The Spring has sprung and real baseball is here!  That fake stuff and all its glorious research has come to a head and later this week, that team that you built will go to battle.  Don’t go into battle with a little extra ammo in your tool belt though.  We all know who the steals candidates are and where to draft them by now.  The names are familiar, and if you drafted them, you are hoping the results that they have promised with our expectations.  My post this week is instead taking a look at the reflexive of the actual base stealers, and since the end of this week we’ll actually have counting stats, why not look at the pitchers and catchers that have the propensity to give up the most frequent of thievery?  It is often a very overlooked facet of the game.  We always see the counting stats of the perennial stolen base leaders, but never hear a peep about the pitchers who give up the most, or the catchers that are god awful at throwing them out.  I get that other forces of baseball nature encompass both of those factors of caught stealing and pitchers tendencies for base thefts, but if numbers don’t lie, let’s take a look at them and see who has the “better”chance for giving up the stat.  So here is this week’s SAGNOF report, basically picking on guys who do nothing but aid us in the stolen base category.  Cheers!

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Earlier in the preseason, I delved into the holds tiers for fantasy bullpens.  It exists right here in the Fantasy Relief Pitchers for Holds.  That was more a broad brushstroke of fantasy bullpen goodness that goes on here at Razznation.  Now that we are thumbs deep in draft season and the players being more prominent in roles are starting to show their purpose we can get a better grip on who to won and who to covet for the ugly step sister of saves the hold stat.  In more cases than not, following a “drafting for holds model” holds true, but holds are such a fluid stat… more fluid than the closer role.  So drafting the elite guy every year looks like a great idea, but name the guy who lead the league in holds multiple years in a row or, hell, twice in their career?  It’s a short list, whose names are not that awesome or even around anymore.  So for drafting for holds, whether it be in a straight holds league or a saves+holds league having the edge up on bullpenery is key.  The strategies for each of those leagues is basically the same as the elite holds category earners and they should be drafted after the last “donkeycorn” closer to come off the board.  If you draft an elite closer, always cuff your closer with the top holds candidate on that team. Next, do what I just said twice and grab your second closer’s backup/holds guy.  That will give you two closers, their back-ups for the “just in case” moments and holds.  Then your last pick for your bullpen will be an independent guy that has a K/9 rate over 9.  That is my finite strategy for drafting holds in any league. It gives you five guys that you can bank on every day in a “set it and forget it” type situation.  Don’t fall in love with your options, as like I said, bullpen fluidness is blah and you can find a hot hand on an off day.  So now that strategy is out of the way, let’s look at the more finite tiers of holds!

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When does excessive SAGNOF’ing become a problem? Do you like go blind if you do it too much?  The winning number for steals is the number in question here.  Whether that be in RCL’s or your home league.  The amount of steals you think you need is based on your league.  Just telling you a number like it takes 62 steals to win a league period, end of story, would be a boring article.  So getting to that proverbial X number to win your league is that question here.  It is subjective based on league size, shape and scoring.  Leagues with smaller team numbers is obviously smaller and so on. Starting roster size plays into it as well.  So what is it enough for winning or finishing in the top-3 in your league in the steals category?  The main strategy to implore during your draft is to see who is going excessive for the steals. If a team comes out the gate and has one of the elite three (TT, Lin Miranda and Flash Jr.) you know what’s up.  After that, it is a step down in expectancy.  As those three are all projected to have 50-plus steals.  So finding a great medium for filling out your set team is important, don’t punt steals all together and don’t overpay for steals too early as they never have a face later in the draft.  So let’s see what the trick to getting you onto the podium for steals in most of your leagues…

