Two days ago we updated our closer rankings, so now it’s time to turn our attention to the guys setting them up. If you’re reading this site, then chances are you understand that the setup guys often pitch in the biggest spots of the game, only to be rewarded with a silly little hold. Unfortunately those don’t mean much at the negotiating table. A number of these guys have big time value because they throw a lot of innings (more than a typical closer) with elite peripherals and ERA. Here are the May rankings for reference.
Clippard finally jumps into the top tier, mostly because I kept underrating him. The combination of a high-end strikeout rate and tons of innings pitched is a good way to have fantasy value as a non-closing reliever. The other three guys are simply brilliant at what they do and pile up holds, Venters and Betancourt because they’re on good teams, Adams because the Padres play a ton of close games.
Gregerson set the single season holds record last year, but that’s not exactly a repeatable skill. Strikeouts are though, and he’s gone from 10+ K/9 in his first two years to just under 5.0 K/9 in 2011. He’s given up more than a hit per inning and his velocity is down a touch, so maybe throwing 50+% sliders over the last few years are taking a physical toll.
Romo has been great but he just never seems to pitch (25 appearances but only 17.1 IP). That has to change at some point, I imagine. Bard’s peripherals are actually better this year than last, but the LOB% dragon is not being nice and his ERA is a touch inflated. Marshall and Balfour have been steady, basically doing what they always do.
Izzy has come out of nowhere and suddenly leads baseball in holds, though he’s an extreme fly ball guy. Loe and O’Flaherty continue to pitch well enough that they jump up in the rankings, and Crain seems to have settled into a nice setup role among the chaos in the ChiSox bullpen. Wood, Sipp, Lindstrom, and Benoit are solid options with varying levels of job security, and the two new guys at the bottom of the tier are super high strikeout righties with the potential to straight up murder your WHIP with walks. Johnson’s shown that last year’s walk rate was no fluke, so it’s time to bump him up.
Miscellaneous arms in setup roles around the league. A number of them (specifically Dunn, Sanchez, Meek, Sale, and Hernandez) have the potential to climb the rankings if they cut down on the walks, and Joba needs to stop trading strikeouts for ground balls to have more value. Right now his ranking is based on being the Eighth Inning Guy™ for the team with (by far) the best run differential in baseball. Holds aplenty in that role.
Chapman might be back very soon, as in today or tomorrow, but he walked nine of the last dozen big league batters he faced before going on the DL. Hopefully that’s just an injury related fluke and the not the sign of a larger developmental problem. Soriano wasn’t very effective, but the elbow injury could have been the culprit. We won’t find out for another seven weeks or so. Kuo is out indefinitely with anxiety disorder, which just goes to show how unpredictable baseball really is. Hensley’s been having shoulder trouble for some time and sports the dreaded 1.00 K/BB ratio, so I don’t think anyone will be counting down the days until he returns.