Scheming For Relief: Monitoring Reliever Tiers

With roughly a third of the 2014 mLB season in the books, our reliever tiers deserved to be examined. In an effort to develop said tiers for those in holds or solds leagues, I looked for pitchers who appeared in about 15 or more games, accumulated a minimum of three holds, owned a worthy K-BB% and posted fine ratios. Mind you, like everything else in life, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, Brian Matusz, Jared Burton and Brian Schlitter don’t have the greatest K-BB% or ratios, but they do have seven holds a piece. Therefore, they were included. Also, I felt obligated to write the name Schlitter a few times, which is probably the real reason I included him.

Disclaimer: The relievers appear in tiers and are listed in no particular order within the their respective tier. Additionally, these tiers in no way reflect the pecking order of a bullpen with respect to “next-in-line” for saves. You can see the Bullpen Report for that. Moreover, some prominent names have been left off the rankings due to injury, or, potentially, by accident. (If by chance I slipped, pick me up in the comments.)

At any rate, here they go:

Tier One: Double India Pale Ales

Dellin Betances | Yankees
Wade Davis | Royals
Will Smith | Brewers
Adam Ottavino | Rockies
Kevin Siegrist | Cardinals
Brett Cecil | Blue Jays
Tony Watson | Pirates

For me, the Double IPA is the cream of the crop. Elite middles like Dellin Betances (K-BB%), Will Smith (holds and ratios) and Tony Watson (holds, wins, ratios and strikeouts) can be found in the top tier due to their dominances in noted categories. And although these hurlers will carry the most value in leagues that account for holds or solds (saves + holds), these guysare going to be helpful in traditional mixers as well.

Tier Two: India Pale Ales

Brad Ziegler | Diamondbacks
Carlos Martinez | Cardinals
Joba Chamberlain | Tigers
Tyler Clippard | Nationals
Drew Storen | Nationals
David Carpenter | Braves
Joaquin Benoit | Padres
Zach Duke | Brewers
Pat Neshek | Cardinals
Jake McGee | Rays
Jean Machi | Giants

The IPA is elite, but it doesn’t get the job done as consistently or as quickly as the Double does. Many arguments could be made for one or more of these arms to be in the top tier, but they didn’t make the cut for one reason or another. Still, as a group, these guys post excellent strikeout rates, accumulate holds — along with some wins — and own fine ratios. Again, these relievers are mixed-league worthy, depending on league depth.

Tier Three: Saisons

Steve Delabar | Blue Jays
Aaron Loup | Blue Jays
J.P. Howell | Dodgers
Casey Fien | Twins
Rex Brothers | Rockies
Jake Diekman | Phillies
Mike Dunn | Marlins
Dan Otero | Athletics
Bryan Shaw | Indians
Cody Allen | Indians
Luke Gregerson | Athletics
Dale Thayer | Padres
Joel Peralta | Rays
Adam Warren | Yankees
Al Alburquerque | Tigers
Jason Frasor | Rangers
Jeremy Affeldt | Giants

Saisons tend to be refreshing, but pack a little less punch than those listed above. The Saisons are nothing to shake a stick at. Many have been in the top tiers before and they have the ability to be there again at some point. Here I’m looking for upside guys who could squeeze their way into save situations, or can grab some scab wins along with the strikeouts. This is probably the last tier of hurlers that I would consider in mixers. Streaming guys in the tiers above are always fun when a team’s closer has pitched a few consecutive days.

Tier Four: Porters

Nick Vincent | Padres
A.J. Ramos | Marlins
Andrew Miller | Red Sox
Anthony Varvaro | Braves
Fernando Salas | Angels
Chris Capuano | Red Sox
Manny Parra | Reds
Ryan Webb | Orioles
Justin Wilson | Pirates
Ian Krol | Tigers
Darren O’Day | Orioles
Antonio Bastardo | Phillies
Mike Adams | Phillies
Yoervis Medina | Mariners
Santiago Casilla | Giants
Sam LeCure | Reds

I’m not the biggest Porter fan, but there are some variations that get the job done. And I’ll always grab a Porter before reaching for the yellow fizzy stuff when the pickins’ in the cooler are slim. A few former closers and potential future closers litter this tier, so keep them in mind.

