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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This morning, I decided to look at my deepest NL-only league to see who the highest-ranked player who went undrafted was. It didn’t take long to find him: as of Tuesday morning, Anthony Senzatela was ranked as the eleventh most valuable pitcher in standard, mixed 5×5 fantasy baseball leagues. My NL–only league includes a fairly complex farm system as well, so it is beyond hard to find a diamond in the rough, since most minor league players with any decent prospect status at all were drafted years ago. It’s clear why Senzatela slipped through the cracks, though – he was a mid-level prospect at best, who entered spring training as a long shot to be part of a pitching rotation in the worst pitchers’ ballpark baseball has ever seen…

Will Senzatela still be the eleventh best pitcher in fantasy at the end of 2017? Uh, no. We’d have to expect some major bumps along the way even if half of his starts weren’t going to come at Coors Field. But he’s owned in just 20% of Yahoo leagues (21% of ESPN), which I think is too low. I am basing this almost entirely on the gut feeling I had while watching him pitch. In fantasy, upside can be overrated: just ask the Robert Stephenson owner in the league I mentioned above. Stephenson has been taking up a minor league spot on his owner’s roster for four years now. Even worse, now that he’s on the big club and his owner feels pot-committed to him, Stephenson and his 5.40 ERA are taking up a valuable active roster spot. There is no guarantee that even the highest-ranked prospects will even reach star status, either in real baseball or the fantasy variety. Taking a flyer on gut feeling won’t always work out either, and sometimes can be fairly disastrous, but it’s a risk that I think you need to take from time to time in a deep league. Otherwise, how will you ever find this year’s Junior Guerra — that guy whose past statistics make you absolutely sick to your stomach, but looks damn good on the mound every time you watch him pitch… and before you know it, has been a major contributor to the success of your single-league team.

Moving on to some other deeper-league names, starting with the AL…

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True story:  I was walking through the mall in spandex shorts and a headband, strutting really.  The year was 1981.  I was perhaps the most handsome, well-groomed five-year-old the planet had seen.  Okay, a seven-year-old pretending to be a five-year-old.  Who wants to be older?  Not me, Cousin Sweatpants.  So, I’m cruising for chicks, crushing the scenario, when I see this total fox.  I stop her and ask for a name.  She says, “Jennifer Beals,” and I say, “You’re gonna be a star, kid,” then covering my mouth I say how her fame will be short-lived but how she will get some decent character work later in life.  I spotted her sex appeal two years prior to her breakout role in Flashdance.  I can always spot sex appeal.  It’s my cross to bear.  Speaking of crosses to bear, holy Jesus Harry Christ my Tout Wars team is sexy!  The league is 12-team, two-catcher, NL-Only and perhaps the most respected fantasy league in the country.  Sure, we’re still mocked by 99.9% of the world, but a solid chunk of other fantasy baseballers respect the Tout!  Anyway, here’s my Tout Wars team and some thoughts:

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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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With the season winding down and most H2H leagues in full-on go mode, this week’s holds post will be the last one of the year.  I know, so sad, right?  It has been a 25-week journey into the pits and pendulums that are fantasy bullpens.  But with the conclusion, it is always good to look ahead to next year for everyone in keeper, dynasty or just anyone looking to get a jump on next year now.  I mean, I never stop really doing bullpen research all year, I drink one can of beer at a time and then look to the bottom of the can to see if the answer or answers are printed on the bottom.  Alas, I haven’t found one yet, but that won’t stop me from trying again and again in my ever search for bullpen enlightenment. Things to look for late in the year for future bullpen potential; high leverage usage, a great success with stranded runners and a great situational involvement in that teams bullpen moving forward. Just a P.S., those are the things I give you with every bullpen piece in my helpful chart. Yes that last one is tough because we never know who will be traded and add or subtract value from another, but great bullpen arms on one team with potential for holds, saves and just overall decent fantasy return are very rarely ever traded and don’t return to same spot with new team.  So put your feet up, I have 10 more beers left before this post is done…

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As the season draws nigh, and it comes to the point in the season when we here at Razzball use words like nigh, verisimilitude, or even rancorous.  Don’t ask me what the meaning is, because I could barely spell them without my handy speak and spell.  The whole gist of this discussion is to basically look at our roster and think diversification.  Look at the bullpen pieces that currently occupy one or several of  your pitcher spots.  I say this because we all want counting stats at all times, and in a manner… this is why come the end of the year, it is very sexy to have guys who have multiple pitching eligibility for the off chance your don’t have a starter going in a spot or on an innings limit.  These fellas help out in K’s, rates, vulture wins, and since we are here for the holds, they do them too.  Listen, this isn’t a new thing or a crazy theory that I concocted in my basement after painting too man model airplanes.  Though, the thought process after that is kinda cloudy and sorta fun? So here is a rundown of the guys with some dual eligibility late in the fame to aide in your fantasy quest. Cheers!

