Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:

NFL    NBA    MLB

Already have an account? Log in here.

[X]

Forgot Password


[X]

The Winning Way to Draft Relief Pitchers


We've gone through each division, team by team. We've talked about the top setup men you should know about this season. We've looked at handcuffs and which closers you should have a backup for on draft day. It's a lot of information, but how does it apply to your league?

Most people play in standard 5x5 leagues, but a lot of people play in rotisserie leagues, points leagues, best-ball leagues, and custom leagues. The popularity of holds leagues and leagues that count saves and holds together (SVHD or SV+HD) is growing each season. So how do you draft a bullpen for these leagues? It's not going to make sense to use the same strategies across the board, right?

Let's take a look at some good ideas and bad ideas for some of the more common formats.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!

 

Standard 5x5 Leagues (Head-to-Head or Rotisserie) 

The standard 5x5 league is what you get if you start a league on any fantasy provider and don't set any custom options. Because of this, and because of everyone's general familiarity with it, it's the most common type of league around. Batters have five categories- batting average, runs scored, RBI, home runs, and stolen bases. Pitchers have five categories too- wins, ERA, strikeouts, saves, and WHIP. This kind of scoring system makes pitchers who aren't either starters or closers more or less meaningless. Even a guy like Josh Hader, who is almost guaranteed to notch a strikeout or two every time he's on the mound, will only be contributing to that one category in a significant way.

Standard scoring leagues inflate the value of closers and make even fringe talents in flimsy situations like Hunter Strickland worth picking up on draft day. Leagues like this are where you'll see guys like Kenley Jansen and Edwin Diaz come off the board even before some valuable starting pitchers and position players. With a possible maximum of 30 full-time closers (which will never happen with several teams going with the committee approach every season), a standard 12-team league ends up seeing two closers per team. I personally prefer to have three closers when I play standard scoring, but I also personally prefer not to play in standard scoring leagues.

Good ideas: Target closers early, the difference between a bullpen with Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen compared to one with Wily Peralta and Drew Steckenrider is enormous in this format. Make sure you have at least two bona fide not-part-of-a-committee closers, and consider adding a third.

Bad ideas: Do not leave closer to the end of the draft. You'll end up with guys who are parts of committees or guys who are almost certain to lose their jobs by May 1. Don't waste roster space on middle relievers, no matter how good their strikeout rate might look (unless that reliever serves as a closer's handcuff)

 

Points Leagues

Points leagues can be a little trickier to draft a bullpen for, mostly because of the wide variation of points gained and lost from league to league. Still, in terms of bullpen scoring, the most common tend to be points for saves, points for holds, points for strikeouts. Pitchers lose points in points leagues for blown saves, runs allowed, and in some leagues, walks allowed. This makes for a slightly different value judgment for pitchers like Wily Peralta, who should rack up a decent number of strikeouts but will also pile up the walks. Pitchers with exceptional control end up being more sought after in points leagues, making Kenley Jansen, Ken Giles, and Sean Doolittle even more valuable. These guys will provide plenty of strikeouts and saves, and won't lose many points from walks or runs allowed.

Another strategy that tends to prove more useful in points leagues is the drafting of high strikeout middle relievers and setup men. Someone like Josh Hader, Dellin Betances, Adam Ottavino, or Brad Hand can really rack up points in the strikeout category while also picking up holds if the league counts them. Single-category contributors are much more palatable in points leagues, so the last few rounds of a points league draft should be dedicated to finding the guys with the highest K% (and ideally an acceptable BB%) still on the board.

Good ideas: Target closers early, and consider adding a few extra reliable relievers instead of filling out your staff with starting pitchers.

Bad ideas: Make sure not to leave your bullpen to the last few rounds. You'll want at least one high-strikeout guy besides your drafted closers.

 

Best-Ball Leagues

Best-ball formats have been growing in popularity in fantasy football in recent years, and they are starting to make some noise in the fantasy baseball world as well. Best ball is a less involved season-long fantasy format. Players draft their teams like they would in any other format, however after that, it's mostly hands off. There are no daily lineups to set and no transactions to make. The league will automatically count the best performances for each game day and count the best possible lineup for that matchup. For example, if a team has two shortstops on the roster and one goes 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI while the other goes 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, the system will place the 2-hit shortstop in the lineup, then do the same for a full starting lineup, position by position.

