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    Fantasy Baseball: Non-Closer Relief Pitcher Rankings

    Chris Ryan Senior Writer June 21, 2014 12:37PM EDT
    You know what spells relief? No, not R-O-L-A-I-D-S. That stuff tastes like chalk, and gives people jizz mouth. No, relief is really spelled by having a stable, high-strikeout, low-ratio pitching staff. One you can count on to perform certain functions on a consistent basis each and every week. A few hiccups are unavoidable, but if you can just somehow get reliable, quality stuff, things would be more soothing, less burny and painful.

    As we talked about in Fantasy Moneyball, the best, cheapest way to procure such relief is to load up on non-closing relief pitchers and just let them do their thing.

    Here’s a list of my favorites:

    Authorial Note: Role, or potential role, played no part in getting onto the list, but once there, it’s certainly a factor I took into account. Anytime you can get a free saves from a good pitcher, that’s a big win, whether as another valuable piece to the squad, or as trade bait.

    #1  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Wade Davis

    KC

    31.1

    1.15

    .083

    .120

    14.9

    4.0

    -Last time Davis toed the rubber as a full-time reliever, back in 2012, he posted a 2.43 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and an 11.1 K/9 in 70.1 innings. He’s better this time around. And if you need any other convincing as to his dominance, the guy hasn’t been scored on since April 23. Oh, and there’s the whole dual-eligibility thing, which, if you’re playing H2H, gives him just the slightest of edges over…

    #2  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Dellin Betances

    NYY

    42

    1.50

    .071

    .119

    15.0

    6.3

    -The only thing that worries me is his workload—Betances has been used in multiple innings in 18 of his 31 appearances, and is on pace for over 100 innings, plus he’s young and Joe Girardi seems to be leaning on him pretty heavily and … wait, what I am saying? 100 innings? That’s nothing, especially for a young guy like Betances, a former starter built like a freakin’ power forward. Give us 120, Joe. It’ll only help his value.

    Authorial Rhetorical Question: Is it simply coincidental that in an age in which young arms have been treated like delicate flowers, said young arms have suddenly started blowing apart in the slightest spring breeze?

    #3  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Mark Melancon

    PIT

    33.1

    1.89

    .078

    .167

    7.8

    4.8

    -Have you seen what Jason Grilli‘s been doing lately? Five runs and 15 base runners in 7.2 June innings, including a terribly blown save against the Reds the other night. That’s some serious Joe Nathan sh*t right there. Melancon, on the other hand, just keeps doing what he does, not walking people, not allowing home runs, and striking out more than enough, all of which traits are excellent at helping to prevent runs. Dig this—over the past two seasons, a span of 104.1 innings, Melancon has a 1.55 ERA, backed up by a 1.90 FIP.

    Authorial Update: Not surprisingly, Clint Hurdle has since removed from Grilli from the closer’s role, and indicated that Melancon and Tony Watson will semi-compete for save chances. It shouldn’t take a prostate exam to figure out who the right man for the job is. If it does, Hurdle should probably be fired, possibly jailed.

    #4  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Joaquin Benoit

    SD

    31.2

    1.42

    .076

    .153

    10.5

    5.2

    -Not only is Benoit posting the best numbers of his already distinguished career as a middle-reliever, but he’s also pitching in the best pitcher’s park in the league, next-in-line as closer during the obligatory Huston Street injury, and also in the midst of a 14-inning scoreless streak. Plus, I hear he’s a fantastic salsa dancer.

    #5  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Andrew Miller

    BOS

    29

    2.48

    1.00

    .183

    14.2

    5.1

    -Talk about a post-hype sleeper. Miller was the sixth overall pick way back in ’06 by the Tigers, and was a major piece in the trade that sent Miguel Cabrera to Detroit, and Miller’s career spinning out of control (pun intended). He’d righted the wheel somewhat in the Red Sox bullpen over the past two years, but his BB/9 still hovered near 5.0, limiting his effectiveness. This year it’s down all the way to 2.7, and his K/9 has jumped to an outlandish 14.2. The peripherals back up the improved control—he’s throwing a first-pitch strike 62-percent of the time, and keeping half his pitches within the strike zone, both career-bests. Not much difference between him and Betances when get right down to it.

    #6  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Luke Gregerson

    OAK

    38.2

    1.86

    0.93

    .204

    8.6

    5.2

    -It’s shame that Sean Doolittle turned out to be such sickeningly filthy lefty capable of spinning righties on their heels and never, ever walking anyone. It really is. Because Gregerson has been his usual efficiently excellent self since tapping out during the wrestling match for the closers role. Although, the same thing seemed to always happen in San Diego when he was backing up Street, so maybe he’s just one of those guys who doesn’t possess the mental toughness to close. I can’t seem to find a stat on that, so I’m not sure. Either way, enjoy what he is bringing to the table. It’s pretty tasty.

    #7  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Pat Neshek

    STL

    34

    0.89

    0.60

    .137

    9.1

    7.4

    -Neshek’s been a premier big league middle reliever before. He’s also been an awful one. This year, coated in that Cardinals pixie dust, he’s been more effective than a nunnery in preventing people from scoring, and has only walked four guys in   over 30 innings. He’s also vultured two saves, the last coming this past Wednesday. With Jason Motte‘s velocity still way down, Neshek is probably next in line should something awful befall Trevor Rosenthal.

