When I did four drafts in three days this past weekend, I did them assuming Bobby Parnell, Jim Henderson, Casey Janssen and Nate Jones would be pitching in the ninth inning when their teams had a lead. Less than a week later, all of those guys aren’t pitching in the ninth for various reasons. Yesterday, Mike Podhorzer looked at what to with Henderson and Jones (short answer: hold them), and Eno Sarris looked at whether age has become predictive of closer changes (short answer: no).
Chasing saves is, unfortunately, one of the most important in-season fantasy activities. That’s especially true if you take advantage of the inevitable closer turnover and sacrifice closer stability in your draft for lineup and rotation stability knowing that closer help is the easiest of the three to find on the wire. But that strategy also requires you to sacrifice your sanity. That strategy requires that you follow @closernews on Twitter and enable that handle for text notifications so you can be the first to rush to the wire and add any reliever stepping into a closing role. It’s maddening when you find that someone has beat you to the Matt Lindstrom punch by what could not have been more than seconds. And it’s a never ending pursuit that requires more time on a day-to-day basis than anything else in fantasy baseball other than setting your daily lineups.
The rush-to-the-wire method of acquiring saves requires no skill. The person in your league that has the fewest real-life obligations is likely to have an advantage over the members of your league who have jobs that inhibit access to Twitter and/or your cell phone. To be fair, leagues employ waiver claim systems and FAAB systems to avoid that problem, but it’s not like those systems reward fantasy skill that much either.
A waiver claim system rewards whoever made an acquisition longest ago. Fantasy football works better for a waiver system where you have the option each week to add bench depth or hold onto the higher waiver claim to have a shot at a handcuff running back who takes over the job after an injury to the starter. But in fantasy baseball, acquisitions have to be made more often. In standard leagues across all major platforms, benches are simply to short to forego making acquisitions to hold on to a high waiver priority. If you do that so you can land all the replacement closers, you’ll be hurting yourself too much in the other categories for the saves you acquire to matter. FAAB management is more of a fantasy skill, but in leagues that don’t allow $0 bids, you can run into problems similar to those you have with a waiver claim system.
This crazy waiver wire game we play with closers is obviously a result of the fact that on most days you can’t acquire anyone who you can count on to give you a save any time in the near future. In this respect, saves are completely unlike any other category. If I wanted to acquire saves in my big money league that uses FAAB, I’d have to add Darren O’Day and hope Tommy Hunter is no good. But if I wanted to acquire a win or some strikeouts, I could add Felix Doubront for his start tomorrow. I’d be doing it at the risk of taking a ratio hit and/or not getting the win or strikeouts I desire. But at least I’d have the option. Similarly, if I needed some power, I could add Raul Ibanez, but I’d be doing so at the risk of taking a batting average hit. But again, I’d at least have the option.
With saves as a category, there is no option. But there’s a simple solution. All we have to do is replace saves with saves plus holds (SVHD). In my big money league I referenced, there are only four relievers available who are projected to have five saves or more this year. But in the one league I play in that uses SVHD, there are 71 relievers available who are projected to have ten or more saves plus holds. To acquire some or most of them you have to do so while taking on risk in the ratio categories, but you have the option just like you do with every other category.
One of these things is not like the other. We should get rid of it, replace it with the obvious answer, and save our collective sanity.