Tier Five: Yellow Fizzy Beers

Chris Perez | Dodgers
Tom Wilhelmsen | Mariners
Aaron Crow | Royals
Tyler Thornburg | Brewers
Matt Belisle | Rockies
Evan Reed | Tigers
Fernando Abad | Athletics
Junichi Tazawa | Red Sox
Neal Cotts | Rangers
Juan Gutierrez | Giants
Brian Wilson | Dodgers
Alexi Ogando | Rangers
Brian Schlitter | Cubs
Jared Burton | Twins
Brian Matusz | Orioles
Carlos Torres | Mets
Zach Putnam | White Sox

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If I need a fix, I’d gladly grab the yellow fizzy stuff rather than subjecting myself to the shakes. Feel free to dip into the leftovers to do the same, especially if you need to make a late-season push in the holds category.

And again, here are my top 60+ relievers sorted by holds:

 

Name Team G W SV HLD K% BB% K-BB% ERA FIP WHIP
Brett Cecil Blue Jays 25 3 13 32.30% 13.10% 19.20% 3.8 1.87 1.59
Will Smith Brewers 28 1 12 33.60% 10.30% 23.40% 0.36 1.63 1.18
Kevin Siegrist Cardinals 23 1 12 31.80% 9.40% 22.40% 3.6 2.35 1.25
Brad Ziegler Diamondbacks 29 1 12 20.50% 8.90% 11.60% 2.3 2.68 1.13
Carlos Martinez Cardinals 25 12 18.40% 8.80% 9.70% 3.95 3.67 1.28
Steve Delabar Blue Jays 24 3 12 20.20% 13.50% 6.70% 4.29 4.43 1.29
Tony Watson Pirates 23 5 11 30.30% 7.10% 23.20% 1.16 2.19 1.24
Adam Ottavino Rockies 26 11 26.40% 3.50% 23.00% 1.52 2.16 0.76
Tyler Clippard Nationals 27 4 11 31.60% 13.30% 18.40% 1.48 3.17 1.15
J.P. Howell Dodgers 26 1 11 28.20% 11.50% 16.70% 2 2.27 1.17
Joba Chamberlain Tigers 23 1 1 10 28.40% 6.80% 21.60% 2.95 1.69 1.27
David Carpenter Braves 24 4 2 9 28.70% 5.30% 23.40% 2.42 2.6 1.21
Casey Fien Twins 22 3 9 16.90% 5.20% 11.70% 1.71 2.38 0.76
Aaron Loup Blue Jays 24 2 2 9 19.20% 12.50% 6.70% 2.84 3.24 1.14
Wade Davis Royals 20 3 8 44.90% 10.10% 34.80% 1.61 0.94 0.85
Cody Allen Indians 26 2 1 8 28.70% 10.60% 18.10% 3.38 3.28 1.45
Adam Warren Yankees 24 1 1 8 23.80% 6.60% 17.20% 1.76 2.36 1.08
Jeremy Affeldt Giants 20 8 23.20% 7.30% 15.90% 1.56 2.07 1.1
Ian Krol Tigers 24 8 14.50% 5.30% 9.20% 2.5 4.99 1.22
Yoervis Medina Mariners 22 2 8 22.70% 13.60% 9.10% 3.6 4.45 1.4
Santiago Casilla Giants 22 1 1 8 17.40% 9.20% 8.20% 1.37 3.27 1.03
Brian Wilson Dodgers 22 8 23.40% 16.00% 7.50% 7.13 5.82 2.09
Rex Brothers Rockies 25 2 8 20.40% 13.60% 6.80% 3.47 4.97 1.37
Drew Storen Nationals 21 2 7 29.20% 3.10% 26.20% 1 2.16 0.61
Joaquin Benoit Padres 23 1 1 7 30.00% 6.70% 23.30% 1.9 2.07 0.85
Al Alburquerque Tigers 27 2 1 7 29.60% 6.80% 22.70% 3.38 3.28 1.17
Mike Dunn Marlins 24 4 7 27.70% 8.50% 19.20% 4.22 3.84 1.27
Bryan Shaw Indians 27 1 2 7 21.20% 3.00% 18.20% 1.46 1.83 0.89
Jason Frasor Rangers 20 1 7 25.70% 10.00% 15.70% 2.12 3.11 1.18