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Holding off on info during the height of draft time is just not my M.O.  So I am bringing the goods and the reliever rankings a week earlier than anticipated.  Why go into battle with a water pistol when you can go with the boomstick?  At this point in the preseason, having a few teams with committee situations is normally a bad thing, except when you get to grab the right guy in that committee.  Having multiple draftable options from one team is more of a benefit than a detriment on draft day, because inevitably one person is going to be wrong in that selection process and it is usually the guy who gets drafted higher.  So looking at the situations with the White Sox, Rangers, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks as they sit today committee’s exist.  Whether we want to believe it or not, each team has no clear cut closer and if you are skimming, this is still a good thing.  Let someone else draft Gregerson, Soria, Parker, and Claudio.  While you can sit back and wait a few picks or even rounds and scoop up Leone, Jones, Bedrosian, and Kela.  As the season draws closer, this advantage will dwindle down to nothing, but for now use it to your advantage.  Miss out on a top 8-10 closer, no worries, load up on the maybe’s and possibilities and if they don’t pan out than you can easily pivot to a more useful option on the waiver.  So when someone says a committee is a bad thing, laugh and agree.  Then drop the quartet of save possibilities into your team and see what happens.  At worst they will cost you four out of your last seven picks.  At that point in the draft, you should have an established team with all starters in place and you would be gambling on reliever talent anyways.  Now you have the knowledge in your corner and a little bit of rankings goodness from ole’ Smokey.  The initial installment of the Closer report with rankings is here, get excited!

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While most things stay the same, the more they don’t change.  I believe this is the old adage that I read on the men’s room urinal wall.  I had to skip past the “For a good time call or be here at 7:00 PM for a good time” stuff, but that struck me as something that made sense so I am running with it. How it relates to steals this week is that steals are a patterned beast.  Last year there were 2,527 steals across MLB by all 30 teams.  The number of importance right now is the number from the leadoff spot in the mine-up.  That number is 674 steals, or 27.5% of all the teams steals came from the top of the order. For your curiosity, the next four spots with steals frequency are 2nd, 8th, 7th and 9th.  The next four spots combined to make up nearly 40% of the remaining steals. Which, if you are a math wizard, steals aren’t the favorite destination for the meat of the order.  Now, not every hitter hit at the top of the lineup last year.  So figuring out who is going to hit where in the lineup and predicting that teams propensity to steam from that spot is the trick.  Digging a little deeper and some other SAGNOF tidbits are after the jump…

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Besides pooping, every fantasy baseballian needs to do prep work.  Whether that be reading a publication of your choosing or doing a ton of mock drafts. Well, I am going to do you one better than using a mock draft to help steer your hand.  I am using actual drafts that people do for money to lend you an ADP hand in the terms of closers.  What else would I be doing?  After all, I am Smokey, where only you can prevent fantasy bullpen fires.  That public service announcement was brought to you by my own personal sponsor of Fischer pillows.  Not everyone uses or believes in ADP as a source because some people in mock drafts are crazy, like legitimately Tehol-type crazy.  That mock draft data is basically useless, but what if you had a list of drafts that were for actual dinero, and possibly some American money also?  The NFBC is a great contest that we here at Razzball take part in and several of our writers have challenged readers, just like you, in these contests.  They draw everyday Joe’s and experts from around the deep spaces of fantasy and all compete for money on varying levels of dramatics.  Sounds fun?  Cool, let me borrow 150 bucks so I can do one too.  So I took that data from the past 35 days for a 12-team based ADP and broke it down into two fun categories.  Drafts between February 1st and February 20th, and February 21 to March 6th.  Just so they sound more legit, the first group had 88 drafts of ADP values to use and the second had 106.  The number of ADP resources to draw from will increase by the time we get closer to actual game times, but for now 194 total drafts with data is at your discretion below.  Only the closers side of it.

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Late steals, or “cheeky swipes” as they call it across the ocean, are sometimes hard to find late in drafts. Well not hard to find just takes some digging and speculation.  The stolen base stat is a precipitously dying stat.  I mean, why steal a base when you can just hit a homerun?  Or that is the growing trend of the baseball thievery…  Last year 83 players stole 10 or more bases.  That number hasn’t really differed much in the last few years, the high in 2015 and the low being in 2016 of 79.  So while overall steals are down, the number in between the leader and the low end is just increasing in smaller increments.  So with the SAGNOF theory, saves and steals are the afterthought come draft day.  Not completely forgotten about or disregarded.  Just valued at a lower premium based on so many players being low category contributors across the board.  Sneak steals on draft day and getting the most out of your squeeze per investment into draft picks is the name of the game.  Paying a premium for the big hitting steals guys like Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon and obvious top-5 overall pick in Trea Turner are all well and good, but at what cost in relation to their draft pick?  So the helpfulness of this post is to look at value according to ADP and the steals value the will give our team come opening day in the counting stat department.  Most of the players with steal appeal are MI eligible and on draft day, if you miss out early, it seems like the best place to look for straight SAGNOF satisfaction.

