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Making the Case for Holds in Fantasy Baseball

You’ve heard me talk about this before: middle relievers are the red-headed step-childAndersen was a great middle reliever when it comes to fantasy baseball.  If Rodney, Dangerfield were still around, he’d say:  “middle relievers just don’t get no respect.”

While stud middle relievers may help your WHIP, they don’t pitch a lot of innings and they rarely earn a save given today’s era of relief specialization.  Hence, the tremendous decline in fantasy value of a player like Joba Chamberlain when Joe Girardi announced that Chamberlain would start the year as the Yankees set up man rather than as a starting pitcher.

The hold statistic was invented in 1986 by John Dewan and Mike O’Donnell as a way to measure the effectiveness of middle relievers.  A hold is defined as “any time a relief pitcher enters a game in a save situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead.”  In short, a hold is equivelant to a save in middle reliever lingo.

Brandon LyonBrandon Lyon of the Diamondbacks appeared in 73 games and pitched 74 innings last year.  He was 6-4, with a 2.65 ERA, and converted 2 of 5 save opportunities.  Not exactly the kind of stats that would propel you to the top of the pitching charts in your fantasy league.  But, add Lyon’s 35 holds and you have yourself a strong performer.  Lyon was certainly instrumental in the D-Backs’ 2007 success.

When the internet came along so did a myriad of statistical categories that could be added to your fantasy baseball league since it was no longer the commissioner sitting at his kitchen table at 2 AM compiling fantasy team stats.  While most leagues stuck with the basic 4 x4 or 5×5 leagues, some opted to add as many as 40 obscure categories.  With the power of the internet, it wasn’t difficult to devise a system that would give differing levels of points to give credit to guys who excelled at sacrifice flies and assists or to punish those with large amounts of balks or triples allowed.

If your league decides to reward the important role that middle relievers play by adding a Troy Tulowitzki, Assists Kingholds category (and we think it should), you will probably need to balance it out with another offensive category.  The best one to add: probably walks or on base percentage.  I think all of us who have read MoneyBall understand the importance of working a walk and getting on base.  Red Sox manager Terry Francona sure does; he’s a believer and who can argue with Francona’s recent success.?

And, if your league decides to go crazy and add 40 categories, pick Troy Tulowitzki who led the MLB in assists last year with 561.  If you add sacrifice flies, Carlos Lee was awesome with 13 last year.

As for triples allowed or balks: if your fantasy league commissioner proposes adding these categories, find another fantasy baseball league to play in.

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