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