Well, the demise of the active leader in career saves has happened. I can remember the days when he burst on the scene all wide-eyed and rally monkey backed.   That, unfortunately, was a dogs age in closer years.  Hell, most closers now a days are judged by weeks instead of years.  I personally don’t wanna think that he is completely done closing, but I think that he is done closing with the tigers (barring an injury or three).  So now it is the Justin Wilson show.  He is no stranger to high-leverage spots as he has been a critical holds guy for the past three years.  For comparison’s sake, think Tony Watson type of reliever… they even came up together with the Pirates to boot.  So the main question is will Wilson continue as such as the Tigers closer?  I say why not.  Joe Jimenez isn’t ready for prime time yet, or they don’t wanna throw the reigns on him yet.  The team has looked mediocre, and sorta old.  So alleviating Wilson to the closer role does two things: Makes their best reliever in the bullpen the closer, and it gives him even more trade value should the Tigers fall out of the race and eventually sell of some pieces.  Saves are ownable everywhere, and this doesn’t appear to be a committee type thing, so if you own him good on ya.  Let’s see what else is going down on Save Street lately…

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When I say uptick, I mean that with the slightest bit of tick that any tick can offer.  But any positive in a stat that was headed for the extinct list like that Rhino on Tinder is a fantastic thing.  Through the first month of the season, there were 28,022 plate appearances across all games in MLB, accounting for 399 stolen bases.  This number is better than it was last year, but way off the pace it was in 2015, 2014, and 2012.  So for all the hub bub that I created with the stat being a dying entity, and one that really has fallen by the wayside of chasing, there may be a pulse.  Albeit a slight one.  Steals still don’t have a face, but for stat purposes and chasing, there may be a nose.  Maybe half an ear and maybe some dimples.  Welcome to the Terrorome of speed and saves.  As I drop some stupid goodness and general domineering debauchery that only Smokey and Razzball can deliver… Get comfy, it’s late Tuesday let’s get crazy, but home before the street lights come on.

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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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Last week we covered the other “S” in the “AGNOF”, that being the steals part of the whole acronym.  This week it’s saves… sorta.  And to be fair, I will touch on some steals guys this week too.  But for today, we take a gander at the Saves portion, but for better and more finite terminology, we are going to look at some of the changing needed cuffs that before the year were must owns and have basically faded away from their usefulness so far to date.  Now, being a setup relief pitcher is basically like a coupon that eventually expires.  The amount of useful relief pitchers from day one to game 162 is small, like the count on both hands kinda small.  It is an ever fluxing market where injuries, poor form, and situational involvement change from one game to the next.  I wish it weren’t so, but it is.  Everyone has a crush on the roster the draft at the beginning of the year, but soon enough a girl from another school moves in and is more prominent or endowed than the previous love fest.  That is baseball, and the last 1-2 relieve spots on your team should always be changing, just to maximize the roster spot value. So here are some of the more popular names that have fallen by the way side of rosterability or some guys that may have increasing market value.  Get your hands up, so we can slap some cuffs on ya…

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When struggles happen, the fantasy geeks come out of the wood work with words like “decreased velocity”, “contact rate” and “swing strike percentage”.  Now I am no geek, but Roberto Osuna is failing the eye test for me.  Control is all over the place and he has zero confidence in his pitches.  Yes, if you look at all his secondary pitching attributes, they are all down or up for the worse.  First, his velocity is down almost two MPH from last year.  Granted, he did miss some time this spring though, so there is a reason to have a letter from his mom to explain that.  His z-contact rate (pitches in the strike zone) is off the charts bonkers.  It currently sits at 91%.  If he had pitched more than five innings to date and qualified, he would have the highest such contact rate in baseball among relievers.  That is not a good trait to have as a closer, let alone a mammal.  Finally, his swing strike percentage has bottomed out at a cool 10%, which would put him outside the top-100 relievers.  And surrounded by names like Tommy Hunter and Michael Ynoa, all staples to a flourishing fantasy team.  So what do we do?  You cuff him.  Jason Grilli is the best name there and Ryan Tepera just got the save in extra innings the other day.  All we can hope for from Bobby Osuna is that with some more innings and builds back up to the 9-plus K/9 reliever we drafted as our 1A closer.  It isn’t time to panic, but do yourself a favor and cover your bases.  Here’s what else is going down in the end game… Cheers!

