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This is my last Closer To Me article for 2014. Rather than run a vanilla update on what happened the last two weeks, let’s look back on the season as a whole and see how the highest ranked closers according to ADP and auction dollars according to Fantasy Pros.

Auction $

Name

AVG

High

Low

Craig Kimbrel

18

21

13

Kenley Jansen

16

19

12

Greg Holland

16

19

12

Trevor Rosenthal

13

17

10

Koji Uehara

12

17

9

I suspect these values were put on after Aroldis Chapman suffered an injury that cost him a chunk of the season. Four of the five players here registered 40 saves in 2014 with the low man being Koji Uehara. Kimbrel, Uehara and Holland registered WHIPs under 1.00. All five have strikeout rates well over 25 percent. Holland and Kimbrel both have ERA’s in the ones. Holland and Kimbrel are perhaps the games’ best closers considering their respective seasons. Koji Uehara has recently fallen on hard times stemming from a five run implosion against Seattle on August 22. He officially lost the job two days ago, but all season, Uehara has returned positive value.

If we look down the list, we see it’s littered with pitchers who missed time with injury, lost effectiveness, lost their jobs, and/or were on shaky ground all year. Joe Nathan went for an average of $11, and he has not been anything close to the pitcher he was in 2013. Sergio Romo ranks high on that list relative to closers, and he lost his job midway through the season as he lost effectiveness. Jason Grilli and Ernesto Frieri each went for an average of $9 and $6 dollars, respectively, and they were ultimately traded for each other due to severe bouts with ineffectiveness.

In terms of bargains Fernando Rodney joined the 40 save club and he was going for an average of five dollars in expert auctions. Jonathan Papelbon was the lone bright light in the Phillies bullpen as he went for an average of $7 and repaid owners with 35 saves, a 1.64 ERA, and a 0.86 WHIP.

I stated in my opening article that relievers are a tricky bunch to forecast, and it was hammered home all season. Save for the handful of elite options in the upper crust reliever volatility was apparent throughout the lists I put out on Mondays. The White Sox and Tigers bullpens were exercises in forecasting futility all year. Nathan was an unmitigated disaster, and when it appeared that the Tigers finally fixed the situation by acquiring Joakim Soria from the Rangers he got hurt. The White Sox marched out an unending stream of relievers with two-seamers and little command, as Matt Lindstrom, Ronald Belisario, Jake Petricka, Zach Putnam and even Scott Downs earned a save.

This year is basically done for relievers, so what does the 2014 data tell us about relievers for 2015?

There are two schools of thought on the matter: Buy an elite closer early or punt the position completely and remain active on the wire to try to pick up guys who will emerge, like Hector Rondon. Heading into 2014, I was a staunch supporter of option two, as I saw (and see) closers as fungible assets whose value can be recouped on the waiver wire. As the season wore on it became clear to me that this was a faulty strategy as the elite closers provided something that can’t be found easily at any position in roto leagues: stability. Holland has been there all year, same with Kimbrel and Jansen. It’s difficult to find players who will provide value over the entire term of a season. Players who survive the hiccups are rare and hyper-magnified in roto leagues.

My preseason strategy in 2014 was to vulture saves by picking off emerging candidates as they made themselves apparent. My preseason strategy heading into 2015 will be markedly different, as I will be shifting toward going after the high-end guys.

Thank you for reading

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Tarakas
9/08
While I understand your argument, I tend to disagree. For years I have gone with discount closers. The trick is getting multiple closers at good prices (I doubt Joe Nathan ever would have gone cheap enough for me to pick him up, for example).

Closers have high turnover, and any closer has a lot of risk attached to them. Picking up multiple discount closers spreads the risk across multiple players. Yes, Craig Kimbrel is less risky than David Robertson. But Kimbrel is far from a sure thing. If Kimbrel goes down (and he likely will someday, given the typical shelf life of closers), you have a lot of eggs in that basket. If you spend the same money on, say, David Robertson and Steve Cishek, you have three outcomes:

1. A decent chance to get more saves than you would with Kimbrel.
2. A chance one of them flames out, and you still have one closer
3. A chance both of them flame out. If you draft right, this is not too high of a chance.

I'm guessing there is a greater chance of getting more saves with them than you would with spending the same amount of money on Kimbrel.


This year at I went with four relievers (3 discount closers and a handcuff).

David Robertson
Steve Cishek
John Axford
Cody Allen

(The Axford/Allen combination cost very little). Early in the season I picked up Jake McGee (I think it was around when I cut Axford). I have been very competitive in saves. This strategy has worked for me most of the time I try it.

It depends on league, but it works for me.
MRubio52
9/08
I'll respond to this tonight as I think there's a valid argument to be had on both sides. Thanks for the kind words.
Tarakas
9/08
Oh, I want to note that I have appreciated this series of articles all year.
somerford
9/08
I also have appreciated this column.
One request, can it be published on Fridays along with the 2-start pitcher column. I set my weekly lineups to be ready to go on Mondays. Just a slightly self-centered thought.
MRubio52
9/08
Ha, we'll take it under advisement certainly.