Followers of Razzball know this site has a concise strategy when it comes to saves: SAGNOF. In short, 30 saves is 30 saves, so why pay Papelbon for the privilege of providing them, when you can get them on the cheap from Brian Wilson?

Followers of Baron Von Vulturewins know that the Baron is the greediest, horniest, dirtiest, most shameless saves-whore around. (For patented strategy, see comment under this post. How shameless? Well, if the Baron found Jensen Lewis lying dead by the side of the road, he’d shake the corpse by the ankles just to see if five saves fell out. (Last year, 13 fell out.)

In short, me love the Junky Closers.

A common objection is this: Sure, Junky Closers give you dirty, dirty saves, but just how much will Joe Borowski/Brian Wilson/C.J. Wilson/Carnie Wilson hurt my team in other categories? Won’t he poop all over my team ERA and WHIP while hurting me in Ks?

To which the Baron says: Good question. Let the numbers speak!

Let’s start with ERA. In my regular league (12 team mixed league roto), we play with a 1300 IP maximum, which is pretty standard. Last year, the winning ERA was 3.25. (Dude had Halladay.) Now, I’m no mathemagician, but in that scenario, that means the pitchers on Team X – let’s call them the Dribbling Nozzles – gave up roughly 469 runs.

Now, let’s say that the Nozzles carried a Mint Closer like Nathan all year (39 saves, 1.33 ERA), who gave up just 10 ER. Now let’s replace Nathan with a year’s worth of Junky Closer/SAGNOF favorite/obese housebound harmonizing genius Brian Wilson (41 saves, 4.25 ERA), who gave up 32 ER. Big difference, right?

Well, when we make this swap the Dribbles team ERA balloons to – wait for it! — 3.40. So the difference between Nathan (arguably the best reliever last year and a costly 5th round pick) and Wilson (lame-ass 17th round workaday schmo), is about .15 points of team ERA. Which in our league would have slipped the Dribbles from first in ERA down to, um, a tie for first. Total loss = 1/2 point — you know, like in that old karate video game.

Of course, in a tighter race, this could have meant losing a point or even two. But in that tight of a race, you’re probably not wishing you drafted Nathan instead of Wilson. You’re probably wishing you hadn’t RUN IAN SNELL OUT WEEK AFTER AGONIZING WEEK FOR, LIKE, TWO MONTHS.

But wait, you say! Wilson was actually pretty decent for a Junky Closer. Okay, then let’s swap in the most turdtastic closer in recent memory, Mr. Joe Borowski circa 2007, when he tallied 45 saves and a malodorous 5.07 ERA. If you traveled back in a time machine, drafted Blowrowski, transported him to 2008, and replaced Nathan with him – well, then your 3.25 team ERA wouldn’t swell to 3.40. It would swell to 3.43.

Keep in mind that top closers actually accumulate very few IP, usually around 70 (or about 5% of your season total). So even a bloated, ugly, horror-movie-quality ERA (like 5.07) means relatively few runs added to your total ER, and thus a small total effect on your team ERA. The gap between Nathan (10 ER) and Blowrowski (37 runs) is just a net gain of 27 ER, or roughly one bad outing by Aaron Harang in Coors.

Now onto WHIP. Our league’s WHIP leader last year (same team, surprise, surprise) was at 1.20. Swapping out Nathan for Wilson raises that to 1.22. Swapping in Borowski ’07 raises it to 1.23.

Not exactly the final minutes of the Hindenburg.

The Nozzles did pretty badly in strikeouts, finishing 9th with 1075. If they’d had Papelbon (77 Ks), not Borowski ’07 (58), the 19 extra Ks would have moved them up one place in the standings. But, really, is 19 Ks – i.e. one-and-a-half Lincecum starts — really going to make your break your season? What are you, made of baby-juice?

Obviously, you have to adjust this for your particular league, rules, roster-sizes, etc. But the basic point is: Grabbing Paps or Nathan early might gain you a point or two overall, assuming he doesn’t pull a Putz and blow out his elbow. But ask yourself this: How many extra points would you have gained by using that 5th round pick on a stud OF instead of Papelnuts?

