Paying for saves redux one

In the pre-season, I wrote an article questioning the wisdom of the “don’t pay for saves” mantra. Of course, rather than merely questioning, we’d like to come up with some answers. So I’ve started collecting data from this season on closers that we can use to test the don’t pay for saves theory as the season goes along. Below is some data on closers: their names, their average auction values for a 5×5 mixed league (from CBS Sportsline) and their saves for this year as of Wednesday morning.

Using the eyeball method, I’ve split the closers up into several categories, based on their auction values. The first group of five are the “elite” closers. These are the ones you’re not supposed to pay for, perhaps. The second group of five are top closers. I put all closers that had values between $15 and $5 in the third group. The fourth group are the “value” closers and the fifth group is the “penny ante” group. I just included the top five penny ante closers, but the results are robust to including all the closers that were auctioned for $1. For each group, I’ve listed the average price, the average number of saves and the standard deviation of the saves.

Elite Closers

average cost = $25.375, average saves = 5.2, standard deviation = 1.79

Top closers:

avg $ = $17.8, avg saves = 4.6 , stdev = 1.67

avg = $9.64, avg saves = 4.86, stdev = 1.99

$5 and under

avg = $3.5, avg saves = 3.625, stdev = 3.02

Penny Ante

avg = $1, avg saves = 1.6, stdev = 3.05

Some extremely preliminary conclusions: The elite group yielded the highest average number of saves, though you paid a pretty penny for just a fraction extra, so far. The middle group really benefits from having Broxton, Fuentes and Cordero. That group is going to suffer from Devine’s injury but is hedged by having Ziegler. The bottom groups have a few all-stars (Bell, Francisco and Franklin), but also more than few duds too (Motte, Ray, Marmol). The bottom three groups have the highest standard deviations. For instance, the middle group has a fairly good average for the price, but is slightly riskier than the top two groups. The bottom groups are much riskier.

It is worth pointing out again that the dollar values aren’t these players’ only costs. It is tempting to think that for $5 you could roster all five of the penny ante guys, getting more saves for much cheaper than, say, Papelbon’s $27. Of course, you’d have to have started all of these players (if you couldn’t predict their closing opportunities) or at the very least have them on a very deep bench (if you could perfectly predict their closing opportunities).

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  1. Paul Sporer said...

    Their standard league is 10-team mixed which is an even worse format to use than 12-team mixed.  Anyone avoiding saves in 10-team mixed is downright foolish. 

    Sidenote: I can’t understand why ESPN promotes 10-team mixed as their standard league… just an awful, worthless format, IMO.

  2. Paul Sporer said...

    Myself and many I know have only really entertained the DPFS strategy in single-leagues so using mixed leagues to prove its worth is tough.  Plus these appear to be VERY generous mixed-league prices—Heath Bell and Frankie Francisco for $4 apiece!?  I realize their early-season performance makes $4 look even more ridiculous, but Mixed Tout had them both in the teens. 

    Like I said, I’ve only seen DPFS in single-leagues.  Shallow mixed leagues are all about star-power so I don’t know how smart it’d be to play the wire for scrub closers. 

    In the end, what are you out to prove?  That you should pay for saves?  I think the volatility of the market outside of a few guys would create a situation where you’re going to find studs and duds in each grouping.  Bullpens so far this year have been especially crappy – MLB average bullpen ERA year-to-date: 4.49. 2008 average bullpen ERA: 4.09. The AL is up .60 to 4.70 while the NL has seen a .22 jump.  So it’s a highly unstable market in which you could make a case that getting a Joe Nathan to save the hassle is a great idea or that avoiding it all until the end game and loading up on hitting because you trust your speculation skills is a great idea. 

    I think your answers will be as inconclusive in October as they are now.

  3. Toffer Peak said...

    Well they have 220 active roster spots which is more than Yahoo’s 192 so it may only be ten teams but its still deeper than Yahoo’s 12 teams. Besides they are designed for the casual sports fan who only knows, and probably only wants to know, the top players of the game. Most people really don’t want to have to track who the Royal’s backup infielder is. For people who are more competitive and care about baseball a lot there are a ton of options for deeper leagues if they want that.

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