The closer one night stand

The saves category is one of the more frustrating in fantasy baseball, involving a good deal of luck and favoring those with the time luxury or misfortune—however you want to look at it—of being able to immediately react at the first breaking news of a strained shoulder. Sometimes life takes precedence over fantasy baseball and you simply cannot compete with those people in the adding of newly anointed closers.

There still are ways to get some cheap saves that do not require you to be the first to jump on injury or some other news that results in a new reliever coming in the ninth. One way—the way I will go on to describe in this article—requires you to be in a league with daily roster updates and relatively deep rosters so if your league does not fit the description, I’m sorry, this strategy probably will not work well for you.

For those whose leagues apply, keep reading.

He has pitched in how many consecutive games?

The concept is simple: Keep track of closers that have pitched in consecutive games and consider adding the team’s setup man for one day, tomorrow’s game. If the same team is leading by a small margin in tomorrow’s game, they might not want to use their usual closer for a third or fourth consecutive night so you add the team’s setup man … and voila! The next game the usual set-up man pitches in the ninth instead, plays closer for a night and nets you an easy save.

Sometimes it works like charm, but often times things go awry.

Potential problems

I am not sure what percentage of MLB games include a save, but whatever that number is divided by two is the chance that the reliever you audition even has a chance of getting a save. Then, there is the chance the team uses its closer for a third straight night, or uses a different reliever as the fill-in closer.

Another problem that will occur more often in deeper leagues is that the potential fill-in closer (current set-up man) might be already owned. If that is the case, you can take a chance on a different reliever in that team’s bullpen or forget about it.

Overall this strategy has a low success rate, but the five (more or less) saves it can cheaply garner you over the course of a season may help you greatly in the standings. Some of you looking over your league standings can easily picture how much those extra saves could help right now.

Concluding thoughts

As I noted before, it helps if your league has deep rosters so that roster spots themselves are not as valuable and can be used on something relatively trivial like this strategy. Some people, however, seem to have a slight obsession with closer-potential middle relievers who are not getting saves. Instead of holding onto one of those Matt Thornton, Matt Guerrier-types, maybe the roster spot would be better utilized by rotating between relievers who fit the criteria above. It all depends on your team and league type.

A tool that surprisingly comes in handy for this strategy is the THT Sparkline Generator. Clicking on the link will show you how to set the sparklines to your custom settings so it shows the games a team won by four or fewer (set it to four or three) runs in the past week.

Teams like the Yankees and Rays with three consecutive red upticks probably have overused their closers in the past few days and those team’s setup men are good targets. Checking Mariano Rivera and J.P. Howell, the Sparklines were right, both closers made appearances the past three games and probably will not be used in a fourth even if it is a save opportunity.

With Monday night’s games now finished we see neither the Rays nor Yankees games had a save situation (Yankees were close), so last night would not have worked. If you continue to keep track of closer use throughout the season though, every once in a while you will get a surprise save and it will all be worth it.


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Steve A
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Steve A

This is an interesting strategy to pick off some saves.  I can see this working well in head-to-head leagues, especially.

Thanks Paul!

digglahhh
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digglahhh
The underlying point here is to have as few dead roster spots as you can. If you have a rotating spot or two, you want guys who are going to get into games and produce stats for you. Whether you want to chase the unlikely vulture save and tweak your strategy accordingly, or you want to just hedge your bets and get high quality per-inning production from middle relievers is a strategic decision for you to make. I like to rotate waiver wire bats to fill out my line-up on travel days and stream high K-per-inning middle relievers throughout the… Read more »
digglahhh
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digglahhh

Sorry, meant to say that last night I caught a win from Guerrier, and have caught wins and/or saves from those other guys too, throughout the season.

John Burnson
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John Burnson
This is a cool idea! I checked my database of all games from 2006-09. I queried for all streaks of three Saves on consecutive calendar days. On those occasions when a team used the same guy to close the first two games, they used a different guy on the third night 1/3 of the time. The downside is that, from 2006-09, there were only 156 such streaks. On the other hand, that still rates to about 1.5 such streaks per week. Optimally, then, you could acquire about half a save per week (1/3 of 1.5) or a dozen saves for… Read more »
MadMaxScherzer
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MadMaxScherzer

Nice this is a great for strategy smile

Paul Singman
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Paul Singman
@Digglahhh I like your strategy of filling out your hitting lineup on common travel days and then auditioning middle relievers on the other days, hoping to maybe get a surprise save or win… But why leave the vulture saves “to the serendipity of the fantasy gods” when you can do a little research, find out if there are any setup men with overworked closers to add, and increase your chances of getting the save. @John Thank you for finding out the actual numbers. When you say they used a different guy 1/3 of the time, is this 1/3 in the… Read more »
digglahhh
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digglahhh
Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It depends on both my available time, and motivation. It’s kind of an ROI thing. If you’re doing this regularly anyway (rotating roster spot), then there will be days when no such opportunity exists. So, that will be wasted effort. When you do identify such an opportunity, you only score (a save) when a)that team wins, b)there’s a save situation, c)the team chooses not to use their closer for another consecutive day. You need the stars to align, and while research can increase the likelihood thereof, it’s questionable whether the results are actually… Read more »
Paul Singman
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Paul Singman
Digglahh, I agree that for some people the time and effort might not be worth the minimal possible reward, but to the most hardcore fantasy ballers using the sparkline generator to get a few cheap saves a year may seem more than worth it. Regarding your suggested experiment, the results would be irrelevant since it is all about individual situations that should not be generalized. Both strategies have their risks and rewards: the high quality middle reliever one is more all-or-nothing and the rotating relievers strategy reward is more of a consistent-little-something. My personal recommendation is to not chose one… Read more »
digglahhh
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digglahhh
That is indeed the difficulty with the drafting of MRs. They are, by definition, the least talented group of pitchers in the game. Were they better, they’d either be starting or closing. Very few retain high levels of performance year to year.(There are many reasons for this, which I don’t need to explain to this audience) In their heyday, Shields and Linebrink were consisstently stellar year to year, clear heirs to the closer job in the case of injury, and involved in a high percentage of “decisions” (brought in very often, and in close games). Very few middle relievers were… Read more »
Derek Carty
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Derek Carty

digglahhh,
Would you mind shooting me a e-mail when you have a minute?  Thanks.

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