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Comparing Closers & Non-Closers In Ottoneu Leagues

The inaugural season of Ottoneu Fantasy Baseball here at FanGraphs is coming to a close, and hopefully you’ve enjoyed the experience as much as I have. Deep rosters (40-man) with minor leaguers and 60-day DL maneuverability … it’s great. I even have Yu Darvish stashed on my bench (cost $1 on auction day, $2 next year to keep), hoping he’ll anchor my pitching staff next season.

Anyway, I’ve long been a sucker for trying to find value in middle relievers in fantasy, but in traditional 5×5 formats they’re almost useless. A points league is another matter, especially those based on linear weights like Ottoneu. If you’re unfamiliar with the linear weights scoring, you can see it here. It’s not a surprise that some top middle relievers are worth as much, if not more than some closers, but how much? Let’s look at the top producers for each demographic, starting with the closers. Just some advance warning, these point totals do not include last night’s games.

It’s worth noting that Francisco Rodriguez has piled up 486.0 points this year (average price of $5), but I omitted him from the list because he’s a bit of a special case given the circumstances of his trade. The next three closers on the points leaderboard were not closers on Opening Day: Jordan Walden (442.0, $2), Fernando Salas (433.3, $3), and Sergio Santos (432.3, $3). Those guys were available in free agency in most leagues, especially Salas.

Noticeably absent from the list are the three highest priced closers in Ottoneu: Neftali Feliz ($14), Brian Wilson ($13), and Joakim Soria ($13). All three come in below 425 points (Feliz and Soria below 380), on par with guys like Jeff Samardzija and Edward Mujica. On average, the top nine closers in Ottoneu this year cost about $1.3 for every 100 points. Now let’s look at the non-closers…

Not a surprising list of names, though Johnson did kinda catch me off guard. He’s having a great year, no doubt, but I guess I didn’t realize how great. That lack of homers (at least until he met Jesus Montero) really boosts his stock.

Coming into the season, it would not at all have been unrealistic to expect guys like Venters and Marshall and Clippard and Adams and Bard to sit near the top of the reliever points leaderboard, and yet they’re all drastically under-priced compared to their ninth inning counterparts. Why pay $8 for Papelbon when Clippard gives you the same production for $1? Obviously it’s not that simple, but the moral of the story is the same as it’s always been: don’t overpay for saves.

A hold is worth just one less point than a save in the Ottoneu linear weights scoring system, and quality middle relievers are far, far more readily available than quality closers. I picked up Robertson for a buck on June 1st in our staff league, well after it was abundantly clear that he was one of the elite relievers in the game. Marshall cost me $3 on auction day, a pittance compared to what some closers with similar production fetched.

Like I said, don’t overpay for closers, especially in linear weights leagues. Stocking up in middle relievers allows you avoid the trap door of the name value game and also gives you greater flexibility since they’re cheaper and generally easier to replace. Yes, there’s some value in the predictability that comes with some stud closers, but as Wilson, Soria and Feliz showed, predictability and $2.25 will get you on the subway in New York these days. Rolling the dice with middle relievers in your five RP spots could yield big savings, as long as you stay on top of the non-closer landscape to see who is and who isn’t providing value.