Man in a box: Middle relief gold
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Other than sports, I don't typically watch much TV, but I got hooked on a new show this past weekend. Saturday morning I was flipping channels and happened to come across a show called
So how can we apply this "picking" in a fantasy baseball realm? Is there hidden value in strange places just waiting for us to "pick" it? You know there is or I wouldn't have spent the last 150 words telling you about some show on the History Channel. Our hidden value lies in the vastly untapped source of pitching stats among the middle relievers of Major League Baseball. It's widely accepted that middle relievers have value in mono-leagues, but fantasy owners in mixed leagues have, for the most part, ignored this aspect of "real" baseball.
Just to illustrate the value of middle relievers, let's take a look at two pitchers. Whom do you prefer?
Pitcher A: 8-2 record, 2.43 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 98 Ks
Pitcher B: 9-5 record, 1.59 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 95 Ks
Pitcher A is perennial Cy Young candidate
Let's go "picking" and dig up "rusty gold" by checking out the middle relievers who are quietly dominating hitters this season. You keeper-leaguers need to pay extra special attention. Some of these pitchers could be closing out games in the near future.
Luke Gregerson (RHP, SD): 35.2 IP, 1 W, 1.51 ERA, 0.477 WHIP, 43 K
Gregerson isn't just having the best year of any middle reliever; he's arguably having the best year of any pitcher not named
Benoit was salvaged as a minor league signing after missing all of 2009 while recovering from a torn rotator cuff. Nobody knows it, but Benoit has twice struck out more than 80 batters in a relief role. Because of his recent shoulder injury, the Rays are being careful with their usage of Benoit. As the season wears on, we can expect to see more of him. His low innings total limits his value this season, but it should be noted that
Tyler Clippard (RHP, WAS): 43.2 IP, 8 W, 1.65 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 52 K
No, we can't always count on eight early season wins from Clippard, but he's not getting the credit he deserves for his other numbers. Over the last two seasons he's pitched 104 innings while providing a 2.25 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 119 Ks. He's not the future closer in Washington with
Pitching middle relief for the Pirates is like being the fifth Beatle; except instead of the Beatles, think of a band like Winger. Seriously, if Meek were pitching in a big market, he'd be getting a lot more attention.
Pitching for Boston gets Bard more attention than the previously mentioned pitchers, but he deserves mention as a prime closer candidate for 2011. He's obviously second in command in the Boston pen and there are already whispers that
Motte got a lot of sleeper love last year and completely disintegrated under the pressure.
Gregerson is the better long-term bet to take over closing duties when Heath Bell gets traded, but it's certainly possible that Adams could get the call if it happens this season. Adams currently sits with a 0.89 WHIP, which follows last year's 0.59. Fantasy owners frequently turn to more advanced stats, but sometimes all we need to do is look at how many baserunners a pitcher allows. Adams is just flat out good. The only issue is whether the Padres would trust him in a closer role with his recent shoulder issues. If you're toward the top of the ERA and WHIP categories, it's time to protect your numbers, sit your questionable starters and turn to the middle men. Adams is one of the best.
"Picking" is one of the aspects that make keeper leagues so much fun. Digging through the middle relief junkyard can net you solid value for this year and who knows ... maybe a closer next season. In the meantime, I have to figure out if the 36-ounce rocked-chipped golden aluminum bat I've had since 1977 is rusty gold or just rust.
* All statistics current as of June 20.