Here is a table of steals, caught stealing, and total steals across all of the MLB for the last five years so you didn’t think I was lying to you about the accumulation factors with SB’s…

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From a straight love em’ and leave ’em perspective, the middle relief guys (the ones that are only there for stream-ability) are the daily glue that keeps a lineup together.  Unlike hitters who get the spot start and we know pregame that they are in the lineup, inserting the correct reliever to help with K’s and ratios becomes a guessing game.  So we are still in draft mode and we can always go into the season with some idea of the guys in the middle relief core that don’t get the save love, but still are vital contributors to the fantasy community.  Their spotty appearances allow you to add innings with substantial K/9 value, and at a fraction of the innings price that streaming a starter would.  Because if there was a starter on the waiver wire that had a 12-plus K/9 rate, he would not be on the waiver wire. So adding to the sum total one inning at a time is a nice way to get a good chunk of strikeout and ratio help.  Granted that they don’t suck when they are in your lineup. My theory on in-season middle relief for leagues that don’t use Holds is this: Find two.  Fall in love with one (but don’t move in together) and promise the other you will call her all the while you are totally looking for that next best one the very second that the other pitcher pitches. I call it the “steady girl and grass is greener” theory. With the innings limit, and minimums upcoming for the Fantrax Razzball leagues, it is important to find middle relief that gives you some middle relief.  Roster one all the time, and always find a new fling on the horizon.  Here are some K/9 relievers that are late draft day boons to your fantasy roster from the jump. We are talking about the guys after Chad Green, Carl Edwards Jr., Chris Devenski and Dellin Betances are long off the board.

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Analyzing the Jefe’s work in the top-500 and finding things you disagree with is difficult business. Not many come at the king, unless summoned to do so, and survive the fall.  I almost feel like some kind of twilight zone GOT episode where instead of medieval type barbs, we argue over swinging strike percentage and spin rate.  Loser walks down Second Avenue to get the freshest matzo ball soup.  No matter, here I sit looking over Razzball Top-500 for 2018 to see where rankings may be off for the good and the bad.  For other positions it may be an easier exercise, as the rule of thumb with relievers and closers is SAGNOF and Grey’s rankings show that his approach to that acronym hold true.  Drafting closers to me is always a value-type drafting situation.  Don’t be last, but don’t be first scenario.  Unless the value is too deeming and obvious that when it’s time to jump, you ask how high.  The second rule of the reliever fight club is don’t get sucked into a run on closers.  Wait your turn and get value at other positions and than if you get stuck, SAGNOF is always in your back pocket. Every year the closer market is a fluctuating beast that tempts you with fruit and flowers to jump on the next hot waiver wire add.  So be patient in your closer endeavors and the stat will run its course as long as you stay proactive on the free agent market.  So here is my stab at the King and who is underrated and overrated in his eyes.

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The most important thing in fantasy baseball relief-dom in terms of holds is consistency.  Without consistency of opportunities, of placement in the bullpen, and a team’s consistent success in utilizing their bullpen to your fantasy advantage… you get left out out in the cold when it comes down to accumulating a stout holds based relief pitching corps. Until there is a shift in the utilization of bullpens for the benefit of fantasy, more so, the leagues that use the hold stat.  I will admit that I am more of an eye test person than a numbers guy.  Numbers scare me.  They prove too many things that don’t factor in the human error factor and the good ole eye test.  So against my better mental state, I used numbers from the past five years to show that the bullpens are being used more frequently.  Not just by some teams, but by all teams.  I know, duh.  This is something that we all eyed to be happening than Smokey goes in the opposite direction like a dyslexic salmon and gets some data to prove the incline of a stat that he holds so near and dear to his fantasy bear heart.  Well sit back, relax, it’s going to be a fun ride on the holds bus this week as we do some research and than put the top-50 relief pitchers into hold tiers.  Enjoy!

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