This makes for some interesting, new strategies in drafting a bullpen. Because of the inability to make any transactions once the draft is complete, it's important to target guys who are not injury risks. If a player gets injured in a best ball league, he becomes dead weight until he returns. In a worst-case scenario, if a player gets hurt and is out for the season, you're basically stuck playing with one missing roster spot.

Since best-ball leagues somewhat protect you from the worst ball your players might play, it's a good format to go with volatile players who are high-risk/high-reward. Someone who could light the world on fire and become a star or fizzle out and spend most of the season in Triple-A is a valuable asset in a best-ball league. While you could still end up with the dead roster spot issue discussed above, you could also end up with 2019's version of Jose Leclerc. Someone like Adam Conley on the Marlins or Trevor Rosenthal on the Nationals could be a last-round pick.

Good ideas: Try to grab a closer early, but then you can wait on your second closer. Fill out the end of your roster with high-upside relievers even if they don't have a clear path to the ninth inning.

Bad ideas: Don't overspend on relievers in best ball leagues. Don't draft guys with iffy injury histories or tenuous grasps on their roster spots.

 

Holds Leagues (Including SV+HD)

Holds leagues are a whole different animal. Some leagues count holds as a separate category and some (more commonly) combine saves and holds into one category (SVHD or SV+HD) where both count the same. This is my personal favorite format to play (also replacing wins with quality starts and batting average with on-base percentage), partly because it increases the relevant player pool by quite a bit and also because it eliminates the erratic save stat. Sometimes, the pitcher who earns a hold in a game his team wins provided far more to that victory than the pitcher who earns the save. Allow me to step onto my soapbox for a moment:

Pitcher A comes into the bottom of the eighth inning with a one-run lead. The bases are loaded and there is one out. Choose your own adventure here: either Pitcher A induces a ground ball double play or strikes out two hitters in a row. Pitcher A is credited with a hold.

In the top of the ninth, the offense scores two runs.

Pitcher B comes into the game in the bottom of the ninth inning with a three-run lead. He's facing the opposing team's 7-8-9 hitters. It's a defensive-minded shortstop, a career Triple-A outfielder filling in for an injured starter, and the backup catcher pinch-hitting in the pitcher's spot. Somehow, Pitcher B allows two runs on four hits and walk, only getting three outs thanks to a baserunning mistake and two amazing defensive plays. Pitcher B is credited with a save.

Which of these pitchers performed better? Everyone would agree that it was Pitcher A, but still, in standard scoring formats, only Pitcher B would be worth owning.

Stepping off my soapbox now...

Strategies for drafting a bullpen are, as you can imagine, very different in holds leagues. In leagues that count saves and holds as different categories, closers still maintain significant value. They should be drafted before setup men because while most teams will have one closer racking up the majority of his team's saves, they'll have two or three late-inning relievers who can come in and record holds. Since there are more setup men than closers, setup men can be drafted at the end of most fantasy drafts.

In SVHD/SV+HD leagues, where saves and holds count as the same category, the strategy is a bit different. In these leagues, closers and setup men are valued the same. What matters more are their other numbers because as long as they are pitching in close and late situations, the specific inning they pitch in is insignificant. An excellent strategy to employ in SVHD leagues is to let the other owners draft all of the closers and then just swoop in near the end of the draft to snag all of the top shelf setup men. Guys like Josh Hader, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Archie Bradley, Chaz Roe, and Tony Watson can be had long after the top closers and should provide equal or even better value.

Good ideas: Draft your relievers late. Target guys who will strikeout a ton of batters but not necessarily in the ninth inning. Load up on offense and starting pitching before drafting your bullpen.

Bad ideas: You don't need to reach for the Jansens and Chapmans of the world in these formats.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice




More Recent Articles

 

Week 11 Chat - Live Fantasy Football Game Day Q&A

It's Sunday Morning Week 11... Do You Know Who to Start? Each Sunday morning of the NFL season, RotoBaller's experts will be moderating the industry's leading live chat room and answering a bunch of your fantasy football questions, from around 10:30 AM to 1:00 PM ET. Come join in on the fun, and get your... Read More


Fantasy Football News and Injuries - Running Updates

Below is a quick-hit list of running notes on relevant injuries and player news, including pre-game reports and live in-game updates. Stay tuned for updates all throughout the week and on Sunday morning game day:   Week 11 George Kittle (ankle, knee) has officially been ruled out. Matt Breida will not play in Week 11. Jay Ajayi... Read More


