Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued and Undervalued: Relief Pitchers

It's kind of silly to talk about over and undervalued relievers, since the position is so fungible... but in all likelihood, you've got to have some saves on your roster to win your league, and spending all year working the wire is no way to live. So let's have at it, shall we?


1) Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox.
For the life of me, I can't see why Boston retained his services. They had the cheaper and better option with Daniel Bard, Pap had his worst year in the uniform last year, and his WHIP and numbers keep going in the wrong direction. And now that they've got Bobby Jenks as well as Bard, the leash is shorter. Besides, even if he does keep the job, Boston's going to win a ton of games this year by too many runs for save opportunities. Don't pay the premium for the consensus #3 closer in the American League... because while he might start out with that ranking, he won't finish with it. 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3 wins, 25 saves.

2) Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers. Sure, he'll probably be fine... but, well, what if he isn't? It's not as if baseball history isn't filled with flame-throwing closers who get too much work and are never the same again. Besides, once again, the Dodgers have tremendous options (Kuo, Jansen) available to them, and a rookie manager (Don Mattingly) that isn't beholden to him. He's a great talent and could easily be what he was, but for where he's going in drafts, it's just too big of a risk. 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5 wins, 25 saves.

3) Brian Wilson, Giants. A base rule of picking closers: never go for the guy who has just had a career year, let alone the guy who danced on the edge in that year. Wilson has already had some minor health issues, and while he's still one of the best options available due to the large number of close games the Giants play, he's too risky for where he's going. Leave him to someone else who wants to pull the trigger on him with the first NL relief pick, and load up on some of the following guys instead. 3.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3 wins, 30 saves.


1) Aroldis Chapman, Reds.
I hear what you are saying; he's got no role, and Dusty Baker isn't the kind of guy who goes to an inexperienced closer. But what we've got here is something very similar to last year's Texas situation, where people stayed away from Neftali Feliz and regretted it. Chapman is a special talent, and his competition isn't. Go with the arm and trust that the role will follow. 1.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10 wins and 15 saves.

2) Huston Street, Rockies. Sure, there are injury issues, but the numbers are always good when he is healthy, and I think the risks are overstated in this case. Colorado's humidor has taken much of the terror out of owning their pitchers, but every owner in the league hasn't quite heard about that yet. Street has the clear role here whenever he's healthy, and the ability to dominate on a staff of guys who don't finish what they start. I think you get 35 saves here without a full payment, and good side stats to boot. 2.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4 wins and 35 saves.

3) Brandon Lyon, Astros. Something that too many people don't realize; bad teams can frequently have a similar number of save opportunities as good ones, because they never win by more than 3 runs, and never worry about overuse of their closer, since every win must be brought down. So those 30 to 40 more wins per year only result in 10 to 15 more save opportunities, and a much greater chance of the set-up men getting a few of 'em.

Lyon is the perfect undervalued closer. His stuff is pedestrian. He's never been the hot young thing. His team is utterly forgettable. His set-up men are good, but not so good that they will threaten his job. So there's every chance that you'll get the value of a high-priced guy at a time in your draft when people are taking vulture candidates, rather than actual live closers. Don't make the same mistake. 3.30 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5 wins and 27 saves.

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