last year, yeah, 3 quarters, 2 dimes and 5 pennies.
3-4/1.75 ERA/82 K’s/30 Holds

12. Sean Burnett – The Angels have a 2-headed monster right now closing with Frieri and Madson.  They also have 2 great lefties in Burnett and Downs.  Chances should be a plenty.  2-4/2.45 ERA/65 K’s/28 Holds

13. Drew Storen – I wanna see how he adjusts to the new role before I can anoint him Holds worthy.  Stuff is there to be a dominant set-up guy as he has proved it in the conclusionary role.
5-4/3.25 ERA/75 K’s/25 Holds/5 Saves

14. Joaquin Benoit – I would like him more if he had back-to-back capabilities, but he doesn’t as stated by the Marlboro man manager.  Still highly effective and will see some save chances.
4-4/3.45 ERA/78 K’s/28 Holds

15. Antonio Bastardo – Yeah, ‘that’s what she said’ is right.  I like the end arms in Philly a lot as I tend to draft the secondary guy from the bullpen rather then the lead guy.  ERA could be worrisome but the K potential should be there.  3-5/3.80 ERA/90 K’s/26 Holds

16. Matt Belisle – The Rox are going to be bad, but when they have a lead expect this guy to be in the game.  Methinks Betancourt is shipped elsewhere during the season and Belisle and Brothers will both get a look.  2-5/3.75 ERA/70 K’s/26 Holds/3 Saves

17. Luke Gregerson – A healthy Huston Street is key, which is probably like finding a key on a ring full of keys.  Is a typical holds stalwart as he anchors the back end of the always reliable holds horn of plenty in San Diego.  3-5/2.95 ERA/71 K’s/25 Holds/4 Saves

18. Jonny Venters – He is like the Corey Haim to Kimbrel’s Feldman. They go hand and hand with the back end of bullpen effectiveness. Seemed to slip a little last year — I think the over-use got to him.  Bounce back and on the cheap are prolly the best advice I can give ya.
3-5/3.10 ERA/80 K’s/24 Holds

19. Santiago Casilla – Got some run all over the place. Personally I hate when I have the runs anywhere.  Regardless he finished third in appearances for non-closers in games when his team was ahead.  Lot’s of one-run games played in SF.  7-5/2.95 ERA/60 K’s/22 Holds/8 Saves

20. Ryan Cook – While my love for A’s starting pitchers goes pretty far, their bullpen ain’t too shabby.  This guy had such a crazy year, he made the AS game as a reliever only to lose the closing gig to Balfour.
5-6/2.70 ERA/80 K’s/24 Holds

21. Kyuji Fujiwaka – Saved a ton of games where the stats mean bub-kiss.  Has been getting lots of closer love, me included, if Marmol trips up.  For now he is the primary set-up guy teamed with James Russell.  Mixes in a splitter, works in the mid-90’s and is a control guy with career rates of 4/1 K/BB.  4-4/3.25 ERA/78 K’s/20 Holds/10 Saves

22. Sean Marshall – Great rotation in front, horrible decision-making manager behind.  It’s like having a great time drinking and waking up next to a ‘chew your arm off’ situation.  4-5/2.98 ERA/72 K’s/24 Holds

23. Pedro Strop – The underrated yet overly effective O’s bullpen was an astonishing 74-0 last year when having the lead after 7 innings.  Add in O’Day and they have a sneaky good 1-2 in front of JJ.
3-6/2.85 ERA/55 K’s/25 Holds

24. Matt Thornton – Wonky elbow already has me worried.  The stud has been the lefty version of Gregerson and has always littered the Hold rankings.  Keep an eye on health, as you can always do worse.
2-5/3.15 ERA/65 K’s/24 Holds

25. Aaron Crow – The bullpen in KC is young and hard throwing.  Every guy from Tim Collins to Kelvin Herrera could be in this spot.  Herrera has gas to burn and Collins is a nice lefty.  I think Crow lives up to some post-hype this year and sets up nicely for Holland.  Expect great things.  7-3/3.05 ERA/80 K’s/20 Holds

26. Andrew Bailey – Just add Kahlua.  I just hope he doesn’t pout his way to mediocrity and can stay healthy.  He has the closing pedigree if Hanrahananan slips on the O’Doyle banana.
3-5/3.80 ERA/60 K’s/22 Holds/5 Saves

27. Ronald Belisario – The other RH in the seemingly RH-dominant Dodger pen.  JP Howell is going to get a ton of work as well.  Great rates and a K an inning are what you are looking for and he has it, that and some Jordache jeans.  4-5/2.95 ERA/70 K’s/22 Holds

28. Joakim Soria – Is in the same breath, just maybe with a little asthma, as Frieri and Jansen.  He needs some time and for someone else to get hurt to be more of a fantasy asset than he is now.  Next year he will be sitting pretty like that dog from Duck Hunt.
5-4/3.45 ERA/60 K’s/20 Holds/3 Saves

29. Mark Melancon – It’s like a bullpen of no-names except for guys like me that drool over the unknowns of bullpens.  These are the late round guys, the ones you are going to not draft but pick up on a heater.  Is a Grilli slip up away from being the top waiver wire add. 
3-4/3.65 ERA/65 K’s/20 Holds/3 Saves.