Fantasy Football Starts and Sits: Matchups Analysis for Week 11

Welcome to our Week 11 matchup analysis and start/sit column for fantasy football. We'll be covering every single contest from the Sunday slate in one convenient location, helping you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups. Be sure to check back regularly because this article will be updated as news comes in regarding injuries and other... Read More


Week 11 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchups Analysis

Welcome back to Mexico City. Last season, the Chiefs were supposed to take on the Rams in this game before field conditions moved the game to Los Angeles. Even though the game was moved, the fantasy output was amazing as both teams scored over 50 points and there was not an unhappy fan among us.... Read More


Wide Receiver / Cornerback Matchups To Target in Week 11

In Week 10, the Buccaneers defeated the Cardinals in a game that featured a whopping 57 points scored between the two teams. Christian Kirk was expected to exploit the Buccaneers weak secondary, and he exceeded all expectations by catching three touchdowns, finishing as the No. 1 wide receiver on the week. On the other side... Read More


Holiday Shopping - Who To Buy For The Playoffs Run

As the fantasy football season nears the home stretch, most owners should begin turning their eyes towards the remaining six weeks of the fantasy schedule. Either you're comfortably in the playoffs and need to see who you should be rostering in order to get the best matchups or you need that extra boost to qualify... Read More


Updated Week 11 PPR Rankings (Top 300)

Welcome to Week 11 RotoBallers. Below are our updated consensus Week 11 PPR rankings for fantasy football, including some running notes on relevant injuries, player news and rankings updates: George Kittle (ankle, knee) has officially been ruled out. Matt Breida will not play in Week 11. Jay Ajayi was signed by the Eagles and is expected to... Read More


The King's Key Starters and Tough Calls - Lineup Spotlights for Week 11

Welcome to Week 11, RotoBallers! Below you will find some of my spotlight plays and tough lineup decisions for the upcoming week of the fantasy football season. These player selections are based on my Premium Weekly Lineup Rankings, available as part of the RotoBaller's NFL Premium Pass. Enter promo code KING at checkout for a... Read More


Woos and Boos - Starts and Sits for Week 11 Lineups

If we learned anything from the fantasy scoring in Week 10 is that hitting on the right quarterback can make or break your week. Sure, the household names like Lamar Jackson (35.65 FP) and Patrick Mahomes (34.30 FP) paced the field, but it was the play from lesser QBs like Daniel Jones (33.40 FP) and... Read More


Week 11 Fantasy Football Staff Rankings

Below you will find all of RotoBaller's fantasy football weekly rankings, tiers, player news and stats for the 2019 NFL season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Weekly PPR Rankings Weekly Half-PPR Rankings Weekly Standard Rankings Dynasty League Rankings     Fantasy... Read More


Week 11 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Below are RotoBaller's Week 11 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 11 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh year now writing this weekly column. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver... Read More


Week 11 Stream Team - Free Agent and Bye-Week Streamers

Now that the bye weeks are in full swing; streaming becomes a more viable and almost necessary strategy. Knowing who to add and when to start them could be the ultimate difference-maker in a weekly matchup. Making the right streaming decisions throughout the season could easily be the difference between missing the playoffs and having... Read More


Fantasy Football Booms, Busts - Philip Rivers, Devin Singletary, O.J. Howard

Fantasy football players are going to have to go under the radar to find booms and busts this week because many of the NFL’s superstars will be on bye. Fantasy footballers will not be getting any Aaron Jones touchdown runs or Daniel Jones touchdown tosses this week, nor will they be getting any 300-yard passing... Read More


Late-Season Fantasy Football Surgers and Breakouts

Winning a fantasy football championship is about finding the right mix of players at the right time. It’s not easy to do, because it takes a full season process to build a roster that can win it all. You must start by drafting well, then making the right deals, pinpointing the best waiver pickups, and... Read More


Fantasy Football Mailbag - Q&A for Week 11

This article's content may vary week-to-week, but generally, it will be answering questions fielded from either the @RotoBallerNFL twitter account or my personal one (@RotoSurgeon). This week, the focus is on start/sit questions, and there were plenty. Every week, many of us struggle with which quarterback to start, or who to flex, and I am... Read More