When it comes to relief pitchers most leagues pay attention to one category, saves. The elite closers give you a boost in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, but the fact of it is in the majority of leagues relievers are looked at for that one category.
This leaves a lot of relief pitchers on the waiver wire for the entire season. This is a shame too because a lot of these guys can really help you keep your ERA and WHIP down.
For those of you who are new to the category let me explain what a hold is. A Hold is credited any time a relief pitcher enters a game in a Save Situation (see definition below), records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead (thanks stats.com).
Now some of you will be in leagues where you add holds as a separate category and some where you combine saves and holds, or as it is often called, solds. There is absolutely a different strategy involved with each setup. I’ll go into each one briefly.
In leagues where holds is its own category, you will have to go after the pitchers who get holds. Those eighth inning guys are the ones you will want to target, but realize that at any time in the season those holds can turn into saves, due to injury, ineffectiveness from the original closer. You will then have to readjust and find your holds from other places.
In leagues with solds, my personal strategy is to let everybody pay top dollar for the relief pitchers who get saves and instead I go after some of the elite guys who will get me holds. They tend to be cheaper than the elite closers, but often times they will be better overall pitcher than the closers. Below I go through the best possible pitchers to help in both of these formats.
Best Relief Pitchers for Holds
Dellin Betances, New York Yankees
Betances has been down right dominant the last two seasons for the pinstripes. In 2014 his K/9 was 13.50 and shockingly it was actually better in 2014 at 14.04.
He and the next guy on our list will hold down major spots in what is looking like the best bullpen in baseball. His under two ERA and right around one WHIP makes him one of if not the most elite setup guy in baseball.
Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
If Betances is considered one of the most elite setup guy in baseball, Miller is right there with him. His K/9 is has been better than Betances, but his ERA and WHIP, although good, have been slightly worse.
Another case for Miller to be better is he is likely to be the eighth inning guy in New York, which will lead to more hold opportunities.
Both of these guys will likely go early in your drafts that include holds, so if you want them you’ll have to pay a high price.
Tony Watson, Pittsburgh Pirates
Watson has one of the better ERA and WHIP combos out of all the pitchers on this list. The last two seasons his ERA has been no worse than 1.91 and his WHIP no worse than 1.02.
What puts him below Miller and Betances is his much lower K/9 rate. (9.43 in 2014 and 7.14 in 2015).
Great news for him is the Pirates should be good once again in 2016 and help Watson defend his holds title from 2015.
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