Finding Value in Relief Pitchers | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Finding Value in Relief Pitchers

March 29 , 2010


Regardless of which fantasy references you frequent, I’m sure that you have been beaten upside the head with theories as to how to draft relief pitching.  I have both read and experimented with advice that has ranged from the conservative, waiting until the 3rd round to draft the best available closer, to the experimental, “I won’t pay for relief pitching/saves.”  While I must admit that I don’t subscribe to either of these strategies in full, I have found the latter to be the most efficient, exciting and rewarding.  Daniel “Dee” Clark, a fellow blogger on the site, is about as strong of an advocate of this philosophy as any fantasy enthusiast I have read.  For three consecutive years he has excelled in our league due to his knowledge of the game, it’s players and their statistical relevance.  Each year he has compiled a lethal offense under the belief that there will always be an array of relief pitchers that, at the end of the year, will have been more valuable than the game’s top closers; in layman’s terms, relief pitching is far too unpredictable.  Every season, Major League Baseball is riddled with controversy surrounding the security of closers(see Brad Lidge circa 2008 & 2009).  The excessive scrutiny on “closers” really only yields one positive result, the emergence of fresh, young arms that have been anxiously awaiting their opportunity to shove it down hitters’ throats(see Andrew Bailey, Leo Nunez circa 2009).  With the 2010 season a mere week away, it’s important to note several talented, young guns who appear to be in line to produce huge years for their organizations and fantasy owners alike.

Mike Adams, Padres –
2009 Statistics: 37 IP, 0-0, .73 ERA, .59 WHIP, 5.63 K/B
Why haven’t you heard about Mike Adams? Well, it’s most likely because he has literally been under the knife since 2006.  However, he reappeared towards the end of last year and was nothing short of nasty.  Barring another injury, he should accumulate a respectable amount of wins as it seems he will be trusted to keep games close before giving way to Heath Bell.  Should Bell(or Pocket Broxton as I like to call him) get traded this season, I would expect Adams to get the promotion over teammate Luke Gregerson.

Neftali Feliz, Rangers –
2009 Statistics:  31 IP, 1-0, 1.74 ERA, .68 WHIP, 4.88 K/BB
I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you haven’t seen Mr. Happy pitch yet, you must, because he is dominant.  Whether the Rangers eventually use him as a starter or reliever, he will put up similar numbers to last year.  A coveted prospect of the organization, he responded nicely to being thrust into pressure situations at only 21 years of age.  If Frank Francisco either gets hurt or charged with another felony assault, look for Feliz to step in as closer.

Matt Thornton, White Sox –
2009 Statistics: 72.1 IP, 6-3, 4 SV, 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 4.35 K/BB
Matt Thornton throws the most effortless 96-98MPH fastball I have ever seen.  The 6’5″ left hander has been one of the best set-up men in baseball over the past two seasons as indicated by his .198 BAVG in 2008 and .217 BAVG in 2009.  While it is important to note that he hasn’t exactly excelled in the closer role when given the opportunity(1 SV/6 SVO in 2008 and 4 SV/9 SVO in 2009), it definitely does not mean that he won’t be the front runner if Bobby Jenks gets hurt.

Daniel Bard, Red Sox –
2009 Statistics: 49.1 IP, 1-1, 1 SV, 3.65 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.86 K/BB
If anything were to happen to Jonathon Papelbon, I don’t think the Red Sox would miss a beat.  Young, flame thrower Daniel Bard is their closer of the future.  With a high 90’s heater and a devastating slide piece, Bard has as bright of a future as any young pitcher in baseball.  Any control problems that worried fantasy owners last season are sure to wane with more experience and confidence.

Sergio Romo, Giants –
2009 Statistics: 34 IP, 6-3, 5 SV, 3.17 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.73 K/BB
With so much focus on the Giants starting rotation, the excellent arms in their bullpen seem to be perennially overlooked.  After the All-Star break in 2009, Romo showed that he is the real deal and a fixture in the Giants bullpen.  He accumulated 6 wins and 5 saves in only 34 IP last season, which seems weak compared to his sheer dominance across the minor leagues.  Complimented by left hander Jeremy Affeldt, the Giants should have a great bridge to closer Brian Wilson this season.

Brandon League, Mariners –
2009 Statistics: 74.2 IP, 3-6, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3.62 K/BB
You might as well just ignore his stats from last year because League is not the same pitcher.  With a new pitch added to his already potent arsenal, this is going to be League’s breakout season.  Although I repeatedly predicted his breakout seasons to happen while on the Blue Jays, it’s never too late for a guy with such great stuff(see Mike Adams above).  26 year olds League and teammate Mark Lowe are sure to be a deadly duo within the Mariner’s bullpen and worthy of consideration in deep fantasy leagues.  If incumbent closer David Aardsma were to hit the DL or revert to his wild tendencies, League should have no problem filling in.

Joba Chamberlain, Yankees –
2009 Statistics: DOES NOT MATTER
We have all seen what this guy can do as a reliever.  He is as dynamic and dominant as any closer in baseball and should get a chance if Mo’s fountain of youth runs dry.  While, I’m sure that a Mo injury would only ignite another season long debate on Joba’s importance as a starter or reliever, the guy will do whatever is asked of him day in, day out.  Look for Joba to have a monster season out of the Yankee bullpen.

Joey Devine, Athletics –
2009 Statistics: DNP(Tommy John surgery)
Before the emergence of Andrew Bailey, Devine was the closer on paper headed into the 2009 season.  However, his ongoing elbow troubles forced him to have Tommy John surgery and surrender his whole season.  One year later, Devine is said to be healthy and ready for the season where he will be setting up games for AL Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey.  Devine’s closer like repertoire makes him the leading candidate to close for the A’s should anything happen Andrew Bailey.  Although, from what I have seen, Bailey looks like a pretty durable young hoss

1 Comment

  1. jmlynch33 says:

    Here is some video of Mike Adams.