What if I told you that the top-four teams last year in Holds didn’t make the playoffs?  I know the obvious answer would be: it’s a made-up stat that does nothing but clog a fantasy roster with fodder and otherwise un-rosterable relievers.  Well, if you said that out loud, then I am mad at you and you can not come to the Razzball Winter Dance Carnival.  No, but seriously, I get offended when people make such determinations.  Listen, you are either in a league that uses Holds or you aren’t.  Not all of these guys is basically like having a second doorstop (when one doorstop will do).  Many of these guys are usable in most formats as ratio gaps in K/9, looking for cheap wins or for a slow day of waiver wire madness.  My theory on any league is to roster any two relievers that are non-closers at all times.  At worst, they decimate your rates for one day.  At best they give you an inning or two and give you great rates and a few K’s.  Now, for Holds leagues, I am a hoarder.  I live by this simple motto. Two pairs and a wild, just like five-card poker. It stands for two closers, two stud holds guys, and a streamer.  In moves leagues, it’s a little more difficult to do, but in non-move limited league, it’s a fun way to just basically win your Holds category by August, save yourself the innings/starts and then stream the holy hell out of the last seven weeks.  So since you have searched around the web and found zero other info on the topic (yeah, I looked, so take that), here are the holds tiers and sleepers for the 2016 year.

“A Hold is credited any time a relief pitcher enters a game in a Save Situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead. Note: a pitcher cannot finish the game and receive credit for a Hold, nor can he earn a hold and a save.” ~ The edited out part of the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln.

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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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It’s telling over a period of time, taken into account the teams success rate naturally, how well their bullpen is performing. Take a look at the Texas Rangers over the last 30 days.  They are a 19-10 and steaming toward playoff relevance… maybe.  During that time they had 17 save/hold situations.  Those of you that can’t count well, that is a lot. Leading the charge for them has been bullpen recall and future closer dubbed by me Keone Kela, who over that same 30 day period is contributing a hold basically every third game with 8.  As a team, they have 28 team holds which is more than the White Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Athletics and Mets… combined.  So basically they are the Costco of holds for those who like to buy in bulk.  Kela isn’t alone in his fantasy hold-em,  Sam Dyson has kicked in 7, Jake Diekman 6 and Sam Freeman with 4.  The best part of this whole thing is that the latter three guys were not on the roster to start the year.  I love that kind of stuff, that’s like wearing matching t-shirts with your friends whether it be on purpose or not.  Awesomely awkward.  Stick it here for some more bullpen tidbits and a fancy chart with gadgets and numbers that show an order.  Cheers!

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When your team is battling for a playoff spot, what’s the most important thing?  Winning.  Winning out of the bullpen is a thing that is not predictable, I get it, but when your team goes 7-0 from the bullpen in the last 14 games, that is just a damn near beautiful thing if you love bullpens as much as I… I mean, you may not, but that’s cool (maybe).  You have your love interests… invested in beanie babies or all your Gregg Jefferies’ rookie cards that your whole childhood fortune is invested in… Just saying, you should probably move out of your mom’s basement or branch out from the family business for a bit.  As a whole, the Pirates are a top-3 club for bullpen ERA, and are led by the king of Holds currently: Tony Watson.  Him and his merry men of “set-uphood” have completely just wrecked shop out of the pen lately, their ERA is 1.21 and they have allowed just a measly 34 hits in 52 innings.  Take it from me, that is getting the job done.  The addition of Joakim Soria has lengthened their bullpen to the point where Jared HughesJoe Blanton, and Arquimedes Caminero are in prime win plucking spots.  Yeah, I just used Joe Blanton in a fantasy write-up, and no it’s not 2000-never.  So stick around as I wax symbolic about other bullpen situations arising as we stream towards the fantasy baseball playoffs.