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If history teaches us anything about fantasy baseball, it’s that the proof is in the pudding.  If history actually teaches us anything, it’s that Brad Pitt killed Hektor.  See what I did there, I pulled the ole okie doke.  It’s a favorable trick passed down through the years of dudes who vape and like to talk about how a dime won’t even buy a nickle anymore.  Those first few sentences are brought to you by filth and non-sense, because life isn’t fitting if there isn’t filthy or nonsensical.  So onto Holds, which about six actual readers, and one of the female variety still get all excited about.  The title says it all this week for the lede, Hector Neris has been carried in most formats all year because he brings some fantasy goodness to the table.  As a handcuff, there’s no way he can do it for the whole year, even with Jeanmar, or the fact that he has sexy enough reliever numbers, 11-plus K-rate, under 3 ERA.  I could go on and on and bore the crap out of you, but let’s just put it this way: he has 27 Holds behind a closer that has 34 saves for a surprise bullpen asset in the Phillies.  So in the last two weeks with the Phil’s getting there fair share of victories he has been an augmenter to your hold total notching a league high 5 holds.  He is a key cog down the stretch for not only the Phils , but for your fantasy team regardless of format.  So go take a look, just in case the late year shuffle has thrown him by the wayside.  After you do that follow the bottom for some Holds, set-up and other relief goodies…

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The holds leaderboard has been basically demolished as guys have switched roles. Three out of the top-10 holds guys (Bettances, Herrera, and Watson) currently are holding down the closer roles for their respective teams.  Add in two more from the top-20 (Andrew Miller and Ken Giles) and you can see that 20% of the entire holds leaders are double dipping in stats.  Not always a bad thing, but when you are counting on one stat from a guy and then it switches to another, it detracts from the previous.  Have no fear, because the bullpen aficionado is here to steer you through the muck and mire that is the bullpen shuffle.  So for this week, we are going to look at guys who aren’t in a closing role.  I have taken current closers out of the equation for the chart, because this is a holds piece and we don’t want “their kind” infiltrating the holds stuff.  So be active on the waiver wire as we come down to the end of the season, there should be no commitment in the relief game.

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Sometimes you ask and you shall receive and in that vein, I begin this month’s Razznasty update. Now I know the two questions you’re asking, what did you ask for and receive? And which vein? First, it’s the main vein, you know the one in the middle…. Secondly, I asked our very own Hippo in the bush Matt Truss to make a push in the standings over the course of June so I could name the next update “Can’t Truss It”. Done and done. I told Mr. Truss-ah Truss that I’d dress as Flavor Flav from this video while I wrote it. Truss, that I held up my end of the bargain, picture me decked out in white tuxedo with top hat and Batman glasses. Unfortunately I can’t share with all of you due to a shortage on the correct cartridges for my vintage Polaroid Sun 600. Sorry boys, and whatever number of girls are reading this year. I believe we were up to five, but we might have lost a few after the Jose Canseco interview. There’s nothing that upsets the ladies more than invasive question about Madonna’s early 90’s sperm brokering. Enough of the bollocks, onto the Razznasty update for June. Dynasty League Baseball at it’s finest.

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Whatever your cultivation of choice may be, go with it.  Oscar Gamble was, and is still a pimp in social culture, as is California sensemilia.  So whatever your subset of life is, that’s cool with me.  My obsession is a little of column A, a lot of column B, and I incorporate column C.  Column C being my love and passion for the deliverance of the most finite bullpen jargon on the web.  Go look, there isn’t anything better than me.  I checked, if I added a pretty colorful chart with catchy funny names, then I would literally have to kick my own ass.  So here we sit, and look at what the Rangers are doing.  They have been doing, in the last 30 days what the Cubs did over the first 30.  They are, in no large part, being buoyed by a stout bullpen.  Their starters are all hitting the DL and fast.  The trio of Matt Bush, Jake Diekman, and Sam Dyson are about as tight as a bullpen can get, and the best group I have seen since the Isley Brothers concert Prospector Ralph and I went to see.  I have talked about Dyson and Diekman on separate occasions this year.  So no, it’s the one without voting privileges turn.  Bush has basically been a la machina since promotion on May 12th.  He has appeared in 13 games for the Rangers to date, and his usage has only recently spiked having pitched in 13 of the last 22 overall for the Rangers.  His 10-plus K-rate over that time is coupled with an ERA under a buck and his xFIP is basically what David Phelps is giving you.  Who, in most hold leagues right now, is pretty much a must own and isn’t a guy you yawn at in mixed company leagues either.  Bush is a feel good story that I think can continue as long as the Rangers can duct tape their starting rotation together long enough to maintain their AL West dominance.  He should be rostered in most leagues going forward for his usage potential as the remaining Rangers starters, minus Cole Hamels, average less than 6 innings per start.  So head for the mountains and roster some Bush.  Stick with me for some other diatribes of greatness…

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