30. Wilton Lopez – Like I said about Belisle above, there aren’t going to be many situations in Col that make RP needed, but he is still a viable arm that was effective in Houston last year.  Has closer ability should Rafael get grounded by Splinter.
2-6/3.75 Era/72 K’s/18 Holds/3 Saves

11  Sleepers you should know:

George Kontos SF

J.J.Hoover CIN

Cody Allen CLE

Dale Thayer SD

Jim Henderson MIL

Steve Delabar TOR

Charlie Furbush SEA

Sean Doolittle OAK

Jared Burton MIN

Tony Watson PIT

Robbie Ross TEX




From Around The Web

  1. CL says:

    Thanks for this. All 30 are owned in my 10 team dynasty league, believe it or not. It has been figured out that relievers, particularly middle relievers, are the key to winning (mostly).

    Thanks for the sleepers to watch… some good, high K-rate guys there. Are they listed in your order of preference?

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @CL: They are in order alphabetically by their mom’s maiden name.

      • CL says:


        Ha! Fair enough, Smokey. Fair. Enough.

  2. Goose says:

    Thoughts on the Tigers ‘pen? Def a mess from a fantasy relief POV – but someone out of Dotel, Rondon, Coke, Albuquerque… has to fall into being the 8th inning guy, right?

    Also, Heath Bell’s gotta be another sleeper here too. He’s the 7th inning guy for a possibly sneaky-good D’backs team – if he can bounce back strong, should end up with a good amount of holds behind D-Hern…

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Goose: Well its Benoit and Coke, with a preemptive dose of Albuquerque. Rondon shouldn’t be trusted for drafting purposes right now. To me this has all the ear marks of the Tigers signing Wilson or K-Rod and adding to the confusion.

      Bell would be in the next 5 guys listed for me, but I gotta cut it off at some point. I like Zeigler for a deeper sleeper out of their pen.

  3. Enrico Palazzo says:

    My league (12-team, roto, standard ESPN) has decided to change from Saves to Saves + Holds (as one category). Sounds like a terrible idea to me, and I can’t imagine paying more than $1 for any reliever in the auction because there will be so many players out there who can help with those stats. Am I wrong about that? Anyone else play in a league like this and have any strategy advice?

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Enrico Palazzo: My best advice for this as I play in one league that has been doing it. Focus on one teams bullpen in the top 5 rankings for hold/save opportunities. Grab all or most of the guys from that one team. On that team I drafted Motte, Boggs and Choate.

      • Enrico Palazzo says:

        @Smokey: Thanks! Has your league been doing that for a while? To win the category, how many Saves + Holds have been necessary?

        • Smokey

          Smokey says:

          @Enrico Palazzo: Only second year of it, but did draft for this year already. I used same strategy last year and finished second with 167 12 teams. First had 188.

          • Enrico Palazzo says:

            @Smokey: Cool. Thanks again.

  4. Eric W says:

    Thanks for the rankings, even though drafting middle relievers is less emotionally satisfying than picking up a hooker but I guess you got to do what you got to do.

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Eric W: Less chance of disease in middle relief me thinks

  5. Steve says:

    I know Holds guys can be guys you’ve never heard of that come out of nowhere, but Davis Robertson? ;-)

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Steve: Stupid home row keys, I type like I am Antonio Alfonseca

    • VinWins

      VinWins says:

      @Steve: Good eye. It has been corrected.

      • Smokey

        Smokey says:

        @VinWins: Thanks Vin

  6. papasmurf says:

    The way STL uses its pen is verI had Boggs for a part of last year so I know. Look at his 2012 game log, he had like 8 HLDs in APR, then he was not used in HLD situations in May. Then he was a HLD machine in Aug and Sep. I had Boggs during the drought days (of course… given my patented smurf luck) and I did not have any explanation why he was not used at all in HLD situations over that stretch. STL kept going to that lefty with the long last name who sucks for some reason and that Sanchez (I think) guy. It was basically anyone-but-Boggs for a while.

    Anyway, my point is that I am not so sure you can count on Larussa to keep Boggs as the 8th inning guy all year so I am kinda dubious about your #1 ranking since you’re basing it on him getting tons of HLDs.

    I would also bump Jansen and Frieri higher. HLDs and setup RPs are even bigger crapshoots than saves and closers, so I would go with guys with immense K potential first.

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @papasmurf: Well it’s Matheny now, and he uses his relievers based on match-ups just like everyone else, and I think he is a top 3 manager for using the pen. I will take the guy who built confidence towards the end of the year getting the most Holds in the second half. Boggs also finished 2nd among non-closers (Behind Benoit) in appearances with the lead.

