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How to Value Closers
Posted by Chris Liss at 3/23/2007 2:13:00 PM
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You probably won't find more disagreement on a fantasy baseball topic than this. And I'm not just talking about verbal disagreement - I'm talking about what people actually do at the draft table.

I've seen Mariano Rivera and in previous years, Eric Gagne, go in the second round of my 15-team mixed league. And there have been people like me who have waited until round 10 or 11 to draft my first closer, usually someone like Bob Wickman or Joe Borowski.

Maybe this is coincidence, but in that league, I've always done best getting one guy (in past years, it was Francisco Cordero) in the sixth or seventh round, and maybe one more in the 10th or 11th. Sometimes, I'll draft a closer-in-waiting type for my reserve roster, and usually during the season, there are players to pick up.

But I don't buy the cavalier attitude that people have who say: "Don't ever pay for saves, it's only one category, and there are plenty of guys on the waiver wire to pick up."

First off, if your league is competitive enough to win while getting a 1 in a category, then fine, you can punt, and you'll probably do well in Ks and Wins as a result. But you had better have a good offense and not a terrible ERA and WHIP while you're at it - something that's tough to do with nine starters (who on average are worse than relievers in those categories).

And if you don't think you're punting because it's so easy to pick up a closer, think again. While Otsuka, Borowski, Saito and others were great finds last year - there are 14 other teams in my league bidding on those guys, and I might end up getting Howry or Wheeler or Burgos or some other reliever who seemed to have the job, but didn't keep it.

Plus, if you go all starters, you'll likely be behind in saves by the time you do plug the hole and will likely have to trade for them anyway, i.e., you'd hate to pick up a couple closers who cost you wins and Ks, and only gain three points in saves.

The bottom line is you have a choice:

(1) In a tight enough league where you can win despite being last in one category, you can punt saves altogether.

(2) Or you can draft/buy closers in such a way that give you the most saves for your money.

If you do (2), there's no perfect time to do it, and it varies by league (in a 4 x 4 NL only league, closers are legit. second round picks), or in a yahoo league which requires two relievers, you have to bump them up a bit.

Again, my best success rate (which is admittedly anecdotal) is when I draft a decent closer a couple rounds after the initial run (this year that would be a guy like Huston Street) and then follow that up with a sketchier guy like Jason Isringhausen a few rounds later.

One other note - Scott Pianowski made a good point on my radio show about bumping up closers with one obvious backup, e.g., a guy like Gagne who has Otsuka is safer than another sketchy closer who has no clear cut backup to get.


I'll go one further and say that when I can't decide between two similar starting pitchers I'll go with the one who features the better bullpen/stopper. I'm a lot more inclined to chase closers whose peripherals help in other categories like Octavio Dotel in his Astros' years or Keith Foulke with the White Sox. I'd rather have a strong WHIP from a reliever than a few more wins and a worse ERA/WHIP with a middling starter. I can't think of many current relievers like that. Anaheim's F-Rod maybe, but who else? I typically try to not finish last in categories more than finish first, and then make in-season changes.
Posted by jtopper at 3/23/2007 3:20:00 PM
I drafted 12th in a 12 team 5X5 mixed lg. last night(redraft).We have to carry 2 RPs.This league is as tough as any. Every GM is experienced,very active,no newbies,and no stone is ever left unturned.It's dog eat dog for 26 weeks. I remembered hearing this discussion regarding closers on XM the other day.In the past I'd get caught up in that early run on closers that would begin around the middle of the 3rd round and run through the 4th round. I decided going in to the draft this year to pass on that top tier of closers,and concentrate on hitters. I drafted Miguel Cabrera,Grady Sizemore,and Vernon Wells 1-2-3.Rather than chase closers in rounds 4-5-6 I decided to fill out my infield with Michael Young,Brian Roberts,and Prince Fielder.I then went to work on starting pitching in rounds 7-8-9(Schilling,Schmidt,and Bedard)I finally took Chad Cordero as my 1st closer in round 10(109th OA). After grabbing Capuano in round 11,I grabbed Brian Fuentes as my 2nd closer in round 12(133 OA).So I gave this strategy a whirl, and it will be fun to see how it all pans out.Enjoy the season.
Posted by *SNUFFY* at 3/24/2007 10:18:00 AM
Good luck with that - it sounds like you got decent value.
Posted by cliss at 3/25/2007 1:50:00 AM
i'm in a different league with snuffy, and i'm not even kidding, his team is horrible in it. just horrible...

Posted by Will Schwarz at 3/26/2007 8:47:00 AM
I've long been a proponent of the Rd 10/rd 14 closer strategy before. Last year it started great as I had targeted Gordon (rd 10 in my two 12-team leagues) and Valverde (rd 14), and was dominating saves on June 1. Didn't work so well for the last two months of the year however. Last night I had my first draft of this year, and at the 80th overall pick (middle of rd 6 in this 14-team league) Mariano was still available. It wasn't in my strategy to draft a closer in rd 6, but I couldn't pass up the value there.

Posted by iceguy at 3/27/2007 11:23:00 AM

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