What I particularly like about relievers is versatility.  The situation in San Diego is the one in particular I want to discuss.  We were all lured into the Carter Capps preseason love, and I was on the wagon driving the horses as well, but his injury and the results that we expected aren’t coming as fast as we hoped.  He isn’t bowling over anyone in the minors, sporting a 6-plus ERA, and the obnoxious K-rate hasn’t materialized.  Now onto the major league roster which isn’t lighting any fires.  They are second from the bottom in bullpen ERA, have only 12 holds on the year, and now their closer has hit the skids.  He being Brandon Maurer.  Enter who I think should, could be the next man up while we wait (forever) for Capps.  Brad Hand offers that former starter turned good.  I may just call him the Vigilante of holds and possibly saves very soon.  He has the K-rate, the BAA and the moxy to do the job… it is just a matter of if SD is ready to pull the trigger on something because Maurer looks cooked.  Regardless of his situation moving forward or your league perimeters, Hand is worthy for a spot because of speculation and the K’s that he will produce.  This is the bullpen report for this week, so let’s see what’s happening in the setup game and the hold chase…

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The biggest question I get regarding the Hold stat is: “How long should I hold onto a stud holds reliever if he isn’t getting the precious stat?”  Well, the stat is fluctuation between the sublime and the superfluous.  It is usually as explainable as binary calculus.  Take, for example, the story of the San Francisco Giants bullpen.  They have all the right pieces there to be a successful bullpen.  A stud closer and an excellent mix of RH and LH set-up men.  Now look closer at the stats.  Hunter Strickland is by all intents and purposes the 8th inning guy.  He has 12 appearances, 11 of which have come in the 8th inning or later in ball games.  He checks every other box for stats, low ERA, K/9 right about where you want it, but the inevitable stat faux pas is he has zero holds.  On a team that only has 9 holds collectively, what is going wrong?  He isn’t doing anything wrong, he isn’t vexed by a succubus or anything bad.  hell I bet he helps old ladies cross the street and then steals their groceries.   The simple answer is that the hold stat is an ever flowing team driven ideal.  Doesn’t mean I hate it, one bit.  i love the secondary save.  It just comes out of the blue sometimes and people who sometime deserve to be the beneficiary aren’t that’s all.  Hunter will finish the year with his share, but right now in holds leagues he is almost unownable.  So look elsewhere for good match-ups, good form in pitching, and the ever important stat with relievers is when did they pitch last.  That is the best determinant in acquiring a waiver wire darling.  If he pitched yesterday, odds are he won’t today.  Be smart as picking reliever for holds is a dumb game, don’t over-think it.  Here are some other deets, in the game of set-up…

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Even being 1/10th of the way through the season, it is never too early to see some trends forming.  The trends I am learning you about are the bullpen usage rates.  Not every team follows an A to B to C type formulas, and it would be nice, but usage rates in certain situations, even 15 games into the season, peak their heads out for fantasy usefulness.  The ancillary stats that no one really notices, and that I use all year, are runners inherited and appearances with the lead.  All key factors for what a reliever is and what they are at sustaining.  The inherited runners stat is a ruiner, not only for themselves but for the pitchers they are replacing.  Basically a sad trombone in the case of reliever sad trombones.  The appearances with the lead factor is what we all eat our Holds and gravy with.  It basically says that they are pitching with a lead, granted, holds are scored the same as a save.  So all that less than four runs runner on deck shenanigans that people made up for it to qualify.  So welcome to the first Holds/bullpens post of the year as we embark on a road far less traveled then it should.  Holds matter, regardless of color.

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I think the biggest question I always get when I’m out for dinner trying to inconspicuously eat is: Who should I cuff and when should I start drafting handcuffs for the inevitable closerpocalypse?  My advice is always: As soon as I am done eating, I will tell you.  I then proceed to give them the Irish goodbye and smile as I gleefully think that I got the best of them.  But in all seriousness, the biggest question is: Do I cuff myself or do I cuff someone else’s closer?  Me personally, I am a “cuff someone else’s” kinda guy.  This way, it gives you better odds to have another closer.  Where as if you cuff yourself, you are only replacing what you already drafted to expect.  So in theory, look for the best cuff options that you currently don’t own and steal them from someone else.  Leaving them short and for you, the possible plus one.  So with this theory in mind, I have made a list of the guys that I would want to draft first, second and so on.  I have done closer lists with their back-ups, holds guys, and the pecking order and now you get the best handcuff options to draft and sit on.  Enjoy!