Joel Peralta Rays 25 2 7 22.00% 9.00% 13.00% 5.09 5.26 1.35
Manny Parra Reds 23 1 7 24.40% 12.20% 12.20% 5.5 4.66 1.56
A.J. Ramos Marlins 25 3 7 27.30% 16.20% 11.10% 2.35 3.48 1.35
Alexi Ogando Rangers 25 1 1 7 18.00% 11.70% 6.30% 6.17 3.56 1.84
Brian Schlitter Cubs 22 2 7 12.50% 6.80% 5.70% 2.42 3.58 0.9
Jared Burton Twins 22 1 7 15.40% 11.00% 4.40% 6.43 5.62 1.48
Brian Matusz Orioles 24 1 7 14.50% 10.80% 3.60% 3.44 4.79 1.58
Pat Neshek Cardinals 25 1 6 29.60% 3.70% 25.90% 0.79 2.03 0.57
Jake Diekman Phillies 24 2 6 32.10% 8.90% 23.20% 4.05 3.42 1.24
Jake McGee Rays 25 2 6 29.90% 6.90% 23.00% 1.14 1.74 0.8
Mike Adams Phillies 17 2 6 28.60% 6.40% 22.20% 2.35 2.33 1.11
Dale Thayer Padres 27 2 6 23.30% 5.80% 17.50% 2.22 4.07 1.15
Ryan Webb Orioles 23 2 6 22.50% 5.60% 16.90% 3.27 2.5 1.14
Neal Cotts Rangers 25 1 6 24.00% 8.30% 15.60% 3.68 2.77 1.36
Justin Wilson Pirates 21 1 6 24.10% 9.20% 14.90% 3.1 2.16 1.38
Juan Gutierrez Giants 22 1 6 18.30% 5.40% 12.90% 3.42 3.89 0.97
Darren O’Day Orioles 22 2 2 6 19.30% 7.20% 12.10% 0.87 4.06 1.06
Chris Withrow Dodgers 20 6 31.10% 20.00% 11.10% 2.95 3.7 1.31
Sam LeCure Reds 19 1 6 20.20% 10.70% 9.50% 1.29 3.95 1.14
Chris Perez Dodgers 21 1 6 19.50% 11.00% 8.50% 5.68 4.99 1.47
Dellin Betances Yankees 22 3 5 44.70% 7.90% 36.80% 1.47 1.02 0.78
Luke Gregerson Athletics 26 1 3 5 21.70% 3.80% 17.90% 2.7 2.75 1.01
Jean Machi Giants 25 5 2 5 23.70% 6.50% 17.20% 0.35 2.05 0.81
Fernando Abad Athletics 24 5 26.30% 10.00% 16.30% 2.18 2.32 0.87
Carlos Torres Mets 27 2 1 5 24.80% 9.30% 15.50% 2.76 2.53 1.47
Antonio Bastardo Phillies 23 3 5 28.20% 16.50% 11.70% 3.91 4.13 1.39
Zach Putnam White Sox 15 2 5 19.80% 8.60% 11.10% 1.64 3.14 0.95
Tyler Thornburg Brewers 24 3 5 23.40% 13.10% 10.30% 2.45 3.24 1.29
Matt Belisle Rockies 21 5 14.60% 6.70% 7.90% 3.86 4.05 1.24
Dan Otero Athletics 23 4 5 11.80% 4.70% 7.10% 2.53 3.58 1.06
Zach Duke Brewers 24 3 4 32.90% 4.90% 28.10% 1.27 1.69 0.98
Nick Vincent Padres 24 4 28.40% 3.70% 24.70% 3.22 3.27 0.76
Junichi Tazawa Red Sox 26 1 4 22.50% 6.10% 16.30% 2.25 3.05 1.17
Evan Reed Tigers 19 4 19.80% 5.80% 14.00% 3.92 3.68 1.31
Fernando Salas Angels 22 3 4 23.70% 9.70% 14.00% 2.49 3.46 1.29
Chris Capuano Red Sox 23 1 4 21.90% 9.70% 12.30% 1.95 3.01 1.12
Tom Wilhelmsen Mariners 22 4 20.20% 14.00% 6.10% 3.16 4.14 1.4
Aaron Crow Royals 24 2 4 13.80% 8.10% 5.80% 2.49 4.11 1.11
Andrew Miller Red Sox 26 1 3 38.10% 7.20% 30.90% 2.66 1.48 1.01
Anthony Varvaro Braves 21 1 3 32.40% 4.20% 28.20% 2.95 1.74 0.98

 

 




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In addition to contributing to the RotoGraphs blog, you can find Alan at his own site, TheFantasyFix.com and follow his nonsense on Twitter @TheFantasyFix.