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I was in my IROC at a red light when a Camaro Z28 pulled alongside, revving the engine. I knew he wanted to race, so I pushed the button for my rear spoiler to emerge that reads, “Spoiler Alert: You Suck!” and spun my wheels until smoke enveloped both cars, then…I burned away from him! Turned out, the light was still red, I narrowly avoided hitting a few pedestrians and the Camaro Z28 was actually a cop. While the police officer was writing me a ticket, I got to thinking about how I’m always out in front of things. Whether it’s telling you to avoid Cano or draft Bryce, Donaldson or Arenado, it’s like I see the future. Sure, my Magic 8 Ball has a few blind spots, like the cop, red light, pedestrians diving out of the way and Gyorko, but I still beat him through the light. With this said, you need to get through the red light and get to Jon Lester first. Save conjecture and anecdotal evidence for the tales you tell your grandkiddies one day about your fantasy team, assuming you’re still talking about the imaginary team that got away in forty years. I know I will about Ryan Klesko’s 1-for-4 on the final day of the 2001 season that cost me everything. Everything! I mean, I already sent my bedroom wall measurements to ESPN for the championship pennant! So, what we know is Jon Lester used to pitch for the Red Sox, where Epstein was the GM. They are Peaches and Herb, and reunited does feel so good. Would Epstein go out and get damaged goods that he knew so well? Seems unlikely. Lester’s velocity is essentially the same this year as last, his K/9 is .2 different, which is nothing. His walk rate is up, and June has been his worst month for control (2.9 BB/9). From year to year, his walk rate went from an even 2 to (stutterer!) 2.3. Not a huge difference, but it’s there. Well, last year his May walk rate was 3.6 and ERA was 3.90, so he even had bad months last year, and his ERA last year was 2.46. It now sits at 4.25, and his BABIP is .344, which is unlucky. Yadda squared, what do all of these numbers mean?! It means Lester could have four months of a 2.50 ERA from here until September and it wouldn’t surprise me at all. I’d absolutely go out and buy him. Now, if you’ll excuse me *rear spoiler emerges, tires spin, car darts out into traffic* Spoiler Alert: You Suck! Anyway, here’s some more players to Buy or Sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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His name is Bills because his parents were told at the hospital that you can’t put an apostrophe in a name, and got mixed up when the nurse asked, “Whose birth certificate will this be?” and they said, “Bills.” Bills is now 34 and wears jorts and an American flag tie-dyed t-shirt all year. Same ones. Doesn’t have five dozen of the same shirt and jorts, but Bills sometimes tells people he does. Bills’s jorts remain fresh because he washes them every night, though this has caused them to fray. Bills has one love, fireworks on July 4th. Bills travels all around the Midwest, picking up fireworks at 24-hour fireworks stores. Bills laughs when people question why a fireworks store would be open 24 hours a day. Bills says, “For when you can’t sleep.” Now, if Bills were to set up all his fireworks on July 3rd and fire them off at midnight on July 4th, Bills would be Jeff Luhnow. On Sunday, Carlos Correa was called up, and wasting no time, he followed that up with Vincent Velasquez, the Astros prized pitching prospect. His fireworks cannon was filled, and he’s firing! Prospector Mike said this offseason, “While Mark Appel pushes into #2 starter territory, Velasquez sits comfortably with #3 starter upside and shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s got Tommy John on the books already and missed some time this past year with a groin issue, so his development has been slowed a bit, but he’s got two plus pitches in his fastball/changeup and he survived a 55 inning stint at High-A Lancaster. Despite the missed time, Velasquez could see the majors quickly thanks to above average command of his fastball. To give you an idea of a different above-average command, ‘Die, Grey, die.'” Hey, what’s the big idea?! This year in Double-A, Velasquez had a 12.7 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 1.37 ERA. Basically, drool, drool and more drool. I tried to grab him in every league, but I was too slow. He’s worth the flyer to see if he surprises hitters with his 95 MPH fastball and devastating change. There’s a real chance here for some fireworks for Bills. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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The title comes from Rudyard Gamble’s novel about a young Astros prospect named Carlos Correa that is saved by a non-Portuguese man named Jeff. Jeff Luhnow is his full name, and he’s the only straight man named Jeff in the northern hemisphere. A point that Rudyard only alludes to in the 4th chapter, when he says, “As he read the Doppler radar outputs that track the ball in three dimensions, Jeff chewed corn from the cob, careful to not disturb his mustache that still had the fragrance of a dame.” The adventure novel is full of twists and turns. Correa is signed as a 17-year-old in 2012 and hits, then is called up to Single-A and hits, then is called up to High-A and hits, then is called up to Double-A–Now that I think about it, it’s pretty straightforward. Not too many twists. Correa hits everywhere he goes. According to the novel, Correa even succeeds when he comes upon a fellmonger on the Appalachian plain. Rudyard’s adventure novel first appeared in serialisation form in SABReader’s Digest underneath the horoscope. A fact that once disturbed Rudyard, but when his horoscope read, “The two-plus months of waiting are over, Correa’s being called up,” even he took pause. Any the hoo! I already went over my Carlos Correa fantasy about two weeks ago. I told everyone to grab him then, so the same holds true now. If you don’t think you have room, think of the trouble Jeff, Rudyard and Correa went through to make this possible. Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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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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