With many leagues now using saves plus holds (SVHD) as a category, some people now spend less time on the hellish closer carousel. I’m in a 15-team FSWA league that uses SVHD and very much enjoy not having to race to the wire to add someone newly named to the closer’s role or agonizing over how much FAAB to spend on someone that may not hold on to a newly acquired ninth inning gig.
As for how to decide which relievers to target on the wire, the issue of strikeouts and ratios can obviously be a factor. I’ve long been a proponent of utilizing middle relievers with elite numbers even in leagues that only use saves as a category so long as the roster settings allow for such a strategy.
But suppose you only care about the SVHD category. Let’s say you’re pretty set in the other pitching categories and your main concern is only the SVHD category. How best to determine who on the wire is most likely to give you the most production in that category? The stat I like to use to help with that decision is leverage index, specifically gmLI, which is a pitcher’s average leverage index when he enters the game.
This stat has absolutely nothing to do with the pitcher himself, and deals solely with his usage. The higher the gmLI, the more often the pitcher is being brought into the game in situations where a hold can likely be acquired. There is a very high correlation between a pitcher’s gmLI and his SVHD total. This makes total sense and is completely unsurprising.
When you check out the leaderboards sorted by gmLI, you’ll see quite a few closers atop the list. However, there are some middle relievers dotted among the top names. Kevin Jepsen and Jim Johnson are a couple of those guys, and they have seven and nine holds this season, respectively. In fact, Johnson’s nine holds are tied for the league lead in that statistic. Some of the other obvious names atop the list include Chad Qualls and Joaquin Benoit who are deployed primarily in the eighth inning with a lead. If you play in a saves only league, both are good speculative additions to your roster, particularly Qualls.
But all those players are on someone’s roster in a SVHD league. As mentioned, I play in a 15-team SVHD league with a bunch of other writers, so the guys available in that league are likely available in most leagues of similar or lesser depth that use SVHD.
Among the gmLI leaders available in my league, Mike Dunn makes for the best addition at the moment. He ranks 53rd of 167 qualified relievers in gmLI and has recorded five holds this season. With Steve Cishek out as closer and A.J. Ramos taking over the role, Dunn certainly isn’t going to start seeing less work in the seventh inning or later, which is where all of his work has come so far. Dunn could even be an option to close if Ramos falters, but as a left-hander, it seems more likely he’ll continue to be used situationally. For our purposes, that will work just fine.
Another good option is Seth Maness in St. Louis. He ranks 27th of 167 in gmLI and has four holds on the year. His strikeout rate is uninspiring around 15 percent, but again, he works if all you care about is the SVHD category. We’ve currently got Maness next in line behind Trevor Rosenthal in the St. Louis pen in the Bullpen Report, so you could possibly add him as a speculative play in saves only leagues, as you could with Dunn. But the lack of strikeouts and Dunn’s left-handedness give me pause about them taking over the ninth inning.
I realize this is essentially saying you should look at guys pitching in the seventh inning or later in SVHD leagues. Duh. But using gmLI is a quick and easy way to determine who those guys are.