Where the Buses Don't Run: To Have and To Hold
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And that just happens to be the way I feel about the red-headed stepchild stat that is the "hold," which has become a surprisingly popular addition to traditional leagues. I understand the attraction. Non-closing relievers represent nearly 25 percent of the typical major league roster, but remain the most underappreciated (and undrafted) type of player in fantasy baseball. Including holds as a category helps balance out this inequality.
In fact, even this humble scribe decided to include holds when it came time to start a league a number of years back. I know why. The reason was
Remember Duane Ward? Ward was a reliever on the 1992 World Champion Toronto Blue Jays. That year, he posted a spectacular 1.95 ERA, 9.1 K/9 ratio and 2.64 SO/BB ratio -- not to mention a 1.135 WHIP and seven wins. Alas, he only had 12 saves and few knew who he was. Why? Because Ward would often pitch a sparkling one-two-three eighth, only to have the venerable
So, what is a hold? The hold was created in 1986 by
A hold is awarded to a relief pitcher who enters the game in a save situation and leaves the game without his team having relinquished the lead. Therein, however, lies the problem.
Since the hold is not an official Major League Baseball statistic, the specifics can vary from stat provider to stat provider. For example, STATS, Inc. requires the pitcher to record at least one out for a hold, SportsTicker does not. This leads to discrepancies in hold totals depending on the source.
Furthermore, even a relatively ineffective performance can earn a hold. For example, a reliever that enters with a one-run lead, records one out, loads the bases, and is then pulled would still be credited with a hold. It is even plausible for a player to receive a hold and a loss in the same game. In the preceding situation, if the next pitcher immediately gave up a home run, the original pitcher would take the loss, as he was responsible for the runners on base. The SportsTicker definition makes it even worse. Suppose a pitcher comes in with a two-run lead, gives up a home run to the only batter he faces and leaves. He still would be credited with a hold.
Plus, unlike saves, wins, and even losses, more than one pitcher per team can earn a hold for that game.
I admit it, I made a mistake. While I thought it was a good idea at the time, I have since learned that the hold is not such a great stat.
But I know your league is not going to change the scoring system just because I think you should. So, if your league does count holds, who should you look to get?
First let's look at the list of relievers who recorded more than 20 holds last year.
This should tell us a few things:
What a novel concept! But when you're trying to project a category that is as unpredictable as holds, it pays to look at those who have done it consistently. Marmol and Shields once again are amongst the leaders this year as well. Even with something as fluid as bullpens, it should be no surprise that Shields, Okajima, and Romero were all in the Top 20 in holds in both 2007 and 2008. Shields was also in the top three in both 2006 and 2005. So, if you're in a league that counts holds, get
I have yet to hear about a league that includes holds that doesn't include saves. If you go after closers, two possible scenarios can unfold: One, you end up getting saves instead of holds -- is that such a bad thing? (You can always pick up a holds guy later); the other is that your saves guy loses the gig and goes back to being a set-up guy and lo and behold, he gets holds.
There is not a perfect correlation to the number of appearances made and holds recorded. However, Feliciano, Ohman, and Marmol were the top three in appearances made last year and what do you know, they happen to be in the Top 20 in holds too. Coincidence? I think not.
Remember Duane Ward's exceptional K/9 ratio above? It should come as no surprise that Guardado and Bradford are the only ones on the list above with a K/9 ratio of less than 6.00. It is a lot easier to leave the game with the lead when you can strike people out two-thirds of the time than when you can't.
I've now given you a template of what to pursue in a league with holds. However, I know for some of you, it is not enough. For those of you too lazy to do your own research, here are three suggestions: Try