      St Louis had its worst month in May going 13-16, which helps explain his lack of hold chances. Only 4 of those wins were actually hold eligible games. Which he got one of them.

      Jansen and Frieri are 10th on a list of guys who are strictly holds guys, this is a post for holds. Both will contribute in K’s and saves but won’t accumulate the total of holds as some of the guys ahead of them. But this is just my opinion and I appreciate yours.

      • papasmurf says:

        First off, let me start by apologizing for my previous shotty post full of errors. I was posting from work and didn’t do due diligence.

        Larussa is indeed gone (which I had forgotten) and Boggs in fact had 1 HLD in May, not 0 as I had said.

        However, your point that there were few opportunities for HLDs in May is incorrect. Let’s take a look at which RPs got HLDs in May for STL: Varte 6, Rzepczynski 4, Sanchez 2, McClellan 1, then Boggs 1.

        Of Marte’s 6 HLDs, 5 occurred in situations were he entered the game in the 6th or 7th so by and large he was not stealing HLDs from Boggs. One did occur in the 8th when he came in for 1 out in a spot that one would think should have been Boggs’ spot. So we can say he took 1 HLD away from Boggs.

        The bigger thief was Rzepczynski. All his HLDs occurred in the 8th. Thus he was the 8th inning guy in May even though he sucks. Was it a purely matchup-driven oddity? Maybe. I am too lazy to check the different batters he faced. I would say matchups would partially, but not entirely explain why Boggs was bypassed.

        Note that even Salas (righty) had 1 HLD in the 8th.

        It is therefore fair to say that Boggs was tossed to the side for inferior pitchers in May. (You can factcheck my data in the 2012 game logs)

        For whatever reason, Larussa took a long time to warm up to Boggs as the goto 8th inning guy and if any of the other RPs were good, Boggs could have been buried for the full year. The fact that Larussa (NL’s answer to the Sociapath) is gone is a huge plus, and I have less problem with the Boggs top ranking now, though I would be shockd if Boggs was the most valuable setup man this year.

  7. eastsider says:

    Smokey, I’m loving your relief pitcher posts. Any chance we might see a list for RPs most likely to get vulture wins? Kind of the opposite of Holds guys, they need to come in tied or behind.

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @eastsider: Wins are wonky to predict, but i will take a look and see if i see anything

  8. Penny Kowers says:

    Hey Smokey!

    Fantastic stuff. Would you consider writing an article about draft strategy and in what rounds to select different relievers in leagues that count both SAVES and HOLDS as two distinct categories? How do the top HOLDS guys get drafted in relation to closers?

    PS – How does Sergio Santos look for HOLDS this year?

    You rock!

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Penny Kowers: Thanks. Santos would be 31st for me right now. He has a chance to be more if Janssen’s shoulder keeps acting up.

      Holds guys should be end of the draft guys last few rounds before your second catcher or after your 5-6th starter and at least 2 closers.

  9. Cole says:

    Hey dude, great stuff. Is that David Hernandez story true? If so, awesome. I have run into Corey Hart (Brewer, not ’80’s pop footnote) 3 times in airports, and I rarely fly. Nothing funny happened though.

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Cole: Yea it was in the Sacramento airport, seemed like a cool cat offered to buy him a drink at the bar but guess I wasn’t his type…haha

      • Cole says:

        @Smokey: Nice. I don’t usually draft MRs but I may have to grab Pestano. He gets my calzone all golden brown and delicious.

  10. Hats for Bats says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this article. Thank you! Any chance of this getting pinned to one of the menu tabs?

  11. Ralph says:

    There is zero chance Strop wins 8th inning duties in Baltimore, draft O’Day if you’re looking for holds there.

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Ralph: I like O’Day as well. But both guys struggle vs LH batters O’Day a little worse. So strop is going to get his holds may not be the 8th consistently but Buck knows what his is doing.

  12. Pops says:

    Thanks Smokey,
    My league is switching to net saves plus holds (nsvh) this year. I did some research and decided to add these guys to the end of my closer rankings. 8×8 h2h league includes IP,QS and Losses. I looked at Innings pitched,holds,k’s and losses. Came up with:
    Pestano=Benoit=Boggs=Mujica= and O’Flaherty.
    Mujica was used quite a bit by Maytheny after being acquired from Marlins.

    I’m thinking I could punt closers and use 2or3 of theses guys instead. (nsvh)

    What say you?

    • Smokey

      Smokey says:

      @Pops: I like mujica a lot. Benoit’s already been knocked by Leyland about back 2 back games. I would still grab a cheap saves guy to augment your stat line a little

  13. sean says:

    Ha. Every time I see this headline I hear a voice in my head repeat hold it now then HIT IT comes in. Nice work with the mind control.

  14. GT says:

    AJ Ramos – Florida Marlins of Miami. 94 mph fastball and at least 4 set up pitches. Future stud

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