Maximizing closer innings in Rotohog

Rotohog Baseball is a fantasy baseball game with free entry, large prizes, and a unique “stock exchange” trading mechanism. Thousands of players compete in a global contest to see who can accumulate the most points. Like some “salary cap” baseball games, Rotohog gives you the opportunity to turn over your entire roster every day, greatly increasing the importance of taking factors such as opponent and park into account when determining your lineup.

In 2008, Rotohog used an 1100 innings pitched limit. Saves were worth fifteen points. The top starting pitchers in Rotohog will average around six points per inning. If you play match-ups very well, you may be able to squeeze around the same six points per inning out of your entire staff of starting pitchers. Good closers on the other hand, are going to average over 15 points per inning. Even mediocre closers are going to average well over 10 points per inning! Every inning pitched by a starter in place of a reliever is costing you a substantial number of points.

There are a few techniques you can use to ensure you’re getting the maximizing the innings you get from your closers.

1. Always put relievers in your reliever slots.

This seems pretty obvious, but last season there were plenty of people using starters with reliever eligibility (guys like Johnny Cueto and Zach Greinke) in their reliever roster slots. Don’t do this. It may be tempting when a good starting pitcher has a favorable match-up, but there are no circumstances where this is a good move.

2. Use closers with starter eligibility.

This was more of a factor in 2007, when there were often four closers available with starter eligibility: Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Gregg, Brett Myers, and Brad Hennessey. The top teams all made extensive use of these players, generally having at least one, and often two in their lineups. There was a lot of complaining from players about the fact that position eligibility for these pitchers wasn’t updated by Rotohog during the season, and they promised to do so in 2008. This was never really put to the test, as the only potential closers with starter eligibility (John Smoltz and Chris Carpenter) were quickly shut down with injuries before it became an issue. That said, position eligibility for hitters was adjusted very slowly, so there may still be opportunities in this area.

3. Use relievers who have doubleheaders.

Unless a closer is extremely bad and there is another reliever with a very favorable match-up, relievers with doubleheaders are going to be worth using. When there’s a doubleheader on the schedule, I almost always use the closers for both teams. Even if you think the manager wouldn’t use their closer in both games, the added chance of them using them in a save opportunity in at least one game makes this a good move. And closers get the save in both ends of a doubleheader surprisingly often.

4. Make sure your relievers have games.

It’s a minor disaster if a reliever with a day off stays on your active roster. In addition, the one time that rainouts are really going to kill you is if one of your closers’ team doesn’t play. I generally check the weather report for all games (there are several sites that provide a consolidated version of this information) and avoid any closers pitching in cities with more than a 30 or 40 percent chance of rain.

5. Make sure your relievers are available.

This can be a little tedious, but I’ve certainly regretted it when I didn’t take the time to check whether my relievers had pitched three or four days in a row. I generally assume that managers won’t hesitate to use their closer two days in a row, but avoid putting closers on my roster who would be facing a third straight day of usage. Aside from the benefit of avoiding an unannounced day off, you’ll avoid using fatigued pitchers who may not be as effective. While the research on this topic that I’ve seen has been relatively limited, it does appear that relievers lose a substantial amount of effectiveness when they’re overused.

Keep in mind that Rotohog hasn’t yet announced their rules for 2009, so we can’t be 100 percent sure that all of these strategies will be effective. However, they’ve indicated that they’d prefer not to make major changes to the format going forward, so I think it’s extremely likely that there will still be some sort of innings pitched limit.

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