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Call to the Bullpen: Relief Pitcher Fantasy Baseball Strategy

Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Closer Strategy

FIST PUMPING out the saves: Joakim Soria had 43 last year.

FIST PUMPING out the saves: Joakim Soria had 43 last year.

Call to the bullpen
We’re just one run ahead
Call for the bullpen
And stop that rally dead
Here comes the bull man
In that funny little car
But that pitching fool
He’ll put out that fire
It’s more than just golf cars bringing in relief pitchers that has changed since my friends and I used to sing that song while making a pitching change in our backyard wiffle ball games.

Saves as a fantasy baseball category have become the category that is one of the easiest categories to win in fantasy baseball, but it’s also ironically the category that fantasy baseball managers are most likely to punt on.  Jim Greenfield, manager of Roid Rage ran away with a $10,000 experts league in Wayne, Pennsylvania last year with a paltry 3 saves.

More than Just Saves

The general consensus today for fantasy baseball managers is that closers are good for only one category–saves.  They don’t pitch enough innings to make a difference in the ERA, WHIP, or strikeout categories.  And, of course, they rarely earn any wins.  But, that’s not necessarily the case. According to Fantasy Baseball Buzz, if a team has a starting pitcher that throws 200 innings with a 4.20 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP and you combine him with Mariano Rivera with a 1.58 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 60 innings, you net out to a combined 3.61 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.

Closers Becoming Less Reliable

It isn’t necessary to spend a lot on closers, because they are shaky.  And, it seems to be becoming increasingly true.  Managers seem to be having less and less patience with their ninth inning men.  In most seasons, 20% of the saves earned are from players who are not even drafted on opening day. Last year, 14 closers that started the year as the top dogs in the bullpen had lost their jobs by the end of the season.  So, there are many opportunities to pick up additional closers on the waiver wire as the season goes on.

Top Relief Pitcher-Middling Starting Pitcher Strategy

One strategy to consider for your 2011 fantasy baseball draft is to choose middling and lower level starters in the late rounds or with lower auction prices and complement them with higher quality closers.  Then, jockey 2-start pitchers each week to keep your team competitive with wins when those starters pitch against lower quality opponents.  Saving money on the top pitching talent like Tim Lincecum and Felix Hernandez means you can spend that money or those higher round picks on sluggers like Joey Votto or Ryan Braun who can help you every day.
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