Mike explains why elite middle relievers haven't climbed his tiers, before revealing the latest edition of those tiers and the updated dollar values.
Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week this factors into the ranking as well.
Last week, one of my readers wanted to know why I didn’t have a middle reliever in the top tier. Although middle relievers are integral in some leagues, I have not been ranking them due to the fact that their value is vastly different depending upon each league’s rules. In leagues that use holds as a separate category, non-closers carry a great deal of value. In standard mixed leagues with no start limits, you might not feel the need to carry a middle reliever on your staff at all. My goal is to take a cursory look at a handful of valuable middle relief arms in a non-holds, deeper-league, standard Roto format.
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Two closers jump into the top tier, as Mike catches you up on the latest news and shuffling from the league's bullpens.
Welcome to another installment of The Bullpen Report. As a reminder, closers are rated in five tiers from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third-tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week, this factors into the ranking as well.
In this week's edition, Mike obliges multiple reader requests by adding tiers to the reliever rankings, to go with the regular news and notes.
For this installment of the Bullpen Report, I am adding rankings, by popular demand. Closers are rated in five tiers, from best to worst. The tiers are a combination of my opinion of a pitcher’s ability, the likelihood that he will pick up saves, and his security in the job. For example, a pitcher in the third tier might have better skills than a pitcher in the second tier, but if the third-tier pitcher is new to the job or has blown a couple of saves in the last week, this factors into the ranking as well.
Mike brings you the latest fantasy news and notes from bullpens around the league, including a stop in the desert, where Heath Bell is working the ninth inning again.
Welcome to Baseball Prospectus’ Reliever Report: Fantasy Edition. This is a fairly standard article in the fantasy community, so a long, drawn-out introduction is unnecessary. The focus every week will be on:
Looking at another pitcher who found benefits in a small shift.
Last April I chronicled Fernando Rodney's shift on the mound and the potential ramifications. Though examining similar shifts bore no predictive fruit—pitching, as it turns out, is more complicated —it was a fun topic that showcased the creativity put forth by the league's pitching coaches. The new season will bring new changes to uncover and analyze. But before we forget about 2012 let's take one final look back at the year in shifts.
Max Marchi was kind enough to assist me, as he did in the first piece, by providing the PITCHf/x data complete with his own ballpark adjustments. The top-10 shifters, as ranked by absolute difference in horizontal release point from 2011 to 2012, are presented in the table below. This methodology benefits those who made one big shift from the first year to the second rather than those who made a number of small moves, which is to say fervent shifters like Francisco Liriano (who moves based on the batter's handedness) are absent from the list. Rodney is amusingly absent as well, since he failed to meet the playing time requirement of 1,000 pitches in both seasons. Rest assured, he would've finished at the top.
Meet Rob Murphy, the man on the all-time ERA leaderboard.
Fernando Rodney has passed Dennis Eckersley for the lowest ERA (minimum 50 innings) in forever history. At Hardball Talk, Aaron Gleeman has the all-time leaderboard: Rodney and Eckersley in the top two spots, a couple Deadball guys fourth and fifth. And third, Rob Murphy. A man who pitched entirely in my baseball-following lifetime and of whom I'd swear I've never heard. So who/how?
Brett Lawrie was right to be upset about the two strikes that got him ejected on Tuesday, but framer extraordinaire Jose Molina had as much to do with the calls as umpire Bill Miller.
On Tuesday night, the Rays beat the Blue Jays 4-3. All of the scoring was over by the seventh, but the real action occurred in the bottom of the ninth, when Brett Lawrie was ejected by umpire Bill Miller after arguing balls and strikes, first with loud body language, then with loud words, and finally by transforming his helmet into flying suspension bait. Lawrie probably brushes his teeth more intensely than you’ve ever done anything, so you can only imagine what he looks like when he’s called out on borderline pitches in a close game against a division rival. Actually, that’s not true—imagining it isn’t the only thing you can do. You can also watch this video:
Don't overreact to an unprecedented casualty rate for closers.
There’s an old adage in fantasy baseball to “draft skills, not roles.” The reasoning behind this is that the cream will rise to the top, that the better player will eventually take on the more prominent role. This advice is often given in regard to closers, but it’s advice which I’ve expressed my disagreement with on multiple occasions. While “draft skills, not roles” is a romantic notion, studies I’ve run in the past have shown that role is far more important than skill when it comes to saves and that closers in waiting are generally poor investments.
When Fernando Rodney received the first two save opportunities following Kyle Farnsworth’s injury, one site said that “while it would be nice to think that the 35-year-old will continue to close out games so effortlessly, his track record and bullpen competition probably make him one of the biggest sell-high candidates in baseball.” Rodney proceeded to roll off seven more (consecutive) saves en route to becoming one of the most valuable closers in baseball over the first six weeks. He had the role, which is more difficult to lose than most assume.
What numbers do we look at when no number is large enough?
In 2011, the Angels began the season with Fernando Rodney as their closer. Oh, man, was Fernando Rodney bad at baseball a year ago. Rodney was the Angels’ closer, and he was also one of the worst relievers in baseball. He converted his first save, and he blew his second save, and he was replaced by Jordan Walden. Jordan Walden made the All-Star team. The Angels didn’t add a closer in the offseason. The Angels didn’t suggest any sort of closer controversy was brewing. The Angels didn't leave the issue of the ninth inning open-ended at all. Jordan Walden spent his winter chopping wood, shoveling snow, and quietly being the Angels’ closer. “What do you do?” people would ask him at parties. “Awwwww,” he would say, trying to be humble, because nobody likes a boaster, “I’m involved in recreation.” Pressed, he would acknowledge that he closed baseball games for the Angels. Women would casually touch his arm.
He saved his first game, and he blew his second game, and he was replaced by Scott Downs. Fernando Rodney is a closer, and Jordan Walden no longer is. That was very fast! One blown save. Four and a third total innings, and nine baserunners. If his season were a start, it would be Clayton Kershaw’s April 15 start. Very, very fast.
Presenting the three filthiest pitches from the first week of the season.
If you followed any games last season on MLB.com’s Gameday application, you saw “Nasty Factor,” which assigned a number to each pitch based on its perceived nastiness. If you have followed any games this season on Gameday, you’ve seen “Scout,” which describes the action like this: “Sergio Romo is having trouble locating his four-seam fastball” and so on. We’re about to watch the three best pitches* thrown in the first week of the season, and, frankly, Nasty Factor and Scout can’t do these pitches justice. So enjoy the moving pictures, and then read the expert analysis provided by some MLB.com apps that are still in development.