Tapping the middle relief pool
We spend a lot of time in this column discussing starting pitchers, who can be great sources of wins and strikeouts while helping your ratios. However, they only pitch once every five games, or once or twice a week. And each start carries so much weight (around six innings) that a bad one can set you back mightily. Plus, there are only a few good, reliable starters. The rest are a crapshoot at best when it comes to consistency and staying healthy. If only there were an alternative ...
No, I don't mean fantasy football. I mean the creature know as the middle reliever pitcher (MRP), who is any non-starter pitcher that doesn't have the closer's job. They come in for somewhere between a single batter and a few innings, while amassing wins and strikeouts. And if they have a bad outing, their one inning of work can be absorbed by your ratios (although that four earned runs and no outs recorded by
For example, Yankees starter
A middle reliever's win is known as a vulture win because he scavenges the win by being in the right place at the right time. Middle relievers can also vulture saves by either stepping in when the closer hits the DL or by simply out-pitching the closer and taking the job away.
So let's take a look at the middle relievers who are vulturing wins and saves.
I've been following this stat closely for years and here's what I've observed: (1) the King Vulture (the MRP who leads his league in vulture wins) rarely ever repeats; (2) the maximum number of vulture wins by a pitchers appears to be capped at 12; and (3) while you can predict that a pitcher is in great position to get a team's vulture wins, you can't predict when they're going to happen. An MRP can get three wins in a week and then not see another one for months. You just have to put your staff in position to get those vultures and let the games be played.
In the AL, we have
All that was a long way of saying I'd expect no more than 4 more wins out of Frasor, if that. Ramirez, on the other hand, is someone the Royals likely wish they had back and is my candidate for AL King Vulture this year. Bailey should stay in the top tier of MRP and can help you the most with strikeouts of any of these guys, but I wouldn't waste your time on journeyman Cruz. Someone you should scoop up is
In the NL,
While his control numbers and ratios have been pedestrian,
Two of the best non-drafted closers this year were both in the AL:
When the Tigers signed
There are certain unofficial closers that should not be available on your waiver wire, namely,
Meanwhile, in Title Town