Bridging The Gap – Middle Relievers

Last month, Eriq Gardner at Fantasy Baseball Junkie wrote a fantastic, two-part article, illustrating the value of a solid relief corp. He followed it up with a podcast last week on Bloomberg Sports, that I highly recommend as well. The skinny is that there is a market inefficiency to exploit between the real and perceived values of pitchers. Very often fantasy owners will choose to roster a rather mediocre starter or two, forgoing the numerous, valuable middle-relief pitchers who are usually available on waivers. The thinking behind this implies that the larger quantity of innings the starters will throw and the counting stats he’ll accumulate will outweigh the possible penalty to his ERA and WHIP. Conversely, the value of the high quality innings the reliever will throw is diminished by their small number.

Since it seems many fantasy owners follow this belief, there are always solid middle-men to be found on the wire. It’s a simple numbers game. Most teams roster 6 or 7 relief pitchers. One reliever is usually designated the closer and odds are he’ll be rostered in a 12-team mixed league or greater. A small handful of set-up men will usually be taken. They’ll usually reside on teams with shaky closers, since their owners are anticipating the current closer failing and the set-up man taking over to get the coveted Save. What’s left are numerous relief pitchers, many of whom are very good at their jobs of getting people out, particularly via strikeout. Many relievers will K around a man per inning or more, in contrast to many of the low K starters you’ll find on waivers. So it stands to reason that with most of the quality starting pitchers rostered, would it not be more prudent to roster two solid middle-relievers over one or two marginal starters?

Food for thought. I’ve got some thinking to do on this subject and I’ll report more about in the future. There are some interesting relief options available and I have a couple of questionable players on my auction team…

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