Starting Pitching Qualified Relievers, Take Advantage of a Starting Pitcher’s Day Off

On the days that not all of your starting pitchers (SP) are not pitching, the SP qualified reliever can be inserted and be used to rack up some strikeouts, lower rate stats and pickup a win or save here and there. Last season, J.P. Howell fit this mold perfectly. He became even more valuable when he became the full closer for the Rays. J.P. is no longer SP eligible, but here are a few players that fit the mold. All percent owned number are from Yahoo.

Joba Chamberlain (31% owned) – Probably the best SP,RP option. The Yankees are going to score some runs, so he has a great chance for some wins.

Dustin Nippert (2%) – He has not had much luck as a starter and going to the pen should help him. As Tom Tango has noted, pitchers going to the pen have an average drop in ERA of 1 point. A projected ERA for 5.13 as a starter would be 4.13 as a closer.

Robinson Tejeda (2%) – Not a good start of the season for Mr. Tejada, but he should be respectable out of the pen. Don’t look to pitch him as starter, just out as a reliever.

Chad Gaudin (1%) – I really like Chad as a reliever and is a great option. He is in line to be a starter for the A’s if needed and if he does, look to place him on the bench.

Chan Ho Park (1%) – Another pitcher that got roughed up in his first outing. He should be able to get a few wins being the relief man when the Yankee’s starter blows up and he is pitching when the Yankee’s offense retakes the lead.

Chris Narveson (1%) – Not a great reliever, but good enough in deep and NL only leagues to steal a few wins as a RP

Nate Robertson (1%) – He is now starting, but was planned to be in pen. Don’t use him unless his role changes and he moves back to pen.

Jose Contreras (0%) – I think he could be a nice sleeper. He fits into the mold of Park, where he comes in for long relief and the Phillies offense gets going enough to get him a win. Chone is projecting a decent ERA as a reliever of 3.84.

I am sure I missed a few so let other know if anyone else stands out.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


17 Responses to “Starting Pitching Qualified Relievers, Take Advantage of a Starting Pitcher’s Day Off”

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  1. Matthew Bultitude says:

    Kris Medlen

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  2. Tim Stauffer moved to middle relief. I believe he is poised for somewhat of a breakout.

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  3. Dodger middle relievers might be a good bet because their starters are terrible and offense good, which means the middle relief may get wins. Tronsco, Kuo, Belisario were pretty good last year. Sherrill wasn’t but Torre loves him.

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  4. bigfun says:

    I play in several leagues that use holds, where these players are hot commodities, often drafted in late rounds or sniped off waivers. Hughes and Feliz were huge last year. This is going by Yahoo classifications:

    Koji Uehara – depending on how he returns from the DL, could be useful
    Edward Mujica – pitches at Petco and boasted a 4 K/BB ratio last year
    Kyle Kendrick – not much use as a spot starter, but if he is moved to the bullpen when Blanton returns, he could be useful in that capacity

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  5. coreyjro says:

    Sean Marshall is eligible in ESPN leagues.

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  6. Michael C. says:

    Names to add:

    Carlos Villanueva, Brewers and (when he returns from DL) Koji Uehara with the Orioles. Finally, Edward Mujica with the Padres.

    These SP/RP guys can be quite valuable in leagues that count Holds.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      Throughout the season they will do as well as most starters for the number of innings they pitch. And for leagues with limit RP slots (one 20 team league I am in has only 3 spots), they can be pretty valuable.

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  7. Brian says:

    Justin Masterson — he got some long relief experience because of the DiceK disaster last year with the Red Sox, and then started for the Indians after the VMart trade.

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  8. Adam says:

    I wouldn’t touch any of these guys, except for maybe Joba. Sure, maybe you’ll add a K or too, but the risk of a blowup is just too high.

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  9. Adam D says:

    My league is the other way around… starters generally have much more value than relievers, so having a SP that has RP eligibility is more valuable than the other way around.

    CJ Wilson, here I come!

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  10. Josh says:

    I really like Kris Medlen. I made a point to target him late in my 20 team league that, obviously, counts holds. He has the potential to put up around 15 holds and steal a few saves and wins, not to mention a very good K/Bb ratio.

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  11. ingeindahouse says:

    one big one at least in espn is Jenrry Mejia. I have him in a dynasty league and Im kinda disappointed they have him in the bullpen but at least Im getting something out of him.

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  12. captain_oblivious says:

    If he ever pitches an MLB inning again Kelvim Escobar will be perfect for this list.

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  13. JMK says:

    I believe Liriano qualifies in Yahoo leagues.

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  14. Jeff says:

    In my league, the following guys also qualify:

    Casey Janssen (Three vulture wins already)
    Sean Marshall (Dominating stuff – demonstrating good control so far)
    Brian Duensing (Could be a “holds” sleeper – if there is such a thing)
    Carlos Villanueva (Around a 7.5 K/9 guy)
    Mark Hendrickson (Good control but not a huge K guy despite the hot start)
    Jeff Weaver (who may not last in the majors very long)
    Robinson Tejeda (not good…)

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