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As I have gone over in the preseason, streaming against a starting pitcher is sometimes a good approach.  The problem is that sometimes the blame isn’t completely on the pitcher.  This isn’t Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny isn’t playing all nine positions versus the Gas House Gorillas.  So obviously I am referring to the catcher in this scenario.  Streaming against a pitcher is all well and good, the bad is that they only pitch once every five days and while it’s fun to rosterbate the high hell out of it, why not take advantage of a starting catcher who usually gets five starts a week?  Seems like genius and a better way to try and capitalize on a three game set versus a weak catcher oriented team at gunning down baserunners. So the handy chart below gives us an early glimpse of who we should be taking advantage of with our waiver additions in the steals category.  Stay after the chart, because I drop some tidbits of grandeur.

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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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It was right in front of our faces and we ignored it.  No one said the obvious.  The elephant in the room.  We all should have known that we were getting fooled by the A’s because we trusted a Melvin.  A Melvin!  After years of hoodwinking by Upton, we now get the reflexive of this, and are getting bobbed.  Predictably, the A’s manager has made a real hash of the bullpen situation already, and we only sit four games into the season.  I get his mentality in some states, because you want your best pitcher pitching to the best players in the opposing lineups and yadda, yadda, yadda.  But this is fantasy baseball sir.  We don’t have the time or social skills warranted to be able to deal with this type stuff.  So for those of you living on a house boat with no wifi, the A’s bullpen usage is a flummoxed up mess with no one to trust.  It’s like November 23rd, 1963 in Dallas, Texas type of questioning everything.  Madson was the presumed closer and he has been treated as the go to guy for getting the tough outs.  Twice against the middle of the order which included a Trout named outfielder.  Then the first day went to Santiago Casilla, then the next day to Ryan Dull.  But the things that boggles the mind is set orders here.  I get that it is early and mixing and matching is cool like millennials do with socks now, but we need some kind of pecking order for rostering-type priorities.  I can’t deal with this madness, I am going to alphabetize my canned goods.  In the mean time, check out the closer menu, now with a deal on salads.

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The last week of the spring always breeds injuries, demotions, and the occasional leap frogging.  Or in some cases, Dusty is going to be simply be Dusty.  But I will get to that little blurb in a few.  So with the injury news to T.T., the Red Sox order is now Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and then maybe Bob Stanley.  Joe Kelly is the interesting name here because I always thought he was at least in the conversation for the secondary chair behind Tyler.  This is interesting because if, and only if, Kimbrel goes down, the man on the spot may very well be Joe freaking Kelly.  The same guy that said that he could win a Cy Young last year.  Adjusting to a newer role is always a tough spot, even though he appeared in 14 games as a RP last year.  His K-rate spiked, his walk rate halved, and his ability to be touched for hits disappeared.  Not unusual for former starting pitchers, but this was kind of a drastic change from what we saw as a starter. He is not the second coming of Luke Gregerson circa 2012, but is a fine enough arm with enough quality in it to garner the counting stats needed in Thorny’s stead. Let’s see what else is happening in the set-up facet of the game and update the final preseason Holds chart before the games actually mean something…

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As we enter the busiest week for the world famous Razzball commenter leagues,  I think it’s important to look back unto the days of yester-year and let us not forget that numbers sometimes, very rarely… OKAY, they lie a lot!  But usually after massaging them, numbers are gluttons for attention.   They always wanna be gone over, hen-pecked, and prodded.  Just like your mother.  RCL leagues are no different, and the SAGNOF’s general audience is those of us in these type leagues, looking for a special boost to their team, whether it be a streaming option, growing trend, or just some divine intervention that I say something useful. So with the help of the RCL guru, Matt Truss.  I got some info that will help you analyze your stats as you peer onto your team for projecting steals and how you stand in the category.  Because going into battle knowing what you need to compete is, according to G.I. Joe, “half the battle”.  But since we already know, does that mean the battle is already over and we are just competing and arguing with ourselves?  Confused?  Me too!  Well here is some less confusing info that is straight to the point with numbers and stuff…  Cheers!

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