Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Bullpen Report: Time to hold on a second

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Holds have added a nice little twist to the game of Fantasy Baseball.

Every day here, we get virtual waterfall of "Should I do this trade?" e-mails, Tweets, and phone calls. When one doesn't make a lot of sense because a seemingly-random middle reliever is included, there's always a follow-up pointing out that "holds are counted in this league."

Before holds leagues came along, middle relievers had limited value -- they were pretty much left to NL- and AL-only Roto leagues to keep WHIP and ERA low while giving an owner a decent amount of strikeouts. A Craig Stammen-type wouldn't be in line for saves, but he could help balance out a bad start from Edinson Volquez.

Most Added Relievers (as of 5/19)
Player Name % change
1. Jerome Williams, RP, Angels 16
2. Josh Lindblom, RP, Rangers 12
3. Kenley Jansen, RP, Dodgers 11
4. Heath Bell, RP, D-Backs 8
5. David Phelps, RP, Yankees 8
6. Ernesto Frieri, RP, Angels 6
7. Andrew Bailey, RP, Red Sox 4
8. Joel Peralta, RP, Rays 4
9. Tommy Hunter, RP, Orioles 4
10. Kevin Gregg, RP, Cubs 3

Lately, though, it seems like the hold is gaining steam. It's coming up in a lot more questions and there's still some uncharted territory in terms of how to best approach it, strategically. And for Fantasy players not in holds leagues, taking a look at the leaders still holds some value.

Last season, Jason Grilli finished with the fourth-most holds and Edward Mujica had the seventh-most. They have 27 saves between them this season. In 2011, Tyler Clippard led the majors in holds (he saved 32 games the following season), while Jose Veras and Grant Balfour finished in the top 10. It's not an exact science -- hold leaderboards are scattered with pitchers (Matt Thornton, Sean Burnett, Eric O'Flaherty) who may only see a handful of saves over their entire career. But it does give these low-ERA/WHIP, high-K pitchers -- who would otherwise go unnoticed and unappreciated by the general Fantasy-playing community -- some value.

There's no perfect way to present a holds column, so I'm going to chop it up into a bunch of fun little sections and let you decide what works and what doesn't. I give you ...

2013 MLB Holds Leaders

1. Mark Melancon, Pirates (14 holds)
2. Eric O'Flaherty, Braves (12)
3. Jesse Crain, White Sox (11)
4. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals (11)
5. Joel Peralta, Rays (10)
5. Matt Thornton, White Sox (10)
7. Luke Gregerson, Padres (9)
8. David Robertson, Yankees (9)
9. Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox (9)
10. Jared Burton, Twins (8)

The top 20 in holds have averaged 8.95 so far this season, while the top 20 in saves have averaged 10.5. So for a Fantasy owner in a holds league to just dismiss closers as having the same value as holders (I'm calling them that for this column ... not sure if they actually have a term yet) would be a bit of an aggressive move. The flip side to that, however, is that holds are more readily available the deeper you go. So it's a question of wanting to consolidate your reliever counting stats (holds/saves) in one spot (using a closer) or getting it from two sources from a cheaper level (using a holder).

Saves trump holds in the upper echelons, but ...

The single-season record in holds is 40, set by Luke Gregerson in 2010. He is the only pitcher in the history of the game to register 40 holds in a season. Last year, five pitchers had 40 or more saves. In 2010, the year Gregerson set the standard, seven pitchers hit the 40-saves mark. But while the 50th-best holder had four saves last season, the 50th-best closer had 16. The reason for this? Multiple pitchers on the same team can get holds in one game, but only one pitcher can get a save.

Take Jose Veras, for instance. The Astros closer has just five saves this year, with a 3.94 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 16 strikeouts in 16 innings. He is unimpressive in a saves-only league (for reference, newly-minted closer Heath Bell already has six saves). But if you want to find Veras' holds doppelganger, it would probably be someone like the Twins' Josh Roenicke, with his five holds, 3.66 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and 15 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings (it's not perfect, but it's close). A Veras-for-Roenicke trade seems absurd, but if you're in a 6x6 league that counts holds and saves, there's a case to be made that Roenicke's value is close to Veras'. Smart holds league owners can make this work in their favor.

So how can I use this to my advantage?

While saves are top-heavy, holds are middle-heavy. Say you're in a league that counts both holds and saves, and has a limited amount (we'll say three, for this exercise) of RP slots. Your bullpen may look like this:

Joe Nathan (12 saves)
Steve Cishek (5 saves)
Aaron Crow (7 holds)

But a more efficient way to run it might be to fill up all three slots with cheaper high-K, low-ratio relievers:

David Robertson (9 holds)
Aaron Crow (7 holds)
Robbie Ross (4 holds)

You lose some of the counting stats, but your ERA and WHIP would be lower, while strikeouts are edged out by one. But the draft spots you saved by passing on Nathan and Cishek could have been used to fill spots in another position -- one which isn't complicated by a counting stat (holds) that nearly-equalizes most of a specialist's (closer's) value.

