First, I’m not crazy. This only applies to leagues that have both Saves and Holds as separate categories. In the 2011 season, 19 closers had 30 saves or more, and eight of them had at least 40. In contrast, only seven relievers had 30 or more Holds, and none reached the 40 mark. The setup man with the most Holds last season was Tyler Clippard, and he had great numbers to go along with it. Clippard and Dave Robertson both had 100 strikeouts (Robertson’s came in only 66 innings), proof that these guys have just as much, if not more, talent than closers on other teams. Another bonus for setup guys is the potential to pick up wins. While closers remain on the bench waiting for save chances, setup men are routinely brought into tie games in an attempt to keep it close for their team to then take the lead. Finally, setup men always have the potential to become the closer and pick up Saves, as a result of injuries or poor performance by the closer. For closers however, there is nowhere to go, but down. If they blow a number of save chances and are removed from the role, they typically wind up pitching in low leverage situations that offer little fantasy value.
The one thing to be wary of, however, are situational setup men such as lefty specialist or others that typically only face one batter. They can be effective in accumulating Holds, but they have the potential to blow up your ERA or other stats, due to the low number of batters they face. In addition to that risk, they also don’t provide the same strikeout potential as talented setup men who pitch full innings.
So, if you’re in a league that has Holds as a category, next time you’re negotiating a trade, try to sneak in that setup man that others think are easily replaced.