    #8  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Zach Duke

    MIL

    28.2

    1.57

    1.03

    .227

    12.2

    7.8

    -Ah, the beauty of watching a 30-something-year-old failed starter finally coming into his own. Relief pitchers really are the kickers of football (only more Fantasy relevant). I remember watching Duke back in ’05 when he played for the Indianapolis Indians and thinking he was going to be a badass, not yet knowing that a starting pitcher couldn’t survive on a sub-5.0 K/9. Nine years and five teams later, and here we both are, Duke dominating out of the bullpen with a plus-12.0 K/9, and me finally getting to say I was right all along.

    #9  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Joba Chamberlain

    DET

    31.2

    2.84

    1.14

    .235

    10.0

    4.0

     

    It's good to have Joba back in you life. Photo Credit: GabboT

    It's good to have Joba back in you life. Photo Credit: GabboT

    -You have to wonder, if the Yankees had just told him from the start—grownups should NEVER jump on trampolines, would Joba be wearing David Robertson’s pants right now? And if so, how would he get them buttoned? Chamberlain has certainly shown closer worthy stuff this year, and Joe Nathan, good lord, he’s like the video of that decomposing fox they showed us in middle school biology, the one where it’s sped up to show like five days elapse over the span of 20 seconds and makes you want to throw up. I’ve heard a lot more far-fetched stories than Joba Chamberlain is the closer for a World Series team.

    #10  

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Jean Machi

    SF

    31

    0.29

    0.74

    .167

    6.6

    3.8

    -It’s been impossible to ignore what this Machi guy has been doing for the Giants. I mean … a 0.29 ERA in 31 innings? That’s one earned run. And he’s only walked six? Opponents are hitting .167 against him? Who the hell is this guy?!?

    Well apparently, after bouncing from the Rays to the Jays to the Pirates to the Mexican League, Machi is a guy who landed with the Giants in 2012, and has subsequently developed and perfected a splitter that is proving downright unhittable. He’s not a high K guy, and he’s stranding 95-percent of the guys who somehow manage to get on base, so there’s some regression in-line, but Machi’s a for real nasty dude, and just may tumble his way into some save chances if Sergio Romo doesn’t tighten up his act.

    Others To Consider (in no particular order):

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Craig Stammen

    WAS

    36.2

    2.70

    1.03

    .225

    7.9

    6.1

    -A forgotten man in the Nationals bullpen, Stammen is one of the game’s peripheral kings—one of only five non-closing relievers to have a WHIP under 1.10, a FIP under 2.50, a BB/9 under 2.0 and a K:BB greater than 4.0. The other four: Zach Duke, Pat Neshek, Luke Gregerson and Tony Sipp.

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Tony Watson

    PIT

    33

    0.82

    1.06

    .205

    11.1

    4.1

    -A lefty who’s dominating batters of both handedness … and damn, those are some impressive numbers. Maybe an invasive evaluation by Hurdle is needed after all.

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Neil Ramirez

    CHC

    18

    1.00

    0.80

    .135

    13.5

    5.2

    -Here’s something I don’t have a raging clue about—what in the hell the Cubs are doing with their closer situation. One minute, it looks like Ramirez has it locked up, the next, he’s pitching in the seventh inning and Hector Rondon is back in the ninth saving a game. What I do know is that Ramirez has been excellent since being called up from Triple-A, where he posted a 9.3 K/9 as a starter in 155 innings, and that he’s definitely in the mix, whatever that means.

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Tony Sipp

    HOU

    17.2

    2.04

    0.68

    .154

    12.2

    12.0

    -It’s only been 17.2 innings, and he’s mostly been a lefty specialist during his career, but a 24:4 K:BB ratio can’t be ignored, especially in a bullpen that’s about to be unsettled when Chad Qualls is shipped out of town for someone Astros fans will probably never hear of again.

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Junichi Tazawa

    BOS

    31

    2.32

    1.13

    .237

    9.8

    4.8

    -Last three years in the Boston bullpen: 143.1 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 9.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9. Elite and consistent? Yes, please.

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Joe Smith

    LAA

    29.1

    3.07

    1.16

    .234

    9.5

    3.8

    -Even if Ernesto Frieri doesn’t implode into himself and disappear from the closer picture completely, which, he will … eventually, Smith is still a reliable asset thanks to his control and extreme ground ball tendencies.

       

     

    IP

    ERA

    WHIP

    OAVG

    K/9

    K/BB

     

    Drew Storen

    WAS

    22.1

    1.16

    0.83

    .176

    8.7

    5.5

    -Can everyone just please forgive Drew Storen? Fantasy owners, for his failure to sustain the Closer of the Future hype, and Nationals fans for his four-run meltdown in Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS. That’s the past. The future (and the present) is bright. Give the guy another chance. It’ll make you feel good about yourself, like when you don’t point and snicker at the fat woman who farted in the meeting.

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