Sneaky free K’s are all the rage for a streaming option when a starter just won’t do.  The numbers they put up are more of a collection-basis rather than a hunt, play and punt.  Relievers, not just closers, are the container that transports the glue.  Can you imagine glue not coming in a container and just being had at the local sundry store by the handful?  Messy proposition my friends.  Non-closers are what every complete fantasy team need.  They are like the egg in a good recipe – you can often substitute one reliever for another.  That’s what makes them so handy… they don’t usually carry a huge draft day burden.  They are basically free waiver-wire adds.  For those in holds leagues, that doesn’t always ring true, and when I start getting into the preseason hold rankings, some of the names will be similar.  That’s because the names you want just don’t give you holds, they give you multiple stats.  They are the five-tool performers in the industry of relief pitchers.  So here is a little preseason primer for guys who don’t really adorn too much draft day attention, but should be snagged in situations that require their services when you are short on K potential and maximizing the K/9 of your fantasy roster…

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You know, this signing of Zack Greinke with the Diamondbacks isn’t much of a surprise since Greinke is so intellectually driven and Phoenix is on the cutting edge of cyber-learning.  Did you know 1 out of 24 graduates from the University of Phoenix go on to make six figures?  Of course, 1 out of 24 graduates from the University of Phoenix are chosen to be in their commercials and paid $100,000.  That gives me an idea, we should start a college and charge students $200,000 for a 4-year degree, then hire every graduate for $24,000/year.  Shoot, every college and company are already working this scheme.  Any hoo!  Zack Greinke goes to the Diamondbacks and takes a hit in his value or will take multiple hits on his value.  Don’t think the Dodgers are really that much better offensively than the D-Backs.  Actually, they’re worse.  So, it’s not a hit due to chance for wins.  It’s a hit due to home stadium change.  Arizona’s decidedly a hitters’ park and the Casa de Doyers is not.  Arizona is around top five for hitting, whereas Dodger Stadium is around bottom five.  Things sway yearly, but Chase Field has had years in the top two for offense, only sniffing Coors’ butt.  Mean’s while, Dodger Stadium has had years in the bottom three for all offense, only staying in front of Safeco and Petco.  I doubt Greinke falls back to a 4+ ERA pitcher he was his last year on the Royals, but he was a 3.83 ERA pitcher in another hitting-friendly park in Milwaukee, and that’s not so good.   Oh, and Greinke is 32 years old.  Yeah, you don’t need a degree from the University of Phoenix to know this deal could go sideways real fast.  For 2016, I’ll give him the projections of 15-8/3.54/1.16/194 in 210 IP and someone I am not going near.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the offseason for 2016 fantasy baseball:

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The Cardinals never not produce prospects out of nowhere.  Double negatives don’t not be damned.  Or is that be damned?  There’s likely hundreds if not thousands (maybe five or six) prospects that have come out of nowhere for the Cardinals.  The big one I can think of is Albert Pujols.  Pujols was originally signed as the 402nd pick overall and turned down an offer of $10,000 to play instead in the National Baseball Congress, against Dick Gephardt and Nancy Pelosi.  Finally, he signed with the Cardinals when no one else wanted him.  We know how that turned out.  Jason Motte was a 19th round selection in 2003, and he was still closing games this year (though for the Cubs).  In 2001, the Cards drafted a little known shortstop, Michael J. Fox, in the last round and he had a fine career in sitcoms and starring film roles.  So, Thomas Pham was drafted in the 16th round of 2006 and came up with little fanfare.  “Little fanfare?”  No way, this is St. Louis baseball, we have the best fans yadda whatever!  Pham was considered a fringe prospect at best and a Thai beef salad at worst.  Could’ve Pham just got lost in the shuffle?  In 2014, he had 10 HRs, 20 SBs, hitting .324 in Triple-A.  Then, with no room to play in the majors, he went back to Triple-A this year and hit 6 HRs with 9 SBs and a .327 average in 48 games.  He’s likely more interesting in fantasy than real baseball, but, guess what, you numbnuts, we’re talking about fantasy.  For 2016 fantasy baseball, I could see him being a 14 HR, 25 SB, .280 hitter, who gets a huge boost if he stays at the top of the order as he’s been doing thus far.  For right now, Pham’s hitting near-.400 in the last week, and taking this back to the beginning with Pujols, he’s in the two-hole with his Phamy jewels.  Anyway, here’s some more players to Buy or Sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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Late season injuries and minor league call-ups are one thing.   Just not doing your job is an utter disgrace.  Bruce Rondon was sent home, literally, because of lack of effort.  Holy stereotypes.  Because getting out of bed, traveling first class and then having to pitch one whole inning a game in the oft-chance that your team may be winning.  Yeah, that sounds impossible to me to keep up with.  For now the Tigers will roll with a combination of Neftali Feliz and Alex Wilson.  So anyone looking for 3-4 saves til the end of the year can be rewarded with the plight of Rondon and his poor work effort.  I wouldn’t expect a treasure trove of riches, the Tigers rank in the bottom five in saves, save opps., bullpen ERA, blown saves, and believe it or not, balks by the bullpen.   I know that last stat is bupkiss, but when is the last time you ever read a balk stat in a reliever post?  It just happened for the first time in history and I am officially placing a copyright on it. So this is the final rankings for the year for closers I will do an end of the year wrap up next week with lots of zany stuff.

