A little over four years ago my girlfriend and I moved in together. Or, more accurately, I moved from my mom’s basement to my girlfriend’s basement. Shortly after the move, my lady and I were having dinner with my grandparents. It was during this meal that I received some of the only praise I’ve ever received from my grandfather: “Nice work Donkey, why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free!?”
You’re probably wondering what this is going to have to do with fantasy baseball. What’s the milk going to be in this analogy? And is Bartolo Colon the cow? Of course he’s the cow! But not for the reasons you’re thinking. He has big bones, people! Cut Big Boned Bart some slack! I’m going to leave you on the edge of the toilet seat in your office bathroom, contemplating this analogy for just a little longer.
First, I need to add a preface; the following bit of fantasy baseball theory is mainly geared towards season long rotisserie leagues. If you only play head to head leagues you can feel free to flip back to that pornhub tab for the last few minutes of your bathroom break. Unless of course you’re looking for more sage life lessons from Grandpa Donkey, in that case stick around.
In recent seasons you may have noticed the league-wide pitching numbers are on the decline across the board in a big way. Starting pitchers are throwing fewer and fewer innings while giving up more and more runs. Whereas only a couple years ago it may have taken a 3.25 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP to win those categories in your league, this past season a 3.75 ERA and 1.20 WHIP was plenty to land the top spots in many roto leagues. I’ve compiled some data in the tables below to support these claims.
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!
Welcome to Razzball’s 2018 team previews. Over the next couple of months, we’ll be previewing all of the teams and talking to writers who represent those teams around the web. We want to provide the best and most in-depth fantasy projections to go along with the asking the most useful questions to those who know their teams best. We want to talk about the players in the first half of your draft and also the deep sleepers that make you log into google and start watching Midwest Single-A ball for hours. Just kidding, don’t do that, hopefully we don’t go that far…
The Chicago Cubs are coming off of three straight NLCS appearances and one World Series title. The bats didn’t really get going in the first half of the season in 2017 and there was no way that the starting pitching was going to be as effective in 2017 as it was in 2016. Still, the Cubs had too much all star power on the roster not to be in the thick of it throughout October. All of the manager speak and clubhouse talk points to a revamped desire to win and the off season moves points towards the same mood from the front office. The Cubs wanted to spice up the rotation so they added Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, and a guy named Yu Darvish. To take a little, you also have to give a little. Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis will not be returning next season. I talked to Alex Patt from Cubbies Crib about what to expect from this upcoming Cubs season.
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!
Much like the famous Doors song that shares it’s name, bullpens are drawing near. (Minus the Oedipus complex that the song explores.) I mean, it may… but that is gross and I don’t wanna associate my bullpen goodies to that. Moving on, shall we? This year has been the SAGNOF-fest that we always come to expect. Closers up, closers down. Trades and attrition. It happens every single year and it is the reason why the waiver wire is what it is: So we can get the new third closer for the Twins. The chase for saves never ends, well, I mean it ends for season-long leagues, but for dynasty and keeper leagues, the times never change. Saves are a category. A deeply hated and often cursed at category that will always be debated about. Whether or not to invest earlier picks then normal to get a stud, or just fill in with hope-so’s and also rans. There unfortunately is no right or wrong answer because both strategies work as long as you are a waiver goblin. So with the final post of the year, much like the other years that I have done this, we look to next year… This year’s counting stats and information don’t matter, we want to know what lies on the horizon. So let’s find out!
A funny thing happened on my way to work today, I sat there in my favorite sitting place and did some research. I looked at the availability of information provided by the other experts in the world of fantasy baseball, and then correlated that to what I do best. That, my friends, is bullpens. We as a collective fantasy universe play in leagues with the illusive yet sultry stat category known as the Hold. In fact, in some further research that I have done, an estimated 30% of all fantasy players play in a league with some sort of Hold associated with the final outcome in the standings. I mean, 30% is basically like winning the popular vote. [Jay’s Note: I love you Smokey.] But I am standing here aghast at the amount of research poured into this fantasy industry by experts all around the world, yet here I sit. Giving you the most diverse, in-depth, informative (yet funny), and groundbreaking stat analysis that not even world-wide leaders give… for free might I add. I love me some bullpens, and if you don’t play in a league that adds diversity to the game to include them, then maybe you should down shift a bit and give it some thought and do a league that includes it. Don’t do it for me, do it for yourself. Because this way I gain, at least one reader from each person that does it. Go search the inter-webs for holds type information, you get a column sorted catastrophe written by some intern who doesn’t know the difference between good and well. So stay here my friends, I am the goods through and through. I dropped the Holds chart weeks ago and now you get just straight cheddar and some rankings.
