Scheming For Relief: Updated Middle Reliever Tiers

Finally, the “Updated Middle Reliever Tiers” are complete, for now. Each of the five standard pitching categories — and of course holds — played a role in determining these tiers.

The first two tiers were pretty simple to establish. Horses like Mark Melancon, Jesse Crain and Trevor Rosenthal seem to have separated themselves from the rest of the pack through the first two months of the season and are elite middle relief commodities at this point. But when it came time to find homes for the Aaron Loups and Cody Allens of the world, I felt like I was splitting hairs.

Disclaimer: In developing these rankings I looked for pitchers who appeared in about 17 games or more. One of the downfalls of using such a cutoff is that players who landed on the disabled list early on in the season may not appear in these rankings. Additionally, the relievers appear in tiers and are listed in no particular order within the their respective tier.

Alright RotoGraphers, here they are. Firing Squad: please report directly to the comments section below.

Tier One: Double India Pale Ales

Mark Melancon | Pirates
Jesse Crain | White Sox
Trevor Rosenthal | Cardinals

For me, the Double IPA is the cream of the crop. And that’s exactly what you get with Melancon, Crain and Rosenthal. These guys provide cases full of holds, crisp ratios and elite whiff rates.

Tier Two: India Pale Ales

Jared Burton | Twins
Kenley Jansen | Dodgers
David Hernandez | Diamondbacks
Joel Peralta | Rays
Sean Doolittle | Athletics
Luke Gregerson | Padres
David Robertson | Yankees
Rex Brothers | Rockies

The IPA is elite, but it doesn’t get the job done as consistently or as quickly as the Double does. There are a few closers-in-waiting floating around in the second tier should their respective team’s closer become skunky.

Tier Three: Saisons

Andrew Miller | Red Sox
Joaquin Benoit | Tigers
James Russell | Cubs
Matt Thornton | White Sox
Matt Reynolds | Diamondbacks
Darren O’Day | Orioles
Koji Uehara | Red Sox
Robbie Ross | Rangers
Tanner Scheppers | Rangers
Joe Smith | Indians
Sam LeCure | Reds
Tommy Hunter | Orioles
Junichi Tazawa | Red Sox

Saisons tend to be refreshing, but pack a little less punch than those listed above. You have some dark-horse closing candidates listed in this tier and some that possess elite strikeout skills (see: Miller, Andrew), while guys like Junichi Tazawa will chip in with some scab wins to go along with a decent amount of holds, whiffs and fine ratios. Don’t skip out on the Saison.

Tier Four: Porters

Aaron Loup | Blue Jays
Tim Collins | Royals
Tyler Clippard | Nationals
Matt Belisle | Rockies
Jonathan Broxton | Reds
Jake McGee | Rays
Cody Allen | Indians
Steve Delabar | Blue Jays
Carter Capps | Mariners
Brian Matusz | Orioles
Brian Duensing | Twins
Dale Thayer | Padres
Ryan Cook | Athletics
Antonio Bastardo | Phillies
Travis Blackley | Astros
John Axford | Brewers

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. Like I noted above, these tiers were a little tricky, but you still have some fine options such as fireballer Carter Capps. Super-darkhorse closing options Cody Allen and Steve Delabar find homes in the Porter tier as well in case Vinnie Pestano fails to work out in Cleveland with Chris Perez on the shelf or if the Casey Janssen injury rumors become reality.

Tier Five: Yellow Fizzy Beers

Brandon Kintzler | Brewers
Dane de la Rosa | Angels
Luis Avilan | Braves
Paco Rodriguez | Dodgers
Tom Gorzelanny | Brewers
Mike Dunn | Marlins
Justin Wilson | Pirates
Drew Smyly | Tigers
Hector Ambriz | Astros
Brad Ziegler | Diamondbacks
Tony Watson | Pirates
Paul Clemens | Astros
Ronald Belisario | Dodgers
Matt Lindstrom | White Sox
Brandon Lyon | Mets
A.J. Ramos | Marlins
Brett Cecil | Blue Jays
Carlos Marmol | Cubs
Jordan Walden | Braves
Kelvin Herrera | Royals

If the only things left in the cooler are yellow fizzy beers, I’d probably convince a sober driver to take me to the store to grab an extra case of IPAs. But if that fails, the yellow fizzy beer will get the job done. These are your deep league middle reliever options that should be considered in an act of desperation. Kelvin Herrera appears in this tier because he’s currently on the farm — harvesting hops — with the hopes of being in the IPA tier if he can put all of the ingredients together.

