Being as young as I am, I can seriously not imagine baseball without certain things.
I can’t imagine baseball without a fantasy obviously. Since I have been drawn to the sport, fantasy baseball has been as much of a staple as fantasy football to the NFL or fantasy basketball to the NBA.
Middle relief has become such big business nowadays that you have an entire section on roster reports dedicated solely to who’s a middle reliever, a spot starter, and a closer! Back in the day, pitchers would pitch complete games regardless of how high the score got, how hot it was, or regardless of when their next start was (which was usually later on that week). Yet, middle relief has become such a big deal nowadays that it has changed the way the game is played.
With the advent of fantasy baseball and roster spots, there has become a growing trend that is sweeping rosters across the board and it is known by the simple letters of “SP/RP”. This is basically pitchers who qualify as “spot starters” or guys who start out the year as a relief pitcher but then get moved to the rotation whether it’s due to injury, talent, or you just decide to blow up your team one day (see Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington).
This has posed a serious question that owners are now having to ask themselves: are starts worth more than save opportunities?
It’s a fair question to ask. If you look at standard scoring alone, the top 2 “RP-eligible pitchers” (Los Angeles Angels’ SP/RP Garrett Richards and San Diego Padres’ SP/RP Tyson Ross) are both getting starts on a weekly basis. Not to mention, they both have 85 and 24 points (respectively) more than the next closest “closer” who is Milwaukee Brewers’ RP Francisco Rodriguez! And we haven’t even mentioned Cincinnati Reds’ SP/RP Alfredo Simon who currently ranks 4th on that list. The disparity in points is not one to overlook.
Luckily there is hope in this.
You can’t deny that the SP/RP role is a good one to cash in on. You can easily get 2-4 extra starts a week if you know who to pick up and how to manage the match ups right. Richards (12-4, 2.58 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 158 SO, 443 fantasy points) is an obvious choice on who you can gamble on. At his current rate, he stands to make you at least 180-200 more fantasy points over the next 8 weeks. But what if you’re not lucky enough to have a guy like Richards, Ross (382.5 fantasy points), or Simon (344.5 fantasy points), what do you do?
They are the top 3, but the next closest is further down the charts. 14 spots to be exact. Oakland A’s SP/RP Jesse Chavez (8-7, 3.41 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 276.5 fantasy points) is ranked 18th overall and with a loaded rotation, a gamble at best. Closer rule 14 out of 18 spots and in the bigger picture, 22 out of the top 30 are “closer only” RP. You have dedicated middle relievers that include New York Yankees’ RP Dellin Betances (224 points) and Los Angeles Angels’ RP Joe Smith (262 points) but that represents the minority.
Not saying that there isn’t inherit gamble with a closer. St. Louis Cardinals RP Trevor Rosenthal (1-5, 3.07 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 35 S, 327 points) ranks 5ht overall in points but has blown 4 saves this year and an ERA/WHIP that is double that of 8 of the top 10 closers. But despite the high ERA/WHIP, Rosenthal still averages 17.2 points per week (equivalent of 2 save opportunities).
Even a closer on a bad team is still worth points. Minnesota Twins’ RP Glen Perkins (3-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 28 S, 318.5 points) and Boston Red Sox RP Koji Uehara (5-2, 1.42 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 22 S, 318.5 points) are dead last in their respective divisions but can still get you points in spite of their team’s shortcomings.
My rule, albeit a new one, is this:
- “Treat save opportunities like you would games started”
Doing this can help you make the right choices. If a closer goes out and pitches the perfect inning (0 hits allowed, 0 runs, 0 walks, 3 SO, 1 S) that is worth 11.5 points (just for one opportunity). You take that and say he gets another save opportunity that week, that’s 23 points. He gives up a run or walk, that bumps you down to 19-20 points. For a SP (in a non-double start week) to get you those kind of points they would need 6 innings of shut out baseball (0 hits, 0 walks, 0 ER) and that would get you 21 points.
Emphasis still has to be placed on ERA and WHIP (as we discussed last week). You can’t throw those rules out of the window. But when you break down the numbers, there are very few SP out there that will net you the kind of points a closer will. In the big picture, 4 out of the top 90 pitchers are SP/RP while 18 out of the top 90 are closers.
Hope this info helps and happy hunting!
Till next time..