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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Draft Day Strategy - Closers

I'm back today with a little strategy for your draft, hopefully it hasn't passed yet. If it has this advice could still be applied to trades.

A typical Yahoo! league allows 2 Starting Pitcher spots, 2 Relief Pitcher Spots, and 3 General Pitcher spots, a 5 Bench Spots. These leagues also have a 1250 inning maximum. If a typical closer pitches 75 innings for you, thats just 6% of your total innings per closer. A typical SP may give you 180 IP. That's nearly 15% of your total innings. A top SP will significantly help you in 4 categories. A top RP will help you in 4 categories, but three of them (K, ERA, and WHIP) will have so little effect on your team's ERA, WHIP, and K totals that they are fairly irrelevent.

Instead of spending your 5th or 6th round pick on a closer like Joe Nathan or B.J. Ryan - while talented pitchers - this is a waste of a pick for a player who will really only help you in 1 category. Think of a replacement closer your can get in the late teens or early twenties, especially this year. Instead of Nathan and Ryan, take two of Takashi Saito, Jose Valverde, or Octavio Dotel.

But for arguments sake, lets say you get a closer we don't feel is severly underrated and grab a guy like Ryan Dempster instead of Nathan. While Nathan may give you a 2.50 ERA, Dempster's ERA may be 4.50. For a Starting Pitcher this difference is huge, for a Relief Pitcher, whose ERA only contributes 6% to your total innings, this is a miniscule difference that isn't worth take Nathan 10 rounds earlier.

Actual Saves are a difficult thing to project. Last year Trevor Hoffman got 46 Saves. Mariano Rivera, a top RP pick this year, only got 34. Jason Isringhausen, a late teens pick this year, got 33. So instead of trying to predict which closers will get the most saves, we focus on picking out the most talented ones at the best value. This way, these closers will be more likely to keep their jobs all year and you can just let the saves come. This year, these guys are Saito, Valverde, and Dotel, who we will be analyzing later today.

And if these guys don't pan out, take this into consideration. Every year roughly a dozen closers lose their jobs. Their replacements, often, can be picked up off the waiver wire. Last year these 'replacements' included J.J. Putz, Jonathan Papelbon, Takashi Saito, and Akinori Otsuka. Guys this year who could be these replacements include Akinori Otsuka (again!), Joel Zumaya, and Mike Gonzalez/Rafael Soriano.

So my point is, Saves aren't a difficult commodity to come by. They are readily available at the later portion of the draft and throughout the season off the waiver wire. Don't waste an early round pick on a closer. And if you did already, see if you can't trade whoever you took for a top Hitter or Starting Pitcher, whichever you seem to be most in need of.

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