And for the heck of it, here are my top 60 relievers sorted by holds:

 

 

Rank Name Team G W SV HLD ERA WHIP K%
1 Mark Melancon Pirates 28 1 1 18 0.96 0.82 26.20%
2 Jesse Crain White Sox 26 1 0 15 0.78 1.04 33.00%
3 Trevor Rosenthal Cardinals 26 0 0 15 2.08 1.15 35.80%
4 Joel Peralta Rays 28 0 1 14 2.13 0.99 27.30%
5 Jared Burton Twins 25 0 1 12 2.19 1.22 23.60%
6 Kenley Jansen Dodgers 25 1 2 11 3.28 1.09 35.40%
7 Matt Thornton White Sox 23 0 0 11 3.38 1.31 10.30%
9 Luke Gregerson Padres 23 3 0 10 0.83 0.65 20.00%
8 Sean Doolittle Athletics 24 3 0 10 1.48 0.62 27.60%
11 Koji Uehara Red Sox 22 0 1 10 2.14 0.95 34.90%
10 David Robertson Yankees 23 3 0 10 2.86 0.91 33.00%
12 Tanner Scheppers Rangers 23 3 0 9 0.71 0.83 16.50%
17 Junichi Tazawa Red Sox 23 4 0 9 2.82 1.16 31.90%
13 Tyler Clippard Nationals 23 3 0 9 2.86 1 26.40%
14 Matt Belisle Rockies 26 2 0 9 3.18 1.06 20.00%
18 Brian Duensing Twins 24 0 1 9 3.6 1.5 19.30%
15 Jonathan Broxton Reds 23 2 0 9 4.22 1.13 16.70%
16 Tony Watson Pirates 23 1 1 9 4.62 1.14 22.90%
19 Hector Ambriz Astros 26 1 0 9 4.88 1.5 18.10%
20 Jake McGee Rays 23 2 0 9 6.75 1.55 29.40%
22 Sam LeCure Reds 19 1 0 8 1.27 0.94 28.90%
21 Brian Matusz Orioles 24 1 0 8 3.15 0.8 28.00%
24 David Hernandez Diamondbacks 22 2 1 8 3.18 1.32 24.50%
23 Dale Thayer Padres 22 0 0 8 3.38 0.94 22.90%
28 Robbie Ross Rangers 23 2 0 7 0.39 1.07 17.90%
25 James Russell Cubs 25 1 0 7 0.95 0.79 28.20%
26 Joaquin Benoit Tigers 22 1 2 7 1.57 0.96 33.00%
29 Darren O’Day Orioles 25 2 1 7 1.88 1.13 25.50%
34 Antonio Bastardo Phillies 22 2 0 7 2 1.39 23.10%
30 Ryan Cook Athletics 22 1 1 7 2.38 1.19 26.80%
27 Brad Ziegler Diamondbacks 28 2 0 7 2.59 1.07 18.80%
33 Luis Avilan Braves 24 2 0 7 2.66 1.28 10.60%
35 Travis Blackley Astros 19 0 0 7 3.66 1.42 21.20%
36 Matt Lindstrom White Sox 25 2 0 7 3.98 1.52 17.40%
32 Dane de la Rosa Angels 25 1 0 7 4.21 1.25 20.00%
31 Brandon Kintzler Brewers 23 2 0 7 4.24 1.24 20.00%
37 John Axford Brewers 25 1 0 7 6.04 1.75 24.50%
40 Rex Brothers Rockies 26 1 1 6 0.38 1.23 24.50%
39 Tom Gorzelanny Brewers 21 1 0 6 2.37 1.11 20.30%
41 Mike Dunn Marlins 26 1 1 6 2.38 1.41 22.50%
38 Paco Rodriguez Dodgers 25 1 0 6 3.06 0.79 29.20%
43 Joe Smith Indians 20 2 1 5 1 0.94 27.50%
44 Matt Reynolds Diamondbacks 25 0 2 5 1.21 0.99 23.00%
42 Justin Wilson Pirates 19 4 0 5 1.45 0.9 25.00%
45 Drew Smyly Tigers 18 2 1 5 2.2 1.01 26.40%
48 Ronald Belisario Dodgers 26 3 0 5 3.33 1.64 17.10%
46 Tim Collins Royals 17 1 0 5 3.38 1.13 27.00%
47 Paul Clemens Astros 17 3 0 5 4.13 1.13 17.80%
49 Aaron Loup Blue Jays 22 2 1 4 2.51 1.08 17.10%
54 Andrew Miller Red Sox 24 0 0 4 3.57 1.42 40.30%
50 Brandon Lyon Mets 23 2 0 4 3.66 1.17 20.70%
53 A.J. Ramos Marlins 22 0 0 4 3.71 1.35 23.70%
51 Carter Capps Mariners 22 2 0 4 3.86 1.25 31.10%
52 Kelvin Herrera Royals 19 2 2 4 4.87 1.33 27.60%
56 Tommy Hunter Orioles 19 3 1 3 1.8 0.93 19.00%
55 Brett Cecil Blue Jays 24 1 0 3 1.98 0.91 30.20%
57 Carlos Marmol Cubs 22 2 2 3 4.05 1.6 21.70%
58 Cody Allen Indians 22 1 1 2 2.16 0.92 33.00%
59 Steve Delabar Blue Jays 23 4 0 1 2.33 1.3 26.10%
60 Jordan Walden Braves 15 1 0 1 4.5 1.43 28.60%

