The best haircut I ever received was from a bald man. I don’t usually get anything fancy — just a trim here, a buzz there. Throughout my life I went through all the same generational hair trends of men currently in their mid-30’s. As a pre-schooler in the early-90’s my Mom spiked my hair straight up a la Bart Simpson because who was cooler than the Bart man? Then in the mid-90’s, I transitioned to the Jonathan Taylor Thomas Home Improvement middle part because all the girls thought he was so cute. In the early 2000’s  I jumped on board the ‘Caesar’ bandwagon popularized by George Clooney in his ER/From Dusk Till Dawn days and that’s pretty much where I’ve remained. Low maintenance, good enough, it was “The Rachel” for men! Back to the point of this story — the bald man. Who better to appreciate hair than a bald man? I got out of his chair looking like a million bucks and the bald man was proud of his work. 

What does this have to do with fantasy baseball, you ask? In my 14-team home league, I’m punting saves. Correction — I’m punting saves + holds. 

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You’re traveling through another dimension — a dimension not only of coaching decisions and slow catchers but of plate appearances. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of your lineup slots. That’s a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the stolen base zone! 

Not too long ago on this very site, I wrote an article about which catchers had the slowest pop times and worst caught stealing percentages

Even less long ago I wrote about which team managers allowed their players to attempt the most stolen bases

Now comes my honors thesis at the Grey Albright School for Fools: which players each week are on a team run by a manager who likes to steal bases AND are facing a catcher who isn’t great at throwing out runners! 

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We can all agree that Myles Straw is everyone’s deep stolen base sleeper for this year. Is someone still considered a sleeper if everyone labels him as such? Either way, he could be hitting atop the new-look Astros lineup running for his life even with old-school Dusty Baker as their manager. But here’s the Hotels.com Captain Obvious™ statement of the day: there’s only 1 Myles Straw in every league — either ya get him earlier than you want, or the commissioner’s annoying little brother drafts him right ahead of you. So I’m going to highlight 8 players who are being drafted after Straw’s current ADP (339 on Fantrax as of March 23rd) who could sneakily steal double-digit bases for your team. These deep league stolen base threats not only ‘Ain’t Got No Face,’ they might not even ‘Ain’t Got No Head’ they’re so anonymous. 

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The people were asking for a closer rankings update and I haves to gives thems what they wants. To recap — here are my preseason rankings from February 3rd: SAGNOF: Preseason Closer Rankings.

TLDR: I ranked the closers in that first article according to three factors: their job security, their pitching ability, and the team they’re on providing them save opportunities (good offenses, good starting pitching, good other relievers.) 

As you’ll see below in only a month and a half there has already been some moving and shaking in my rankings. Only a few hours after my article went live it was out of date because the Twins signed Alex Colome which muddied the Twins closer situation. Some guys have lost/gained in the rankings due to their small sample size spring stats. 

Let’s get into it!

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And the men who hold high places

Must be the ones who start

To mold a new reality

Closer to the heart

 

What? You didn’t know that Toronto-based prog rock band Rush were huge roto baseball fans? That song was released in 1977 — the same year the Toronto Blue Jays played their inaugural season. It’s actually about their love for under-appreciated closer Pete Vuckovich who saved 8 games for the blue birds that year. A lot of us have that same love for certain closers and when it comes to draft time we think with our hearts rather than our heads. 

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Steals might ain’t got no face, but team stolen base attempts definitely do got yes face. (Totally crushed this lede!)

Today we’re going to get into something that normally makes fantasy baseball FAR superior to fantasy football in my opinion: coaching decisions. You could have the best wide receiver in the game, but whoopsie daisy — Mike McCarthy decides he wants to run the ball a lot today. Now you’re out $500. At least with fantasy baseball, the manager will always put his best lineup on the field and it is completely up to the hitter to do his job. The coach isn’t telling him “Hey you, I don’t even want you to swing up there.” 

Today’s article deals with managerial decisions on the basepath — specifically the stealing of second base. I’m going to let you in on some secrets on which managers have itchy trigger fingers when they have a runner on first with an empty base 90 feet away and those who are a bit gun shy when it comes to sending their runners. (Wow with all the violent imagery. What is this, CPAC?) 

First, some alarming data — here are the average manager second base stolen base attempt percentages from the past 10 years. (Analytic nerds will soon refer to this stat as MASBSBAP.) 

