Adding Holds as a category to any fantasy league opens up a new pool of pitchers to the mix. No longer are teams focused just on just starters and closers, now middle relievers have more value. Holds are an impossible category to predict, but today I will give some ideas about guesstimating Holds and some pitchers who may accumulate them in 2014.
If a reliever comes into a game to protect a lead, gets at least one out and leaves without giving up that lead, he gets a hold.
Two things must exist for a pitcher to a get a Hold, opportunity and talent. Starting with opportunity: Holds are just like Saves, the manager must trust the pitcher enough to put them in a Hold situation. Two types of pitchers are given Hold opportunities, stud setup men and LOOGYs. A setup man will pitch the seventh and/or eighth since their peripheral data is similar to a closer. They will throw one inning and be done. LOOGY’s will be used to get one or two tough left-handed batters out and be done.
Like closers, who is and isn’t a setup man changes all the time. During the season, the best source for closer data is our own Bullpen Report. The rankings are update daily with changes in bullpen depth and provide the newest news on any changes. Before the report is available daily, you can also find depth charts on FanGraphs.
The other key to Holds, besides opportunity, is talent. Does the pitcher have the ability to keep the lead? To get an idea of the quality of pitcher which usually gets holds, I looked at the first 30 and the next 30 Hold accumulators over the past three seasons. Here are the results:
Hold Leaders (1 to 30)
Hold Leaders (31 to 60)
The Holds leaders group have an average K/9 of 3.0 and a sub 3.00 ERA. The second group is not as talented with a 2.5 K/9 and 3.16 ERA. Each list contains some true setup men and LOOGYs. Splitting the data into each pitcher type, here are the final numbers (22% are LOOGYs).
|1 inning Setup Men||20.5||8.6||3.0||0.95||64.4||2.95||61||1.18||4.0|
LOOGYs produce just a bit less than true setup men. Their main downgrade is the lower number of innings and therefore fewer strikeouts and Wins.
Looking at the above tables, you can get a good idea of the number of possible Holds a pitcher may accumulate. The top setup men will have around 25 holds. The next tier down 16.
To help determine the relievers with the talent to be a top setup man, I ran a query on the relievers projection by Steamer and/or Oliver. The relievers selected have a projected K/9 > 8.0, a BB/9 < 3.5 and the 90% of their games will be as a reliever. In all, 99 pitchers made the cut and the full list is available in this spreadsheet (2013 team is listed and most of the closers are included).
Some setup men are projected, according to ERA, to perform better than the team’s closer. Number eight to ten, Mark Melancon (Pirates), Joaquin Benoit (Padres-now), and Sean Doolittle (A’s), fall into this group.
Holds may not be the easiest category to predict going for pitcher. Data from previous seasons is basically useless. To find pitchers who will accumulate Holds, look for pitchers who will be give the opportunity to setup and are good. Once your locate these pitchers, turn to historic Holds numbers for more advice. With a little effort, you can really take advantage of the lack of information on Holds and make informed decisions.
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