In H2H category formats -- the most popular I've played with holds involved -- you lose the saves category in the above scenario, but dominate in holds, and you end up rostering pitchers who can contribute more in wins while keeping the WHIP and ERA down. Plus, if you happen to draft a holds dud, he's easily replaceable on the wire, thanks to that middle ground. Replacing a saves dud isn't nearly as simple.

In-season, the above owner can trade Nathan for someone like B.J. Upton, strengthen the outfield (eventually), and fill Nathan's spot with a top-30 holds contributor, who can keep pace with Ks, ERA, and WHIP, and only really see a downgrade in saves -- which is offset by the gain in holds.

Holds are on the rise

If you total the saves from the top five pitchers in the category each year over the last 10 seasons, there isn't much fluctuation. In 2003, the top five totaled 223 saves; in 2012, the group had 225. The numbers ranged from a low of 212 in 2006 to 241 in 2004. But if you look at the top five holds leaders, the numbers initially jump around with no pattern, then begin to rise as we near the 2013 season:

2003: 146 holds
2004: 162
2005: 161
2006: 149
2007: 167
2008: 142
2009: 149
2010: 162
2011: 175
2012: 171

Not only have holds risen among the upper echelon, the holders look to be closing the gap: so far this season, the top five in holds have totaled 58, while the top five in saves have totaled 72 -- a ratio of .80, which is an all-time high. That number has risen from .62 in 2008 and has gone up every year since.

What does it mean? That in holds leagues, getting a top-five holder is becoming almost as useful as getting a top-five closer. And with closers being drafted earlier and bid on for more money, there may be a market inefficiency in those H2H category formats. This can also be used in trades. A Joe Nathan for Mark Melancon swap sounds a little goofy even in a holds league, but the drop-off, in reality, isn't that stark. And Melancon could end up being a toss-in as part of a larger deal, even in that format.

Holds are up. Fine. But what about those other stats?

The top 50 closers have compiled a 2.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP this season. The top 50 holders have compiled a 2.71 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. The closers have 43 total wins, while the holders have 48. The closers have a K/9 of 9.6, while the holders have a K/9 of 8.7. But while the closers have managed 299 saves this year, the holders have put up 347 holds.

What this means is that an owner in a holds league can fill his RP slots with holders, ditch saves, and then focus on getting better starters, or a bigger bat, in the spots where a closer would normally be. In a league with 16 teams and three relief spots in each, you're still operating within the top 50, and with 20 or so of those spots taken by closers, someone using the holds strategy could be picking from the top 30 of holders.

My brain is mush, just give me names

The holds leaders, by team:

Orioles: Brian Matusz, six holds
Red Sox: Junichi Tazawa, 9
Yankees: David Robertson, 9
Rays: Joel Peralta, 10
Blue Jays: Aaron Loup, 4
Royals: Aaron Crow, 7
Tigers: Joaquin Benoit, 5
White Sox: Jesse Crain, 11 (note: Matt Thornton has 10)
Twins: Jared Burton, 8
Indians: Vinnie Pestano, 4
A's: Sean Doolittle, 7
Rangers: Tanner Scheppers, 8
Mariners: Carter Capps, 4
Astros: Hector Ambriz, 6
Angels: Scott Downs, 8
Braves: Eric O'Flaherty, 12
Nationals: Tyler Clippard, 6
Mets: Scott Atchison, 4
Phillies: Antonio Bastardo, 6
Marlins: Mike Dunn, 6
Reds: Jonathan Broxton, 5
Cardinals: Trevor Rosenthal, 11
Cubs: James Russell, 7
Pirates: Mark Melancon, 14
Brewers:John Axford, 6 (note: weird, right?)
Giants: Jeremy Affeldt, 6
Diamondbacks: David Hernandez, 8
Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, 8
Rockies: Matt Belisle, 7
Padres: Dale Thayer, 7

How about a quick summary?

1. Holds leagues are on the rise
2. The gap between holds leaders and saves leaders is narrowing
3. Now is the time to deal your top closers for help elsewhere, because you can pick up holds on the wire.
4. Market inefficiency: because holders are considered so disposable, other owners may not value the good ones as much. But the good ones are putting up numbers similar to the top closers. Take advantage of that perception.
4. "Holders" just doesn't have enough pop to stick as a widely-used term.
5. Take a look at the hold leaders. Chances are at least one of them will be closing games next season (my bets -- Robertson and/or Burton).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Reds, Paul Maholm agree to deal for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:12 pm ET) The Reds and pitcher Paul Maholm have agreed to a minor-league contract for 2015 with an invitation to spring training, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Maholm, who is recovering from ACL surgery in August, made 30 appearances in 2014 for the Dodgers, posting a 1-5 record with a 4.84 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 70 2/3 innings pitched.