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In what very well may be the first hostile takeover of the closer year, we turn our eyes to the land of Primanti’s and Yinzers.  Yes my friends, I am talking about Pittsburgh.  The incumbent closer there, Tony Watson, has had a rough spring training.  One that usually I would brush aside and say “ehh ST stats mean bupkis” and he has the vet preference behind him to back him up.  I usually believe that type of big brother back-up mentality, but not when they signed a free agent who was viewed by several other clubs as a closer, that player being Daniel Hudson.  So before we get to Danny, let’s stay on Tony Watson for a bit.  He is the 19th closer off the board in most scenarios, which by all intents and purposes puts him in the lower-middle.  Last season he only took over the closer’s role after the trade of Melancon and notched himself 15 saves on the year.  But they weren’t all comfy ones.  Tony Watson is a phenomenal relief pitcher, notice, I said “relief pitcher”.  In my mind, he is just not a closer.  A closer by default last year though?   Very much so.  Now, you add the tumultuous spring that he is having; faced 24 batters, allowed eight hits, walked three and eight ER in four-and-a-third innings. good for a 16 plus ERA.  Looking for a silver lining, okay, there are two!  Zero home runs allowed and a K-rate above 12.  Yah… for peripheral stats, Hudson has been basically himself this spring, high-K middle-3 ERA, and holding opponents to a .200 BAA, while everyone is hitting Teddy Ballgame against Watson.  I am not completely panicking yet, because in reality I would have two higher ranked RP before Tony Watson comes off the board, but those looking to get a cheeky head-start on the SAGNOF craze, grab you some Daniel Hudson.  So for the first invasion of the season, I am flying the Jolly Roger upside down for distress.  Let’s see what else is going down for the end game of ballgames…

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A funny thing happened on my way to work today, I sat there in my favorite sitting place and did some research.  I looked at the availability of information provided by the other experts in the world of fantasy baseball, and then correlated that to what I do best.  That, my friends, is bullpens.  We as a collective fantasy universe play in leagues with the illusive yet sultry stat category known as the Hold.  In fact, in some further research that I have done, an estimated 30% of all fantasy players play in a league with some sort of Hold associated with the final outcome in the standings.  I mean, 30% is basically like winning the popular vote.  [Jay’s Note: I love you Smokey.] But I am standing here aghast at the amount of research poured into this fantasy industry by experts all around the world, yet here I sit.  Giving you the most diverse, in-depth, informative (yet funny), and groundbreaking stat analysis that not even world-wide leaders give… for free might I add.  I love me some bullpens, and if you don’t play in a league that adds diversity to the game to include them, then maybe you should down shift a bit and give it some thought and do a league that includes it.  Don’t do it for me, do it for yourself.  Because this way I gain, at least one reader from each person that does it.  Go search the inter-webs for holds type information, you get a column sorted catastrophe written by some intern who doesn’t know the difference between good and well.  So stay here my friends, I am the goods through and through. I dropped the Holds chart weeks ago and now you get just straight cheddar and some rankings.

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Some day somebody’s gonna make you want to turn around and say goodbye.  Until then baby, are you going to let them hold you down and make you cry? Don’t you know?  Don’t you know things can change, things’ll go your way, if you hold on for one more day.  

That music of genius was brought on by a smooth impromptu karaoke session in a West Boston saloon.  It was me and Ralph and a girl who was paid by the dollar to talk to us about her kid.  It’s all a true story.  Fun times were had, and at the time I didn’t realize how correlative the song was back then to this particular stat category and one that is by far my favorite to talk about.  Funny, it only took a Wilson Phillips song on the drive home from work to reminisce about Boston, Ralph, and relief pitching.  I love the stat, not everyone uses it, but I still love it nonetheless. If your leagues uses it, cool, well I will be your every other week destination for giving you the low-down on the hold situations going across the MLB.  So get comfy, with a week to go until Spring Training starts, and the full extent of the 2017 season yet to play.  You will get sick of me, in say… 30 weeks.  So get comfy on your favorite porcelain fantasy reading chair and welcome to a brand new year!

