The closer one night standby Paul Singman
July 21, 2009
The saves category is one of the more frustrating in fantasy baseball, involving a good deal of luck and favoring those with the time luxury or misfortune—however you want to look at it—of being able to immediately react at the first breaking news of a strained shoulder. Sometimes life takes precedence over fantasy baseball and you simply cannot compete with those people in the adding of newly anointed closers.
There still are ways to get some cheap saves that do not require you to be the first to jump on injury or some other news that results in a new reliever coming in the ninth. One way—the way I will go on to describe in this article—requires you to be in a league with daily roster updates and relatively deep rosters so if your league does not fit the description, I'm sorry, this strategy probably will not work well for you.
For those whose leagues apply, keep reading.
He has pitched in how many consecutive games?
The concept is simple: Keep track of closers that have pitched in consecutive games and consider adding the team's setup man for one day, tomorrow's game. If the same team is leading by a small margin in tomorrow's game, they might not want to use their usual closer for a third or fourth consecutive night so you add the team's setup man ... and voila! The next game the usual set-up man pitches in the ninth instead, plays closer for a night and nets you an easy save.
Sometimes it works like charm, but often times things go awry.
I am not sure what percentage of MLB games include a save, but whatever that number is divided by two is the chance that the reliever you audition even has a chance of getting a save. Then, there is the chance the team uses its closer for a third straight night, or uses a different reliever as the fill-in closer.
Another problem that will occur more often in deeper leagues is that the potential fill-in closer (current set-up man) might be already owned. If that is the case, you can take a chance on a different reliever in that team's bullpen or forget about it.
Overall this strategy has a low success rate, but the five (more or less) saves it can cheaply garner you over the course of a season may help you greatly in the standings. Some of you looking over your league standings can easily picture how much those extra saves could help right now.
As I noted before, it helps if your league has deep rosters so that roster spots themselves are not as valuable and can be used on something relatively trivial like this strategy. Some people, however, seem to have a slight obsession with closer-potential middle relievers who are not getting saves. Instead of holding onto one of those Matt Thornton, Matt Guerrier-types, maybe the roster spot would be better utilized by rotating between relievers who fit the criteria above. It all depends on your team and league type.
A tool that surprisingly comes in handy for this strategy is the THT Sparkline Generator. Clicking on the link will show you how to set the sparklines to your custom settings so it shows the games a team won by four or fewer (set it to four or three) runs in the past week.
Teams like the Yankees and Rays with three consecutive red upticks probably have overused their closers in the past few days and those team's setup men are good targets. Checking Mariano Rivera and J.P. Howell, the Sparklines were right, both closers made appearances the past three games and probably will not be used in a fourth even if it is a save opportunity.
With Monday night's games now finished we see neither the Rays nor Yankees games had a save situation (Yankees were close), so last night would not have worked. If you continue to keep track of closer use throughout the season though, every once in a while you will get a surprise save and it will all be worth it.
Paul has been managing fantasy baseball teams for many seasons and writing for THT Fantasy over the past three years. He is currently a student at UPenn welcomes readers' thoughts at his email here or in the comments below.
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