The only category where closers add real value is – wait for it — saves. And Joe Borowski’s 45 saves are exactly as valuable as Jon Papelbon’s 45 saves. And a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

Now ask yourself this: If you have a time machine, why are you using it to go back in time and draft Joe Borowski and not to kill baby Hitler?

Seriously, you should have killed baby Hitler.

  1. Eric W says:

    great post Never was in to topline closers but I was surprised how little effect the junk closers had on era and whip. And you cant kill baby Hitler because you can change the past dosent anyone watch lost?!?!?!

  2. Fman99 says:

    Nice sum-up Baron.

    Anyone whose been burned by taking a closer in the first 4-5 rounds, only to have his arm/elbow/shoulder run through the Play-Doh spaghetti maker, knows better at this point.

    My cherry bursting was BJ Ryan in ’07, that cum-cock.

  3. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:

    @Fman99: It’s true. And imagine a world where you could get a guy who hits 45 donks in round 5, and a guy who hits 45 donks in round 13. YOU WOULD OBVIOUSLY CHOOSE THE SECOND GUY. But people still can’t keep their monkey paws off those tasty early round relievers.

  4. Sabs says:

    @Eric W — Seriously, someone hasn’t been in touch with Faraday lately…

    @Baron — Great post. This same line of thinking has steered me from top closers for years. Now that the nitty-gritty has been published on these interwebs for all to see, I can only hope my closer-happy league-mate (three closers through first 9 rounds last season) will never come upon this little outpost of the fantasy world.

  5. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    Oh Baron, you are so Hapsburg it’s not even funny.

  6. sean says:

    I move to nominate this as razzball guest contributor post of the year.

  7. Yeah, I respectfully disagree with your assessment. A few tenths of a point doesn’t seem like much, but it’s the difference between a Brandon Webb and an Armando Galarraga in 2008. Would you argue that team would be better off passing on Webb because Galarraga will do the job just as nicely? I doubt it.
    Besides, there’s all kinds of scenarios where relievers make QUITE a difference. Perhaps your pitching staff consists of Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Brandon Webb, CC Sabathia, Brian Wilson, and Fernando Rodney. Mine consists of Javier Vazquez, Ervin Santana, Edinson Volquez, Joba Chamberlain, Jonathan Broxton, and Carlos Marmol. Guess what? Yours isn’t so much better than mine.
    Finally, a guy like Wilson is only getting 41 saves if he keeps the job. Lots of relievers lose their jobs throughout a season. Those who don’t? Good ones with great strikeout rates. Possibly a reason to take Nathan instead of Wilson.

  8. Emporers Monkey says:

    Baby Hitler? Sounds like a good band name.

    I lick my lips every time someone in my league dumps a 3rd or 4th round pick on an elite RP. I go half-mast if someone takes one even earlier.

  9. willclarkismyhero says:

    Great post, Baron. Just curious, wouldn’t the top tier (or so) of closers become more valuable in head-to-head scoring where they have a much greater affect on your ratios and strikeouts week in and week out? I probably still would not draft any of them, but I think they would become more valueable.

  10. IowaCubs

    IowaCubs says:

    @Emporers Monkey: One of my favorite things to do in my auction league keeper is to throw out Brad Lidge right away then watch as these vultures spend $35 on him.

  11. BigFatHippo says:

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: Great article Baron.

    But…………and there’s always a but isn’t there………someone has to take these top tier guys. In our auction last year I was able to grab KRod, Nathan and Soria, and not at too steep a price.

    My thinking went like this:
    Once my lead in saves is built up, flip two of them for offense. You think top closers are overvalued on draft day see what their value is to a guy slipping slowly to 1 point in a ten team league.

    In the end I kept only KRod and still finished with 10 in saves. But……….there always seems to be two buts……………..time to change strategies. Doubt anyone will give me what I want this year for closers. This year, I’m going to follow Baron’s Case For Junky Closers. Hopefully there will be a lot of rotting corpses laying by the side of the road.

    Well done, my friend.

  12. Nick J says:

    I have to agree with Fantasy Ball Junkie. Just because an elite reliever doesn’t pitch nearly as many innings as a starter doesn’t mean that they don’t have a significant effect on your team’s rate stats. Hong Chi Kuo was more valuable than a lot of starters last year.

