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Those of us who have played in NL or AL-only leagues have known it for years, but middle relievers have largely gone ignored in most mixed leagues. It’s understandable in some ways. They don’t get the strikeouts or wins that good starting pitchers do. They don’t rack up the saves like the more heralded closers do. And with relatively low innings totals their effect on ERA and WHIP wouldn’t seem to help all that much. Conventional wisdom says middle relievers just don’t have a place in a typical 12-team mixed league.

I’d like to take this opportunity to tell conventional wisdom where to go with its false assumptions.

5 Reasons to Draft Middle Relievers in Your Mixed League

1. Middle relievers have quantifiable value

No they don’t get 15 wins or 30-plus saves, but you can’t ignore the numbers they do provide. Let’s take the example of failed starter Wade Davis. He has had shots at the starting rotation in both Tampa Bay and Kansas City and it wasn’t pretty. Toss him in the pen and it’s a different story. In 2014 he only threw 69.3 innings, but in those innings he put up a 1.00 ERA and 0.847 WHIP. He also tossed in 109 strikeouts nine wins, and three saves. Obviously the wins are hard to predict, but even when you take those away there is value in that line. In fact there are quite a few middle relievers producing that kind of value.


A typical 12-team league uses 108 pitchers at any given time. In 2014 there were 12-13 middle relievers among the top 108 pitchers using a typical 5 X 5 scoring format.  There were also a handful more just outside who could have been used during the frequent DL stints that we see during the season. This isn’t just a subjective ranking. This is verifiable math used to calculate player value. Too many fantasy players spend their time watching Sportscenter and don’t realize what value actually is in fantasy baseball.

2. Middle relievers maximize the value of your best pitchers

Using middle relievers is one way to “game” the system. In 5 X 5 leagues, ERA and WHIP are 40 percent of the points you can earn in the pitching categories. Besides the help that good relievers give you in these areas, their lack of innings pitched also means the bulk of your ERA and WHIP stats are being provided by your best starting pitchers. While other teams paid for six or seven starting pitchers, a few of which might actually hurt ERA and WHIP, you can invest in two top starters and easily dominate two of the five pitching categories.

Of course you’re going to struggle in wins and strikeouts, but maybe not as much as you think. Especially early in the season when starters don’t pitch as late into games, relievers tend to vulture more wins and pile up Ks, while the starters are getting stretched. More on using middle relievers early in the season with reason No. 3.

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