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I feel like I say this every year around this time — but I LOVE keeper leagues. Especially all the crazy rules and context to them. “If you drafted him in the 13th round, he becomes a 10th round keeper next year, then a 4th round keeper the year after that, then a 1st the year after that. And if you keep him in the 1st you can’t keep anyone else with a 1st.” or “If you bought him for $5 his inflation becomes $18 in 2022. Then in 2023 he’ll be $31.43” or “You can’t keep anyone in the first 5 rounds, because one year Smitty somehow kept Miggy, A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and Roy Halladay and broke the league.” And let me tell you — I love ALL of it. Your league’s crazy rules are what make it unique and interesting. Navigating this craziness is part of the fun. So these are just my rankings for your standard, vanilla 5×5 roto league. But my favorite part of this article — is always in the comments helping you guys breaking down your crazy keeper rules and making the best choices. So get down there and tell me your league’s crazy keeper system and how I can help you make your best decision! 

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Being a former junior-varsity back-up catcher with a pop time of about 5 and a caught stealing percentage of 0% — I have the perfect qualifications to write this column. 

Pop time for the un-initiated is another in a long line of new-age states that we nerds are using to quantify the game of baseball. The long and short of this stat is quite simple: it reflects how quickly a catcher can grab the ball from his glove and whip it to a certain base to catch the stealing runner. The lower the number, the better! However — that doesn’t tell the whole story of a catcher’s success rate at throwing out a runner. You can have a pop time of half a second and throw it over the second baseman’s head every single time and you quickly realize why you never made it to the varsity back-up catcher level.

For the purpose of this article I took a look at each team’s projected starting catcher (or catchers) and ranked them via their 2019 pop time (couldn’t find 2020’s data — sorry!) and paired this with their caught stealing percentage from 2019 and 2020 combined. There are some guys (like Ryan Jeffers) who didn’t record a pop time in 2019 so they’re only being judged on their caught-stealing rate. Unfair? Maybe. Happening anyway? Oh you betcha! 

Below I’ve grouped these guys together by the division they’ll be playing in so I can point out who benefits/suffers based on who they’re playing their most games against. I could’ve ranked and tiered them — but what fantasy info is there to glean from that if you’re not using defensive categories? At least this way, maybe you’ll see that a certain team/division has strong or weak catchers in it which helps certain runners or hurts certain pitchers.  

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Holds Ain’t Got No Face! 

These poor schlubs. No one’s favorite player is a middle reliever. The middle reliever never gets the girl. The signed middle reliever rookie card never fetches more than a buck-fifty on eBay. 

Yet these working-class heroes continue to go out every day and grind away to bridge the gap between the billion-dollar, sexy starting pitchers and the dark, mysterious closers. 

So here’s to you Graeme Lloyd! Here’s to you Mark Eichhorn! Here’s to you Matt Thornton! And MY personal favorite player of all time — here’s to you Jeff Nelson! 

 

From a fantasy perspective, the middle reliever has been a non-factor since the beginning of roto baseball. In your standard 5×5 leagues there’s just no room for a player who barely contributes in any of the 5 pitching categories. However, after years and years of heart attacks from being forced to draft Fernando Rodney because they missed the closer runs — cardiologists have created a new fantasy category to prevent such cardiac conditions: saves + holds 

Below I’ve ranked the top-40 non-closers for saves + holds leagues. In true Kerry-fashion, I’ve manufactured my own ranking system. I’ve ranked these guys out into three categories: sv/hlds, limiting runs, and K/9 — the three categories that middle relievers can consistently help you in. Limiting runs is a combination of ERA and WHIP — basically, in one inning, a reliever needs to keep guys off the bases — and if there are already guys on the bases — keeping them from scoring runs. You know — like the job of every pitcher! 

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SAGNOF has a new Daddy! Or I guess technically Step-Daddy — this will always be Grey’s baby. That’s right — this year I’ll be slipping into those SAGNOF slippers each week to tell you who will be doing the saving and who will be doing the stealing! 

“So like good guys and bad guys?” asks my wife as I explain to her what I’m writing about this year. 

*Sigh* “Yes…like good guys and bad guys…” I wept.

Let’s get this SAGNOF off to a great jump-off. Lo! Below are my top-30 closer rankings! 

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