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!
When I was fresh out of college, I worked at a web company (everyone did in the 90s). There was four of us. The other three had real job titles; I was the gofer/do-whatever. It was about a month before I was going back to school for my Master’s. I had no intention of keeping the job. Honestly, I doubt they would’ve kept me for that full month if I weren’t leaving. I failed at everything they assigned me, but they kept giving me new tasks, hoping I’d succeed. The only task I seemed capable of was heating up pre-cooked sausages from Trader Joe’s. I made sausages on a grill for three weeks straight, so, when I finally did leave, they gave me a plaque that reads, “Who wants some sausages?” This brings me to the sudden and incomprehensible rise of Yulieski Guerriel. The Astros are that company, and YuGu is me. The Astros seem between a rock of “We really want this guy to succeed” and “We have about a month left and we’re just hoping something works.” Yulieski hasn’t failed in the minors, he’s looked completely lost. He hit .118 in Double-A, was promoted to Triple-A and hit .222. I could see grabbing Guerriel in all leagues to see if he can get lucky, and figure out how to make something other than pre-cooked sausages for lunch, but the Astros are not promoting him because of how well he’s looked. They’re promoting him because there’s about a month left. Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:
One look at this week’s most added player list in ESPN fantasy baseball leagues causes me to reminisce about my younger days in the early-mid 2000s. I can vaguely remember the bar-hopping, insane amounts of alcohol consumption, and late nights that frequently occurred during that time period. One thing that I can clearly recall from those days is closing time at those various establishments when the ugly lights would come on and that Semisonic song would be blaring over the speakers, signaling that it was time to pack up and go. Stumbling out the door and finding a local diner to satiate my pork roll, egg, and cheese fix meant that it was a good night. When no diner was to be found, man was that an annoying song! Why’d you have to ruin a perfectly good evening, Semisonic? It’s all your fault. Drunken logic! But I digress. The point is that this week could easily be dubbed closing time in fantasy baseball, as there were serious changes in the late inning pecking order of several teams. Injuries to Wade Davis and Huston Street created opportunities for Kelvin Herrera (39.2% owned; +10.8% over the past week) and Cam Bedrosian (22.8%; +17.2%) in the 9th inning in Kansas City and LA respectively. The trade of Jeremy Jeffress to Texas opened the door for Tyler Thornburg (31.0%; +16.8%) to close games in Milwaukee. But the biggest gainers of the week were the new stoppers in Seattle and Houston, Edwin Diaz (57.9% owned; +44.7%) and Ken Giles (57.0% owned; +37.9%). Diaz claimed the role for the Mariners after incumbent Steve Cishek hit the disabled list, and Giles took over for the Astros for a struggling Will Harris, and fantasy owners quickly pounced on the explosive duo. Over the last 30 days, Diaz and Giles have combined for 43 strikeouts against just 5 walks and have allowed just one earned run over that span. Their swinging strike rates are 24.1% and 25.4% respectively, and they’ve each averaged over 97.5 mph on their fastballs. There might not be more than five or six closers that I’d want more than these guys right now, so grab them if the other owners in your league have been asleep at the wheel.
Here are a couple of other interesting adds/drops in fantasy baseball over the past week:
Steve Cishek hit the DL with the same injury that sounds like it once affected Nadia Comaneci –a torn labrum. Grey’s got Olympics fever! Which this year sounds like it can be transmitted by a mosquito. “I’m not wearing my Brazilian national flag t-shirt to sit in the room all day! Actually, I feel a little woozy too.” That’s a family of four coming down with the Zika Virus at this year’s Olympics. With Cishek likely out for the year, grab Edwin Diaz in all leagues. On a related note, I’ll leave you with the Double Dutch Bus, a song that Missy Elliott later made famous on Gossip Folks. The chorus for Double Dutch Bus sounds like it’s just me trying to say the name Steve Cishek. Fast forward to 2:15 if you’re not feeling early 80s funk and just want the guy to say Steve Cishek repeatedly.
Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball: