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Rotisserie Relief Pitching

March 2, 2013

tags: baseball

Non-closer relief pitchers are consistently the most undervalued players in rotisserie baseball. Year after year I walk away from the draft table with an absolutely stacked bullpen.

I did a 12-team mixed mock draft (snake) this morning on Yahoo. 5x5 scoring, roster: 3 OF, 2 UT, no MI/CI, 4 SP, 2 RP, 4 P, 6 BN. So admittedly, this is on the shallower side. I demolished everyone in the endgame.

I normally run a modified LIMA draft plan. Depending on the league settings, I fill the dedicated SP slots with SP’s and use all RP/P slots on relievers.

In the final five rounds SP were taken like Hisashi Iwakuma, Mark Buehrle, Wandy Rodriguez, Phil Hughes, Matt Harrison, Wei-Yin Chen, Clay Buchholz, Andy Pettite, and Tommy Milone. In four of those rounds, I took Ernesto Frieri, Vinnie Pestano, Luke Gregerson, and Jake McGee.

Frieri is the most likely of the group to get saves (and Pestano could back into some with Chris Perez doubtful for opening day) but that wasn’t my intention. I’m looking for high DOM preferably with a groundball tilt among “non-closers”.

LIMA uses criteria of 2.0+ K/BB, 5.6+ K/9, HR/9 < 1.0. I think that is a decent baseline. I tend to favor higher DOM guys at the expense of the other categories.

Rotisserie players care about who carries the “closer” tag. Some might even be looking at who is second in line. A guy like Jake McGee in Tampa is stuck behind Fernando Rodney who had a stunning season in 2012. Most people throw out Jake McGee because he isn’t the closer and can’t imagine a case where he might become the closer. I know this too but the difference is that I don’t care.

My full round by round mock draft (i took the 12th pick, like a gentleman):

  1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD - SP)
  2. Giancarlo Stanton (Mia - OF)
  3. Billy Butler (KC - 1B)
  4. Adam Jones (Bal - OF)
  5. Yadier Molina (StL - C)
  6. Jason Kipnis (Cle - 2B)
  7. Yovani Gallardo (Mil - SP)
  8. Kris Medlen (Atl - SP,RP)
  9. Nick Swisher (Cle - 1B,OF)
  10. Mike Moustakas (KC - 3B)
  11. Rafael Betancourt (Col - RP)
  12. Jarrod Parker (Oak - SP)
  13. Jonathon Niese (NYM - SP)
  14. Huston Street (SD - RP)
  15. Coco Crisp (Oak - OF)
  16. Brandon McCarthy (Ari - SP)
  17. Manny Machado (Bal - 3B)
  18. Michael Cuddyer (Col - 1B,OF)
  19. Ernesto Frieri (LAA - RP)
  20. Vinnie Pestano (Cle - RP)
  21. Luke Gregerson (SD - RP)
  22. Jake McGee (TB - RP)
  23. Jean Segura (Mil - SS)

So with this roster I have Kershaw, Gallardo, Medlen at the front end with options of Parker, Niese, and McCarthy. All my remaining active pitching slots will be occupied by Betancourt, Street, Frieri, Pestano, Gregerson, and McGee.

Barring disaster, this corps of relievers will snipe wins, average 9.0+ k/9, and have WHIPs under 1.25. I’m talking about 6 guys with 50-60 IP, 50-80 K’s, 2-8 wins, WHIP between 0.90 and 1.25 (ignoring saves completely). Not only does this drag your ratios lower, it provides a big boost to counting categories. For comparison, consider a back end starter you might draft in the final rounds that is going to give you a line like 150 IP, 70 K, 6 W, 4.00 ERA, 1.40 WHIP.

In a 12 team mixed league, if any of your relievers are performing poorly after 1-2 months you can go back to FA where there will be several perfectly good replacements available.

I’m talking about drafting guys like Vinnie Pestano, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Al Albuquerque, Rex Brothers, Jake McGee, Brad Ziegler, Sean Marshall, Luke Gregerson, Antonio Bastardo, and Jeremy Affeldt. These guys get no love other than for where they fit on the closer depth chart. And I like it that way.

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I am a software developer in Los Angeles.