White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija willing to listen to long-term deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) New White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija's agent, Mark Rodgers said Sunday he and his client "owe it to Chicago to consider an offer" on a long-term contract, according to Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio.

However, Rodgers also said they would need to see how things go for at least half of a season before deciding whether to stay with the club.

Samardzija was traded to Chicago in the offseason from Oakland and has one-year remaining on his current contract.

Samardzija finished 2014 with a 7-13 record between the Cubs and Athletics, posting a 2.99 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings.


Scott Boras: Andruw Jones hopes to return to majors in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) Agent Scott Boras said outfielder Andruw Jones wants to return to the majors for another season in 2015 and that at least two teams are interested in signing him as a designated hitter.

Jones has spent the last two seasons playing in Japan. In his major-league career, Jones totaled 434 home runs and 1,289 RBI.


Royals' Luke Hochevar nearing return from Tommy John surgery
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Royals pitcher Luke Hochevar has been able to throw off a mound and expects to soon be at the full strength, reports The Kansas City Star.

Hochevar is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss the 2014 season and said he expects to be at full strength once spring training is underway.

"I'm conditioning my arm," Hochevar said. "Once spring training comes around they're going to monitor me for a little while, but once they cut me loose I become a regular guy again."

In 2013, Hochevar produced a 1.92 ERA in 58 games. While Hochevar said he's looking forward to returning, he wants to be cautious with his body.

"Hopefully, I'm ready in two weeks," Hochevar said. "But you never know and I'm not going to put a timetable on it. I'm going to listen to my body. I need to look long term, not just career-wise but season-wise. Me on the shelf is no good. If it takes me an extra two weeks, a month, whatever it is, I need to be mindful of that."


Report: Padres 'in touch' with Phillies regarding Cole Hamels
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) The Padres are "in touch" with the Phillies in an attempt to land pitcher Cole Hamels, FOX Sports reports.

The Padres have made plenty of upgrades across the roster since general manager A.J. Heller took over, and it's possible they don't have the ammunition to land the Philadelphia ace in a deal. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week that he didn't expect Hamels to be traded before the start of the season. Hamels went 9-9 with a 2.46 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings in 2014.


Report: Orioles sign Mark Hendrickson to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Orioles have signed Mark Hendrickson to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training, CSNBaltimore.com reports.

Hendrickson, who last pitched in the majors in 2011, spent 2014 with York of the independent Atlantic League, posting a 1.54 ERA and 34:11 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings over 55 appearances.


Rangers' Matt Harrison expects to open season on 60-day DL
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said Saturday that he expects to open the season on the 60-day disabled list as he continues to recover from spinal fusion surgery, the Dallas Morning News reports.

"My job is to just get as healthy as I can and get myself right so I don’t have something happen like it did last year when I tried to come back," Harrison said. "I’m just going to focus on that and get ready to contribute whenever it may be."

Harrison is dealing with some stiffness in his right side, which will cause him to throw from a distance of 90 feet for a second consecutive week rather than progress to 105 feet. He hopes that he'll get his hips to rotate more and loosen up with more stretching and more throws from the 90-foot distance.


Report: Rays sign Ronald Belisario to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) The Rays have signed pitcher Ronald Belisario to a minor-league deal with an invitiation to spring training, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Belisaro made 62 appearances with the White Sox in 2014, posting a 4-8 record, 5.56 ERA and 47:18 K:BB ratio in 66 1/3 innings. He'll compete for a bullpen spot during the spring.


Dodgers SP Zack Greinke hasn't decided whether to opt out
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said Saturday that he's yet to decide whether to opt out of his contract at the end of next season but added, "There's not really better options anywhere besides here," the Los Angeles Times reports.

Greinke is set to make $23 million in 2015, and he's due another $71 million over the following three seasons if he remains under his current contract. The Dodgers said earlier this offseason that they wouldn't discuss a contract extension with the pitcher during the winter.

Greinke went 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA and 207:43 K:BB ratio in 202 1/3 innings in 2014.


Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez hoping to bounce back in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/31/2015) Orioles pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez can't wait to get on the field and get past the 2014 season.

"I can’t wait," Jimenez said at Saturday’s FanFest event. "Whatever happened in 2014 is in the past. There's nothing I can do about it now. I can just look forward and now I’m going to do everything in spring training to get myself ready the best I can for the season and help the team."

Jimenez, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal with Baltimore in 2014, went 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA in 125 1/3 innings pitched. 

"It was pretty hard, coming in with a new team and signing a contract like that and not to do what everyone is expecting you to do, it’s hard," Jimenez said. "It’s hard not to be there for the team, but regardless what happened, I fought a lot. I think I was trying to find a way to survive to be there for the team and do whatever I can do the best. We got really far. I didn’t help a lot, but I tried to do whatever I could with whatever I had."


 
 
 
Rankings