    However, I generally pass on the elite closers. Not because they aren’t valuable, but because if you know where to look and you have a little bit of luck, you can get a closer later who will post near elite numbers. A couple years ago it was Valverde. Last year it was Jokim Soria. This year it will be one or two from the Broxton, Marmol, Qualls, Frank Francisco group.

  13. Nick J says:

    Hey Rudy,

    This is off topic, but I noticed you’ll be entering the Razzball Point Shares into Tom Tango’s Forecaster Challenge. Which projections are you going to base your Point Shares off of? An average?

  14. Gotowarmissagnes says:

    Agree with the strategy. Disagree with the analysis. The problem with evaluating how much this costs you in standings points by comparing the top guy to the second guy is that typically that underestimates the impact on your points. The top guy is usually out in front by a fair amount in each cat. The better comparison is done by looking at how it impacts you if you assume you start in 3rd or 4th place in the category (or if you look at how it impacts you through the middle of the standings, anywhere from 3rd to 10th).

  15. big o says:

    @Baron Von Vulturewins:
    well said , and ,

    wait for this , ===> very well written .

    seems some here are focusing on the 1st half of rudy’s equation ,
    (papelbon worth 2.8 points more than wilson) ,
    and disregarding the 2nd half (getting beltran in place of wells) .

    do you amuse me ? amuse me ?? HOW do you amuse me ?

  16. elwood says:

    nice thing about Wilson, besides the low price enducing suckitude, he pitches for a definite savemeter team this year -SF. This team sucked last year with their o, losing team, lessening the saves totals. Nevertheless, was a big leader in saves cuz almost all their wins were save wins.

    THIS year, tho, their offense will improve to a highly desirable level of suckitude.. a lot of outmakers in combination with speed and improved ba to run those 3, 4,5, 6 total run games, scoring 1 and 2 at a time. Already having the DEEP, GOOD< DURABLE starting pitchers and good relief to keep the opposition down to those 3,4,5,6 totals. Recipe for a winning team, and an extremely high saves team.

    Wilson is the man.

  17. SoS says:

    Nice post. And oh Lord did I ever drag Snell out too the mound. What a gluten for punishment I was.

  18. sean says:

    We’ve discussed why an ELITE RP (Paps, K-Rod, Nathan, Mo) might not be worth the investment, but I’m still not sold on the idea that any saves are good saves.

  19. drl25 says:

    you mentioned a 1,300 ip MAXIMUM. did that team actually reach the maximum with a 3.25 era? i doubt it. last season roy halladay had a 2.78 era over 246 innings. did this guy get another 1,054 innings of sub 3.50 era ball? again i doubt it… but if he did, and if he did actually pitch 1,300 innings, his staff had to be so good as to make your post irrelevant. of course joe borowski cant put THAT bad a dent in you when every other pitcher on your team is an all star.

    p.s. – i’m positive this team with the 3.25 didnt waste a draft pick on a top rp before being forced to pitch ian snell every week. ian snell was miles away from that stellar era.

  20. Baron Von Vulturewins

    Baron Von Vulturewins says:

    @Eric W: They killed Baby Hitler on Lost? I gotta start watching that show.

    @IowaCubs: Guilty as charged. Also, I wear a Homburg.

    @Fantasy Ball Junkie: It’s true that Nathan et al. have better job security, which is a point in their favor. Does the justify reaching for him in the 5th round when you can get a closer like Wilson in the 12th? Given the risk/reward ratio, I don’t think so. (Ask Putz owners from last year.)

    @willclarkismyhero: Good question. Having never played H2H, I’m not familiar with the strategies. I do favor relievers with very high K/9 ratios, though. In fact, I thought the biggest argument in favor of, say, a Lidge or K-Rod would be the extra Ks (i.e. in counting categories, rather than averages categories) — until I checked the numbers and saw there’s not a huge difference (i.e. 10 to 20 Ks).

    That said, three high-K closers can give you 60-70 extra Ks over three low-K closers, which is significant. But then think of what you’ve had to sacrifice to draft three such guys. (i.e. Your offense would suck.)

    @Nick J: Actually, that’s exactly what it means. A pitcher who only contributes 70 IP to your total isn’t going to have the same effect as one who pitches 210 IP.

