A few months ago I wrote an article lobbying for a change in the basic 5×5 scoring method, substituting quality starts for the outdated wins category. Today I’d like to discuss another change that could not only improve things, but would level the playing field and add some extra value to some of those little used players that lay to waste on the waiver wire. What I suggest is that the saves category be removed and be replaced by saves+hold (I’ll wait a few seconds for the collective screams to die down).
First let’s start off by discussing the saves category. Currently there are 30 teams and in a perfect 10 team world, this would come out to 3 closers per team. In a 12 team league approximately half the teams would have 3 closers leaving the other half with only 2 (or less if you have a few closer hogs in your league). If you play in a 14 team or deeper league, you will be lucky to have 2 good closers and a fortunate few who take advantage early in the draft might actually have 3. With the exception of the 10 team leagues, there will be a number of teams who only have one or possibly no closers.
Even if you do start the year with 2 or three closers, there is no guarantee that you will finish with that many. Each year approximately 1/3 of the closer jobs change hands due to injury or demotion, leaving owns scrambling to try and grab the next possible candidate to replace them. Additionally, just because a closer is getting saves does not mean that he is worthy of a roster spot. A number of these relief pitchers have less than desirable ratios and while they will get you points in saves they will drag down your ERA & WHIP, and some will do so while only contributing an average amount of strikeouts. This leaves some owners with a difficult decision, do I roster a guy who will hurt my rations just to get saves, or do I just do without. Let’s take a look at the top 25 relief pitchers for saves last year.
Now there are some good closers in there, but once you get past the top 20 (and even some of them are questionable) you’re either scratching the bottom of the barrel or swooping in like a hawk to its prey to grab the next guy in line for whoever just went down or lost their job. Tom Wilhelmsen and Chris Perez recorded 24 & 25 saves respectively, but looking at their ERA and WHIP; how bad do you really want those saves. The same can be said to the same but a lesser extend about Kevin Gregg, and if it wasn’t for the strikeout totals Fernando Rodney, Ernesto Frieri and Addison Reed would be included.
These are just the top 25, but what about some of those replacement closers you can pick up through the season. Players like Mark Melancon, Koji Uehara, Rex Brothers along with Jansen & Benoit list above, any one of them would have been a great find on the waiver wire. Problem is, these guys aren’t always fair game, going to the team who saw the news first and was able to beat everyone to the waiver wire. Yes I know, law of the jungle, you snooze you lose and life isn’t fair, but even with those replacements you’re still left with the original problem; there are still only 30 closers and some of them wouldn’t be rostered if not for their save totals.
Before Melancon, Uehara, Brothers and Jansen got their shot in the 9th inning they were pitching very well, but they were available in most leagues and considered nothing more than a fill in. Besides those next in line guys, there were a number of other middle relief pitchers on waivers who were worthy of a roster spot, but they too went unused as nobody wants a reliever that doesn’t get saves and only the occasional win (Tyler Clippard comes to mind). Yes, some of these players were owned in leagues that count holds and even in some deeper leagues by owners who couldn’t get another closer; for most standard leagues though, they were just another guy on the waiver wire. Since many of these players accumulated holds, lets look at the top 13 players for holds last year.
Trevor Rosenthal should have been owned in more leagues then he was last year with those kind of numbers. The same goes for Clippard, Robertson and Melancon (pre-closer). Guys like Avilan and Scheppers didn’t have the strikeout numbers like the players just mentioned, but their ERA & WHIP were very playable. Now in holds leagues these guys were gold, but like I said above; in leagues that just count saves they were waiver fodder for the most part. Kenley Jansen didn’t make the top 12 for holds, but he did rack up 16 holds before the Dodgers inserted him in the 9th inning. The same thing goes for Rex Brothers (12) and Koji Uehara (13).
In order to give to give these players more value in mixed leagues, and to easy the burden of owners vying for saves, just combine the saves and holds into one category. Let’s take a look again at the top 25 from above, but instead we’ll insert those holds guy along with any saves they may have gotten.
Kenley Jansen who was 14 now shoots up to number 4 on this list (rightfully so). Mark Melancon and Joel Peralta becomes a top 10 option after not even ranking in the top 25. David Robertson was only a placeholder for Mariano Rivera last year, but counting holds makes him a viable option just outside the top 15. Before Koji Uehara was named closer he had 13 holds, but combined with his save totals he ranks just outside the top 20 for saves (and his ERA & WHIP add tons to his value). Tyler Clippard finishes in a tie with Gregg, Henderson & Street, and I’m sure every owner last year would have rather had him over those three.
Now, unlike before, we still have some relivant players left to choose from for our third closer and there is enough for everyone so there is no need to scramble or reach. Here are the next 11 in line rounding out the list to 36.
No longer is Chris Perez someone you have to consider, no longer do you have to stomach someone like Wilhelmsen and his awful ERA & WHIP, and no longer do you have to scramble when your Bobby Parnel goes down with an injury. If you missed out on a decent option during the draft, a number of viable options will present themselves over the first few weeks of the season as bullpens take form. That guaranteed point that some teams would get with a top heavy bullpen would now become a battle. Not all of these middle relief pitchers make good options, but neither do all closer. Together though, they give you a solid group of players to select from.
If you wanted a player like Craig Kimbrel you would have to spend a late fourth or early fifth round pick to get him. That is Way to early to be selecting a closer, and it’s the same rounds you would have to pick Buster Posey which is also too early for a catcher. With the extra talent players like Kimbel & Chapman move down a few rounds where they should be selected and not where demand says they need to be taken.
I can hear the saves purists saying this just waters down the talent pool, but since the pools is so limited as it is, I see it as making a weak position stronger. The fans of holds will say to just add holds if you want to give value to those middle relief pitchers that go undrafted. Doing this you run into two problems. First is just like closers, there are a limited number of decent guys for holds just like there are with closers. The leader in holds last year had 41, but the number 13 guy only had 25. Additionally as the holds totals go down, so do the number of players with decent rations. The second problem is, you only have so many spots on a roster. On average you would have 2-3 closers and 7-9 starting pitchers, but now you have to sacrifice a few pitcher slots or lose a bat or two off your bench for that point in holds. This problem is even larger in leagues with a minimum innings pitched count with weekly lineups. They run the risk of missing their innings if things aren’t balance just right so often times they’ll punt one category. What’s the point of adding a second category that people punt if people are already punting the original saves category.
Combining saves and holds gives you the best of both worlds. It gives value to the middlemen, it reduces the price of those overvalued top closers and leaves enough talent so everyone can compete in the category. It’s not perfect and like I’ve said before in the past, no rules are ever going to be perfect, but making this change seems like a better move than going through the stagnant routine we’ve all accepted. Baseball has changed over the years, and it’s about time that fantasy baseball adopted some much needed changes as well.