LIMA Relievers for 2009by Victor Wang
February 18, 2009
The LIMA plan was created by Ron Shandler and is one of the best basic risk management strategies out there. Using a standard auction roster and a $260 budget, the LIMA plan allocates $200 to hitters and $60 to pitchers with a maximum of half the pitching budget going to closers. When acquiring pitchers, the goal is to target high skilled players while throwing as few innings as your league rules apply. Because of this setup, middle relievers and setup men are some of the best pitchers to target. The following are a few relievers not slated to close that you'll want to keep in mind if you decide to use this strategy. Keep in mind that relief pitching is a relatively deep position—don't go too high for these guys.
Edwar Ramirez, New York (AL): Ramirez doesn't have the most electric fastball, but he does have a filthy change up. His high flyball rate does bring some cause for concern, but he misses enough bats to diminish this somewhat. If Ramirez can improve his control, he could become one of the elite setup men in the game. Regardless, he still makes for an excellent LIMA pitcher.
Manny Delcarmen, Boston: Delcarmen has the stuff of a more prototypical late-inning reliever. Like Ramirez, he can struggle with his control at times. However, Delcarmen does have the benefit of being a groundball pitcher. One thing to keep an eye on is how Delcarmen's role may change with John Smoltz being signed.
Sergio Romo, San Francisco: Romo has put up dominant numbers throughout his professional career. This continued in the majors last year, though he did get a bit lucky but still displayed a strong skill set. Note that some scouts are concerned that major league hitters will catch up with him since he lacks a plus fastball. Romo is also a sleeper source for saves if Brian Wilson falters this year.
Matt Thornton, Chicago (AL): Thornton had solid skills coming into 2008, but he really put things together last year. Armed with a deadly fastball, Thornton made major gains with his control and command last year. Look for some regression but even with it, Thornton still has very good skills.
Hong-Chih Kuo, Los Angeles (NL): Kuo has always had good scouting reports, and he was finally able to stay healthy in 2008. That's the one big question with him again for 2009. However, consider that if Kuo stays healthy, you'll get some very effective pitching. If he does end up getting hurt again, you can just drop him and pick someone else up.
Rafael Perez, Cleveland: A surprise performer in 2007, Perez's surface stats took a hit last year. However, if you look deeper you'll see that Perez actually had slightly better skills in 2008. In fact, these are closer level skills. I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Perez is the most underrated reliever in baseball. Also, Kerry Wood still remains an injury risk, giving Perez some pretty good save upside.
Brandon League, Toronto: League hasn't put up ridiculous strikeout numbers like some other guys on this list. He also doesn't have great control. However, take a look at his ground ball numbers and you'll see they're off the charts. He also has some terrific stuff, including a fastball that Fangraphs shows averaged 96.9 mph last year, suggesting potential gains with his strikeout rate.
Jon Rauch, Chad Qualls, Arizona: Both these guys have solid skill sets, though Qualls has been declared the closer going in to spring training. Don't be afraid to take the loser of this closer competition. You never know when a closer will get hurt or get demoted because of some bad luck or skills decline. The winner of this closer competition could very well be overpriced while the loser will likely hold a higher chance of netting you a profit.
Victor Wang's work on OPS has been featured in SABR's By the Numbers magazine, and was the 2007 recipient of SABR's Jack Kavanagh Memorial Youth Baseball Research Award. He can be reached via email here.
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