Addison Reed Is Valuable Because He’s a Closer

Addison Reed is fascinating, I think. He’s seen as a star closer because he came up as a rookie in 2012 and saved 29 games, then 40 more in 2013, despite playing for a Chicago team that seemed like it had a lead to hang onto about once a week. Those 69 saves are good for the ninth-most in history through a player’s age-24 season, which is both impressive and terrifying — while Craig Kimbrel is on that list, so are flameouts like Gregg Olson and Chad Cordero.

Since fantasy baseball isn’t real baseball, it’s often a simple equation of {if (saves=yes) then (pitcher=draft-him)}. Reed gets saves, so you draft him, and that’s why he’s #12 on our closer rankings. But there’s a reason he’s not in the top 10, and it’s certainly not because he has a problem missing bats, not when he’s whiffed 138 in 133.2 major league innings. It’s because for all the things Reed does very well, he hasn’t always done a particularly great job of simply preventing runs from scoring.

I know, I know: ERA is unreliable over small sample sizes, and 133.2 innings is still on the smaller side. But, well, a 4.17 career ERA simply isn’t impressive. It’s basically Vance Worley & Bruce Chen over the last three years. It’s Chris Capuano & Aaron Harang. It’s Bud Norris. Those are guys you don’t mind having around to chew up innings every fifth day; they aren’t guys you want taking high-leverage outs in the ninth inning.

I’m being just a bit hyperbolic in comparing Reed to a guy like Chen, of course, and we should note that Reed has spent that time pitching in Cell Phone Field, clearly an offense-friendly park. But then even that has to be caveated by pointing out that Reed’s career ERA on the road (4.45!) is worse than it was at home (3.95), and while Chicago ranks as easier than Arizona as a place to hit homers, the desert has more inflated park factors for almost everything else.

However, working in Reed’s favor is this — despite the fact that he’s a flyball pitcher, with only nine relievers with at least 60 innings allowing more flies last year — he’s somehow managed to keep the ball in the yard, dropping his HR/FB from 8.6% to 6.8% last year. And considering that only 4 of his 13 homers allowed have come on the road, swapping from Chicago to Arizona should help somewhat.

Still, despite his youth, I’m wondering if we’ve seen all we’re going to see, partially because of velocity that has dipped from 94.8 when we first saw him to 92.5 last year. That’s a problem, because his fastball is his money pitch; his slider has his moments but isn’t without inconsistency, and his little-used change is clearly a third pitch. There’s also the fact that while the Diamondbacks didn’t give up Matt Davidson to not have Reed close, there’s no shortage of other options in the Arizona bullpen. J.J. Putz has long been a solid — when healthy — closer, and David Hernandez & Brad Ziegler each have some experience in the role.

So Reed remains a name, but he’s merely a good closer as opposed to an elite one. He’ll get you saves, and he’ll get you whiffs. He won’t, however, help your ERA, and that will keep him out of that top tier of ninth-inning men.

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Mike Petriello used to write here, and now he does not. Find him at @mike_petriello or

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{if (saves=yes) then (pitcher=draft-him)}


Just because a handful of yahoos 30 years ago decided that they wanted to score saves in their fantasy baseball league, must we forever have this pox upon our house?

Kevin Jebens

That’s why various non-roto strategies are better. CBS points leagues simply tally up your team’s total points, regardless of who scored them, so middle relievers (and holds) have value. Even using a “SV+HD” category makes roto better. Simulation leagues use RAR.

There are plenty of ways around that pox.

Big Jgke
Big Jgke

The problem with ‘SV+HD’ is that while balancing the problem of overvaluing closers relative to other relievers, it brings you into the morass that is the major league ‘Hold,’ a stat that is even more usage-dependent and manager-specific than the save.

It seems better just to accept the flawed save and use that, or eliminate reliever-only fantasy stats altogether from your league.