The Best Fantasy Relievers of the Past Calendar Year

A few weeks ago I took a look at the best fantasy relievers of this season, but since then I’ve looked at the best fantasy hitters and starters over the past calendar year, and I wanted to complete the series. The series started because I wanted to give out my All-Star picks and make the point that we should base our All-Star votes on what has happened since the last All-Star game, not just what has happened so far this year. So below I’ve got the seven relievers from each league I’d have on my ballot. But first a few caveats.

First, I’m aware that the past calendar year split includes some games that were pre-All-Star game in 2013. Second, I’m aware that fantasy value doesn’t necessarily equal All-Star. And finally, I’m not exactly using the traditional categories to calculate fantasy value. I prefer using quality starts to wins, so I’m only using four categories for relievers. And I hate saves and have always wished shutdowns minus meltdowns would replace saves. So I’m using SD-MD along with strikeouts and the normal ratio categories. Here are my All-Star picks followed by some token fantasy advice to qualify this post for the Rotographs blog.


If you’d like to see the full list of how all qualified relievers rank over the last 365, check out this Google  Sheet. In that sheet I’ve also got a tab that takes out the SD-MD category so we can see how pitchers rank when we remove any situational positives or negatives. After doing that, Tony Watson moves up to the fourth best reliever behind only Uehara, Kimbrel and Holland who are the only three relievers with a fantasy value more than two standard deviations above the mean. Watson is owned in only 3.2% of leagues and is an excellent pickup to help with ratios and strikeouts. If you play in a league with a start limit and you’re over the pace, drop a starter and add Watson. I also think Watson would be a better closer option than Ernesto Frieri if Mark Melancon ever falters. Although I don’t know if Clint Hurdle feels the same way.

After Watson we run into another trio of non-closers in Tyler Clippard, Joaquin Benoit and Dellin Betances. But they all have healthy ownership percentages and are likely owned in most leagues where you could use them. Moving a little further down the list we find another trio of non-closers with a fantasy value more than one standard deviation above the mean and an ownership percentage in single digits, Jean Machi, Luke Gregerson, and David Carpenter.

I want to highlight Carpenter (the one in Atlanta) because he has displayed the best skills over the last year, and he also has the lowest ownership percentage. In fact, he’s almost universally available with a 0.1% ownership percentage. That’s probably due in part to him having been on the disabled list for a couple of weeks, but he’s being activated today. He was available in my NL-only league and middle relievers are almost always useful in that format. Carpenter might be especially useful since he has the tenth best K-BB% among qualified relievers over the last year. If you’ve got room for, or need, a middle reliever and none of the elite guys listed above are available, go get Carpenter.

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You can find more of Brett's work on or follow him on Twitter @TheRealTAL.

12 Responses to “The Best Fantasy Relievers of the Past Calendar Year”

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  1. KJ says:

    You switched the titles. The American League pitchers are shown under the National League title.

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  2. Hrkac Circus says:

    Just a heads up, you’ve got the NL/AL headers switched around.

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  3. Brett Talley says:

    Meh. My mistake. Would be a pain to change from work, and I assume everyone can figure that one out.

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  4. glp says:

    Whither Wade Davis? Can’t find him on your sheet.

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    • Brett Talley says:

      Only looked at qualified relievers over the last 365 which required 49+ innings as a reliever. Davis only had 45 as a reliever. He also had 42.2 in eight starts. I think he would have ranked as a borderline top 20 reliever not counting SD-MD if he had qualified.

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  5. David says:

    Curious, where would Wade Davis rank if you assumed this year’s first half production back in the second half of last year?

    ..and Betances for that matter

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  6. Jason B says:

    I know you discussed in your article, but this is really “Brett Talley’s best relievers” or some such; the vast, vast majority of fantasy leagues continue to use saves, flawed metric that it may be.

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  7. Detroit Michael says:

    If you use an abbreviation like FVAAz, you really ought to define it. After 2 minutes of cogitating and clicking on the links to see if prior articles defined it, I’m think it’s probably fantasy value above average based on z-scores or standard deviations, but it would be better if you’d just define it for us.

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  8. novaether says:

    Is there a site where you can have a league with SD-MD instead of saves?

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  9. kusnider says:

    Better odds of saves for the rest of year, Parnell or Watson? I assume Watson has more value rest of year but I’m trying to weigh saves pretty high so where do they stack against eachother?

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