22 Responses to “Scheming For Relief: Monitoring Reliever Tiers”

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  1. Matt says:

    Awesome list, thank you

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  2. Stuart says:

    Danny (Lord) Farquhar?

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  3. EL BURRO says:

    Great work on this list. Few under the radar guys that I’m curious where you slot them (unless it was a purposeful over-sight):

    Neil Ramirez – Cubs.
    Jeurys Familia – Mets.

    Thanks.

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    • Thanks for the kind words.

      Good names, thanks for noting. Both likely in the next edition. Ramirez didn’t meet the 15 game minimum and Familia didn’t meet the three hold minimum (this time). Again, both could have been on the list, but I had to set minimums to narrow down the list. Started with 220+ names.

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      • EL BURRO says:

        Got it. Reason I ask is just looking at the usage and their lines over the last month, both look to be decent adds in deeper leagues for ratios and ‘holds’ upside.

        Granted, the teams they pitch for are likely not going to present many holds opportunities, but thought they should be in the mix based on how many tiers you covered.

        Ramirez K-BB has been pretty off the charts thus far and I wonder if its sustainable. Guessing not looking at Steamer projections. If you’ve watched him, curious of your opinion?

        Incidentally, Bullpen Report is a nightly read. Great work with that. Thanks

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  4. Atreyu Jones says:

    Thank you for this article.

    I have a few quibbles. A lot, maybe most, of these guys would not be considered “middle relievers” using current terminology. Most of these guys are “set-up” guys.

    Also, it was helpful to note that these guys proximity to saves was not a criteria in the ranking. However, it would also be helpful to note what exactly are the included criteria. It is strongly implied that Holds is factored in, but maybe it should be made clearer. Or maybe I am wrong and a list of guys that can help with ERA-WHIP-K-WINS would be identical to a list of guys that can help with HOLDS, too.

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    • You’re welcome. I’m not saying I’m right here, but I used the term “middle relievers” to encompass the entire group of arms that appear between the starter, and presumably the closer, for the purpose of this column. Between this column and the Bullpen Report, we are able to cover most of our bases.

      Additionally, I noted the criteria for these arms in the first paragraph. I’m working on a fancy formula to use for situations like this, but in all honesty, I just went player by player and slotted them in appropriate tiers based on the criteria arbitrarily.

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  5. Atari says:

    Another guy that did not meet the criteria…where would Kelvin Herrera slot???

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  6. Dicky says:

    Where does Wei-Chung Wang fall on this list?

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  7. Tiers4Beers says:

    At the risk of writing the worst comment in RotoGraphs history:

    Instead of ordering these by your opinion of beer styles, why not order these by a range of good to bad beers of any style you’ve had? There’s something book-report-without-reading-the-book about assuming all double IPAs are better than all porters. Or, to be much more snobbish, something repellantly neophyte/dilettante/bandwagon-ish.

    These tiered-ranking posts especially have always struck me as … um, crapped out? Done with little to no care?

    Picking an analogy that enriches what is frankly something of a link dump could work. Taking a broad, brief bit of content with little in the way of analysis and embroidering it with a broad, obtuse analogy is like throwing some stale hops into your slurry of boiled corn.

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  8. Miles says:

    Were Joe Smith and Mark Melancon removed due to their number of saves? Bryan Shaw and Cody are on your list, and both Frieri and Grilli seem to have the job back. I’d imagine Joe Smith slots into the Saisons due to low K rate.

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  9. Burton Cummings says:

    Jon “The Ox” Broxton? Downright Broxtonian! Isn’t he better than LeCure, who actually kinda sucks? (And, yes, this is a great piece.)

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  10. jim S. says:

    Alex Torres of the Padres only has two saves, but if his teammates ever start hitting he’ll have many more. Terrible trade by the supposedly great front office of the Rays.

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  11. rick says:

    andrew miller K/9 could serve some sneaky usefulness btw

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  12. Adam says:

    Melancon was back in holds mode last night, maybe he should be back on this list.

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  13. chri521 says:

    Eno Sarris and Beergraphs would be proud of the linkage.

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  14. Belle of the League says:

    Awesome!
    Our keeper league is custom points, H2H with an 8 start weekly max.
    Our point and roster formats are specifically designed to make RP’s other than closers valuable.
    Our rosters mirror MLB team construction. After all, RP’s make up a third to half of MLB rosters. Why should we ignore them?
    This list is the bomb. Thanks.

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