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“Foster Your Roster” – Setup Men are More Valuable than Closers

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.



  1. 65mustangs

    May 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    How appropriate is the timing of this in the year of the closer debacle. It has taken me a while to buy in, but the last two season i have been heavily drafting set-up men and “closers in waiting” in the late rounds of my drafts. If you are like me and can’t stand feeling like I have to “run to the wire” every time a closer gets hurt, shelled, replaced, demoted or promoted then one very good answer to that (besides FAAB) is to insulate yourself with good top MR’s. Even if you grab 4 “solid” closers in the draft, at some point during the season you will be scrambling for saves. Crap happens, and this season more than most. This season, a few of the MR’s I drafted in my 5 leagues are Venters, Robertson, Rodney, Henry Rodriguez, Lidge, Aceves, Parnell, Cordero, Downs, Uejara, Wood, Boggs, Brothers, and I have recently picked up Fuentes and Cook in most of my leagues. So, while some people (including me) are scrambling to try and cover for injured/demoted closers, I often am instead reaping the riches of already owning the closer in waiting. My leaguemates can “run to the wire” but, sorry, there is no one there. I find this to be far more profitable than loading my bench with backup hitters or marginal SP.

  2. Corey D Roberts

    May 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Great analysis Marc and a very good elaboration mustangs. I have always either grabbed my closers off the waiver wire or made a trade for the best one about 2 months into the season after I have a good sample size to judge from. I consistently grab middle relief studs but, this season I came up short there so I am scrambling! LOL

  3. David

    June 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm

  4. 65mustangs

    June 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    In one 12 team roto 5 X 5 league I drafted Robertson and later picked up Soriano when Mo got hurt. I held onto Robertson when he hit the DL and Soriano started racking up saves. I drafted Axford and also Rodney, and later picked up Cook and Russell . The other night, the first place team owner was trolling on the league message board for closers and I told him I could spare one for speed. In the end I ended up getting Hanley Ramirez and a throw in Ike Davis for Derek Jeter and the two Yankee relievers. So, yeah, there are people who pay for saves when they have none, and I will continue to draft and “develop” closers to use as trade chips. I’m sold on the concept after what has happened this season. Now if only the Cubs, Mariners and A’s would settle on somone already……

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