    @BigFatHippo: It is true that top “name” closers always have more trade value than guys you grab late, or off the wire, mostly because other owners consider you “lucky” for having landed them. As outlined in my closer strategy, I tend to trade closers early and often, because there’s always a new one to be found for free. (Hello, Jensen Lewis!)

    @drl25: He did! (I could go over his whole roster but Yahoo! doesn’t keep all that info from season to season.)

    But the point is this: Even the most stellar reliever is only going to contribute 70 IP. That’s about 1/3 of a topline starter. (See above.) People get too entranced by ERA — but 210 IP of 3.25 ERA has a much bigger effect on your team ERA than does 70 IP of the same. In fact, the worse your total team ERA, the less someone like Borowski will skew it — because he becomes less and less of an outlier.

    p.s. all the pitching examples in here are just that, examples. The team in question didn’t actually have Nathan, and Papelbon, and Wilson, and Harang, and Snell. I was just using his team ERA as a baseline from which to do comparisons.

    @elwood: Good reasoning, but as anyone will tell you, it’s impossible to predict saves. Even harder than wins. The Yankees have a potent — i.e. non-saves-friendly offense (i.e. they should theoretically blow a lot of people out) — yet Mo Rivera does just fine, saves-wise, every year. And no one would have pegged Valverde for the saves lead last year. Or look at F. Cordero year to year. There are too many variables to try and pinpoint how many saves someone is likely to get.

  21. @Nick J: Hey Nick J – For Tom Tango’s challenge, I’ll be leveraging Point Shares but I have to do several customizations based on his roster requirements and point scoring – the use of points instead of standings makes it a lot easier. I think the keys will be 1) best balancing production and position scarcity and 2) avoiding injury/playing time risks (think about it – you can’t change your roster and points are generally counting stats….so that Pitching analysis I did will DEFINITELY factor into my equation….) Should be a lot of fun….

  22. Tony says:

    Referring to the poster about H2H leagues I think they are more important, at least in mine they are…. We have a 32 inning minimum per week, many times guys will get their innings in and Bench their SP’s the rest of the week. So having to pitch less SP’s and getting your 32 with “safe” closers is helpful. Now you can do the same thing by grabbing the lower tier closers and middle relievers to get your innings, so it just depends. I in no way think you need to reach for a papelnuts early on. I took Krod in the 7th last year, jenks in the 10th, sherrill and some other smucks real late and I smoked thru my league in saves. Alot depends on your league settings, alot of you are referring to roto leagues i believe?

  23. @Tony: K-Rod was, of course, a bizarre anomaly last year. (And, in the 7th round, a pretty good value pick.)

    With 62 saves, he was essentially two good closers (32 + 30). Somehow I think it would have been statistically impossible to own K-Rod and not win saves….

  24. BigFatHippo says:

    @Baron Von Vulturewins: That’s an interesting point.

    Did anyone out there own K-Rod last year and not win saves?

  25. Steve says:

    Baron – email me about the RCL…

  26. Tony says:

    @BigFatHippo: LOL that would be pretty tough to do since owning him was like owning two mid tier closers…. Only way you could lose with KROD is if he was your ONLY closer. And i got KROD inthe 7th great value, but I wanted HAMMY and was going to take him as my 8th pick but the snake behind me took him right after KROD, i’d have def’ly grabbed him in the 7th if i knew he’d blow up like he did!

  27. Lou Poulas

    Lou P says:

    I am all for the avoidance of elite closers, especially in auction leagues. They go for insane amounts of money, and the low end of the spectrum closers end up going for peanuts at the end of the draft. You could have Borowski and a $20 batter instead of Papelbon. Why would you not do that? Some $20 players off of Rudy;s sheet – John Lackey, Ian Kinsler, Russell Martin, Aram Ramirez, etc. 45 saves plus one of these people are much more valuable then Paps. Sure, you might lose a point or two in ERA, but you would gain more elsewhere while standing pat in saves.

    The only time this is real problem is in leagues with severe restrictions on FA movement. If you can’t freely swap closers by raiding the waiver wire, you need to pay for a good one.

  28. sam says:

    hahaha great post

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