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Everyone likes maximizing stuff, hell, it’s the reason we shop at Costco for wholesale BJ’s. [Jay’s Note: They have that at Costco? I thought it was just hot dogs and slices… I’ve been doing it wrong.]  Wait that’s not right, not completely wrong, but off-topic slightly.  So maximizing, we are all looking to divest our teams with the best stat stuffers as possible, and the K department is tough to make up when you are chasing it.  So how can you make it up slightly?  Well relax, I am here to point you in the right direction like a well-trained German Shorthair.  So everyone knows the top guys and then the handcuffs, but what about the guys who are owned tiny amounts in almost every format, but have been lighting it up the last few weeks? (And they are just as good as the known guys.)  Sounds good to me, though, I did just write it so I kinda have to believe it.  The trick is getting you to buy into it.  If you’re losing, and not everyone is in first place in every league, you may wanna peer at what I have to say.  So bullpens are where we need to focus and sometimes it gets tricky because of the limitations on roster size sometimes.  So analyze your roster and keep that in mind with space and such.  The relievers that have SP eligibility and give you the best stats are like a chick who has a sense of humor.  So stick around, it’s a bit of a change up on the week’s review of holds fellas.

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The ESPYS are coming soon, so I decided it might be time to nominate some relief pitchers for mid-season hardware and steal a little bit of ESPN’s ESPYS thunder (that’s just wrong on more than one level) in the process.  Anyway, I’ll soon be handing an award to one of the relief pitchers with a chance to regress in a bad way and I’m calling these awards the Jurrjy’s because Jair Jurrjens was a pitcher that was as up and down as I can recall a pitcher being.  He was (is, I could say, after all he still exists, somewhere) a BABIP dependent* pitcher because of a low strikeout rate.  For instance, here are his 2011 1st half/2nd half  ERA splits: 1.87 in 110.2 1st half innings vs 5.88 in a small sample of 41.1 second half innings.  While it might have been better to pick a reliever to name this after, I can’t think of anyone that fits the description better than Jair Jurrjens.  The only problem is, I’m not sure if the “winner” is the one whose ERA regresses the most or the one who maintains the mirage.  I guess that’s up to the Academy to decide.  So without further ado, your 2015 Jurrjy nominees in the “rising ERA” category are:  Steve Delabar, middle reliever, Toronto Blue Jays (1.42 ERA /4.05 FIP).  Bryan Shaw, middle reliever, Cleveland Indians (2.10 ERA /4.62 FIP).  Joakim Soria, closer, Detroit Tigers (2.73 ERA /5.09 FIP).  Brad Ziegler, closer, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.45 ERA /3.78 FIP), Darren O’Day, middle reliever, Baltimore Orioles (1.21 ERA /3.17 FIP), and JJ Hoover, middle reliever, Cincinnati Reds (1.31 ERA / 3.10 FIP).  (*This article basically claims that pitcher BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) is 75% luck, 13% defense, and 12% pitcher’s skill).

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Rajai Davis is, once again, a SAGNOF-ian legend.  Again, again, again, was exactly what he did on Saturday when the 34-year-old outfielder stole 3 bases.  This year he might just be the best fantasy player of all those playing only part time (the other player fighting for this honor, in my opinion, is Alex Guerrero).  He has 6 stolen bases despite starting in only 9 of 18 games through Saturday for the Tigers.  Digging up some career stats I see that he’s never needed much playing time to rack up the SBs.  Since he broke out with 41 stolen bases in 2009 he’s averaged 42 steals per season while at the same time averaging only 124.5 games played.  And many of those games weren’t starts.

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I’m a value oriented fantasy manager.  I’m not a believer in positional scarcity and I take that approach (aka meritocracy) to my draft by relying largely on projections.  When evaluating my slumping players I look at their projections and peripherals to see if the slump means anything.  When looking at the hot players in the player pool I take the same approach.  I am going to make recommendations to you based on these approaches.  For the next in line closers it means recommending players with good projections but also considering each players chance to close in the future.  For base stealers it means making sure the player won’t destroy your AVG or at least letting you know if he’s going to.

This week in SAGNOF (Saves Ain’t Got No Face) Recap: Early last week Adam Ottavino ascended into the closer role for Colorado and it looks at the very least to be semi-permanent.  He was previously my 7th best next in line closer to own.  Formerly my 2nd best next in line closer to own, Joakim Soria had ascended due to an injury to Joe Nathan, who should be back soon and will regain his closer role.  Jordan Walden notched a save last night but it appears Trevor Rosenthal was being given the night off.  Now onto this week’s recommendations…

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Why does it seem like there’s always more closer situations in flux in the first week than at any other time?  Well, whether that’s true or not, this year was no different.  Don’t even try to think about what that actually means.  Here’s your sumary: By Thursday there were already three new closers, then Sunday we had two old guys getting worked like speed bags at your local gym.

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Some people consider it a made up stat, I say hogwash or peeee-shaw.  For the people who play in the leagues where the stat matters, it matters.  That’s about as devout as I can get since I had to sell my soapbox to pay for my addiction of collectible thimbles.  Now, I get it, the Hold stat isn’t for everyone. The basis of actually being a stat is wonky at best. These guys do more than just come in for one inning or one batter, they hold your periph numbers in check.  If you don’t believe, that’s fine, I don’t believe myself half the time.  Heck, I have no reading comprehension, so it’s more of a “in one ear out the other” type thing.  See, I already forgot what I was discussing here.  So this year, some of the top options that are going to be the go-to-holds guys are actually jumping up and taking the starring role for their teams due to injury. So I will delve into a few situations to monitor from a Holds perspective, as well as a nice handy chart with some predictions on the side of caution for the top-20 middle relievers, in terms of them garnering the coveted stat of the Hold.

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