Navigating The Holds Category Is Not Always Easy
While the holds statistic is hard to determine and prepare for, since you never know if a player will enter a game in the right situation, you will notice that the players featured in this article include some power arms and some pitchers that might seem like unusual choices. All of these players are capable of being reliable setup men or dependable bridges to a win for their respective teams and players worth considering adding if your league counts holds. A couple of these relievers could also be the first in line for the closer job if their fellow teammates cannot cut it at the end of games.
Kelvin Herrera, Kansas City Royals
2 holds, 18.1 IP, 1.47 ERA, 17 K
The effective fireballer, Kelvin Herrera, has been effective in his 18 games to this point in the season. He induces ground balls at a 64% rate and averages 97 MPH on his fastball with a changeup that features a difference in speed of nearly 10 MPH.
In seven of his appearances, he inherited runners so manager Ned Yost may see him as a fireman meant to put out fires left by the starters of that day. The Royals have not lived up to their projected expectations but if they can get the winning ways going, expect Herrera to get numerous opportunities to hold the lead. In previous seasons, Herrera has had at least 19 holds.
Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates
7 holds, 18 IP, 1.50 ERA, 23 K
Reliever Tony Watson has appeared in 18 games. He has a hold in seven of them and has had a lead in nine of them. The Pirates turn to Watson in the seventh and eighth innings most often. Half of the balls put in play have been put on the ground and Watson relies on a 94 MPH fastball a majority of the time, paired with a low 80's slider and mid 80's changeup. Strangely, Watson has a better opponent’s batting average against righties (.212) than lefties (.400). He has faced more righties than lefties during the season because he is not considered a lefty specialist. His ability to get righties and lefties out makes him a valuable member of the Pirates bullpen and a valuable pickup if you need a reliever.
Darren O’Day, Baltimore Orioles
4 holds, 15 IP, 0.60 ERA, 11 K
The submarine righty Darren O’Day has been a regular candidate for holds. Of his 16 appearances this season, he has appeared in only two games in which they were losing. Most of his appearances have been in the eighth inning, setting up for then-closer Tommy Hunter. The recent struggles by Hunter may make O’Day even more valuable if he’s available in your fantasy league. O’Day would be the likely front runner to replace Hunter as the closer. His fastball and slider are far from intimidating but his unorthodox motion can only benefit him and give him an advantage. It is a shocking surprise if O’Day is available in your league but if he is, he is a steal.
Andrew Miller, Boston Red Sox
1 hold, 16.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 25 K
This two-pitch power southpaw is the lefty specialist in the Red Sox bullpen. The platoon splits are not that far apart and Miller could easily be used in order to get a right-handed hitter out as well (.125 vs. left-handed batters. .227 vs. right-handed batters). Through the first month and a half of the season, Miller has not been used in games where the Sox had the lead, pitching in a tie game or trailing in 16 of his 20 games. He hit some bumps in the road recently but it is expected that he will rebound well with time. He may not be an immediate pickup but he will be worth keeping an eye on when the Red Sox get on the right path.
Scott Atchison, Cleveland Indians
3 holds, 15 IP, 1.80 ERA, 13 K
Scott Atchison has had a season in which he moved up the pecking order due to his simple effectiveness. Early in the season, Atchison was used early in an inning or more of baseball where the deficit was three to five runs. Then the deficits became smaller in four of his next six appearances. Finally, May hits and Atchison gets to see what it’s like on the other side, winning. In three of his last four appearances, he pitched with a lead and got his three holds for the season. Ineffectiveness by John Axford was likely a factor in his advancement in the bullpen but results have justified the move. He generally depends on a fastball, cutter and curve but he generates 76.9% ground balls when opponents put the ball in play. The seasoned veteran shows that hard work pays off and does not go unnoticed as the Indians seek stability in their bullpen.