 




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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.


28 Responses to “Scheming For Relief: Updated Middle Reliever Tiers”

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  1. Frankie says:

    Love it! Finally some middle-relief breakdown.

    Where do you see Mike Adams falling among these rankings? He looked great last night and if he stays healthy is he more of a ‘Pale Ale’ or ‘Saison’?

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  2. Sgt Hulka says:

    I like the look into the oft ignored middle relievers player category. Do you guys do a ranking of pitchers currently not closers who have the best shot at closing this year? Either because of the risk of primary closer ineffectiveness or injury.

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  3. Goose. says:

    Robert Coello is definitely fermenting, almost ready to tap…

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    • saskatunes says:

      Agree– was just about to start a new comment about him. Great K rate, I think if he keeps up his stuff, he’ll be put in more high-leverage situations before too long.

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    • Ya, like his stuff a lot. Need to see him do it over a longer stretch. He failed to qualify for this list because he has just 8 outings under his belt. But he’s sporting a -0.13 FIP and a 47.4 K% in those 8 appearances. Not sure that’s legal.

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    • Cheesewhiz says:

      I was wondering where he would be on the list…been tracking him. I’m using Hernandez, Pestano, Scheppers, and Melancon. I am considering kicking Hernandez to the curb. Or Pestano, if he loses the closing gig.

      Burton is available, but I dropped him for Scheppers.

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  4. Dan Greer says:

    I know Thornton has a ton of holds, but his K% is atrocious this year. Anyone know what’s up with him?

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  5. Jon L. says:

    It’s hard to agree with these rankings. You’ve got the league leaders in holds collected under bitter, undrinkable beers, and then by the time you get to something palatable, the pitchers’ holds are way down, or their rate stats are way up.

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  6. Bubba says:

    What’s keeping Kenley Jansen out of the top tier? Health concerns? HRs?

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  7. Jon says:

    You think both Uehara and Tazawa are hurt by splitting holds for the Sox? I own Tazawa and Hernandez in a k/9 and holds league and am debating whether to drop one for Burton, whom you have higher. I also own Rosenthal and Peralta.

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  8. lowcountryjoe says:

    Porters not as tasty as IPAs? Give me the malty porter or stout any day. No gripe with the RP rankings, though.

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  9. Pableaux Gunmoney says:

    The analogy doesn’t work well. IPA’s tend to be on the high end of the IBU (bitterness) scale. Also, they get skunky much faster than most beer.

    And I still see Jansen as a tier 1 guy. Good article for us deep leaguers. Thanks.

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    • Giovani says:

      I don’t think that’s true about IPAs. They were specifically invented by the British to not skunk on the long trek to India (hence the name) in the early 18th century. Hops and their acids, which impart bitterness, are a natural preservative.

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  10. Common Knowledge says:

    Why isn’t J.J. Hoover on this list? And I don’t understand your rationale for keeping Mike Adams completely off this list.

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  11. Titan says:

    Any chance we could get an update post like this for rest of way rankings?

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