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The Phils have a game plan, and it looks a something like this:  trade and/or sign washed-out AL East starters.  Worked last year with Jeremy Hellickson, and now they’ve traded for Clay Buchholz.  This is the first trade where I can declaratively state both teams won and I don’t even know who Josh Tobias is, the infielder the Phils sent to the Red Sox.  Yes, I used declaratively.  Watch out, reading comprehension!  Looks like Tobias has some speed, but it doesn’t matter.  The Sox needed Buchholz off their team because they have a set rotation without him, and the NL East is about as good a landing place can be, even if Citizens Flank is slightly offensive-minded, and I don’t just mean the insults that rain down from the stands.  “The only time the Phils ever strung three W’s together is with their website.”  That’s a Philly fan.  “Now lean down so I can puke on you.”  That’s the same Phils fan.  Buchholz looks to be in possession of all his pitches that he had when he had a 3.30 xFIP in 2015.  Of course, those pitches couldn’t have looked more pear-shaped than last year with his 5.32 xFIP.  Honestly, I think he could be anywhere from a 3.50 ERA pitcher to a 4.50 ERA one.  Is he a mixed league starter?  Maybe as a streamer, or if he starts off well, but not out of the gate, as they say in horse racing.  For NL-Only, I’m going to like him as a late-round flyer.  For 2017, I’ll give him the projections of 8-10/4.07/1.31/117 in 145 IP.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the offseason for 2017 fantasy baseball:

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Ryon Healy couldn’t have come at a better time for the A’s.  Their corner infidels were about as weaksauce as they come.  Mark Canha?  More like Can’t-hit.  Andrew Lambo?  More like ‘that Lambo is bahhhd.’  Yonder Alonso?  More like ‘over Yonder’ as in everyone’s over him in value.  Though, looking at Healy’s minor league numbers, he doesn’t look much better.  However, Josh Donaldson wasn’t much to look at in the A’s minor league system either.  It wasn’t until he came up and the A’s adjusted his swing to get more lift than a Beverly Hills surgeon.  Not saying in 2017, Healy will be Donaldson, but we shouldn’t write him off as a 15-homer hitter either, as his minor league numbers may indicate.  Why didn’t the A’s give Canha, Lambo, Alonso and others the patented lift?  An anecdote to illustrate:  for a few months, I wore shoe heels like Tom Cruise to give myself an extra two inches.  It was impossible to tell I had them in, they elongated me!  I looked like Fred Astaire (as old people told me)!  But after a few months, I got bunions the size of pearl onions and couldn’t walk.  I had to stop with the lift because it wasn’t natural and making things worse.  Maybe those other players couldn’t do the lift because it didn’t feel natural to them.  Of course, none of this matters for this year.  I’d grab Healy for the last ten days.  Doode’s fahrenhot!  Doode is straight butter that a professional hibachi chef puts on a sizzling lobster tail!  Doode’s Kurt Russell in Backdraft!  Healy is a social worker at a female prison that married a Russian mail-order bride!  Wait, that last one is a plot point for a Netflix show.  Anyway, here’s some more players to Buy or Sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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When it’s fourth and long and 20 years ago, I believe the old song from the sea goes… You don’t look at the stats to date, especially when it’s with two weeks to play. What is ahead of you is all that matters. There is no loyalty, this isn’t the time to dance with the date you brought to the dance. You are looking for stats in any shape or form, period. So I give you the list, yes, the list is the bible of what guys are and what they have done for the year, but if you have an inkling that player A is going to save three games compared to player B getting one, then that answers your own question and you have deemed me useless. It kinda hurts that you deem me useless, but I will move on. I have been through a few relationships where it was a “it’s you not me” type scenario. Regardless, I have taken pride in bringing you the best that I can give in terms of fantasy bullpen type goodies on a weekly basis. After all, it is the readers of fantasy that make fantasy go round. So I would like to say thank you, no there is at best two more post to end the year but I wanted to say thank you now since we still have some attention span left instead of steering it towards fantasy football, which is awesome and you should go check out what Jay and the boys (and girls) are dishing out top notch type stuff. Before you click over to that, stay here for some fantasy bullpen chicanery and knowledge courtesy of your’s truly.

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