Hold Opportunities: Don’t Overlook Relievers (HODOR) PT II
Last week, I wrote an introduction on the Holds category. In summary, I provided some data to explain the mercurial nature of relievers, holds, and what we might take away from current trends to better adapt in the fantasy landscape. This week, we’re going a little more in-depth.
I was thrilled to have a couple of readers sound off with their thoughts on the piece. Ryan Madson (who I can only assume is the Ryan Madson), chimed in to let me know that “holds are only as dumb as saves or wins”. I largely agree with that sentiment. He also demanded I not tell him “middle relief isn’t valuable because obviously in the modern game it is.” I largely agree with that sentiment too. In fact, my attempt in this article is to properly gauge the value of the reliever, not to emphasize that they’re completely devoid of value.
A prime example would be Josh Hader. John Vaghi asked in the comments section if he made a mistake by trading Todd Frazier for Hader in his dynasty league. In my opinion, no. He did not make a mistake in that trade. As I explained, Hader’s role as a multi-inning, high K, potential closer puts him in a tier far and above the likes of 2017 holds leader Taylor Rogers, 2016 holds leader Addison Reed, 2015 holds leader Tony Watson, and 2014 holds leader Tyler Clippard.
Now, onto some of the more interesting queries and common assumptions. On Reddit, /u/walt526 pondered “whether holds are at all predictive of saves in subsequent seasons.” Now, if we listen to my friend Ryan Madson, “often these guys will morph to the closer role mid-season and vice versa.” Well, it depends on how you define ‘often’ and what you consider to be value based on that transition, but let’s look at the data.
2014 Holds Data Dive Summary:
- Of the top 25 holds leaders, 1 exceeded 10 saves
- That reliever did not finish in the top 25 of saves that year
- 5 of the top 25 holds leaders made it into the top 25 saves leader category in 2015
- 7 of the top 25 holds leaders made it back into the top 25 in 2015
2015 Holds Data Dive Summary:
- Of the top 25 holds leaders, 3 exceeded 10 saves
- None finished in the top 25 of saves that year
- 4 of the top 25 holds leaders made it into the top 25 saves leader category in 2016
- 6 of the top 25 holds leaders made it back into the top 25 in 2016
2016 Holds Data Dive Summary:
- Of the top 25 holds leaders, 6 exceeded 10 saves
- None finished in the top 25 of saves
- 5 of the top 25 made it into the 2017 top saves leader category
- 5 of the top 25 2016 holds leaders made it back into the top 25 2017 holds leaders
- 2 of the top 25 2016 holds leaders entered the 2017 season with the closer job
2017 Holds Data Dive Summary:
- Of the top 25 2017 holds leaders, 0 exceeded 10 saves
- None finished in the top 25 of saves
- 6 of the top 25 2017 holds leaders have at least one save in 2018
- None of the top 25 2017 holds leaders entered the 2018 season with the closer job
That’s a lot to digest. So let’s break this down a little bit more.
First, while I agree there are a few instances where middle relievers can receive opportunities for saves, I am not convinced it has any meaningful impact in that category. As you can see, there hasn’t been a holds leader to finish in the top 25 of saves in the last four years. However, there has been a definitive uptick in how many players have earned save chances over the last few years. This trend may be sustained, as you note we’re only a few weeks into the 2018 season and 6 of the top 25 holds leaders from 2017 have at least one save. That said, how many opportunities they receive have fluctuated and is worth monitoring.
Second, there is a bit of a gamble one makes when putting bids on relievers. In the last few years, the best chances of a holds reliever turning into a full time closer is 20%. More importantly, there seem to be diminishing returns on the number of relievers who return to the top 25 in holds the following year. In totality (for those in SV+H leagues), less than half return top 25 value year-over-year. This underscores the volatility factor and – at least to me – reinforces my belief that you should never divest assets to acquire relievers.
So what do we do with this information? Well, first it’s important to identify these elite relievers as they pop up, understand their value is likely limited to a single season (with a few exceptions), and either (a) enjoy the ride or (b) flip them to a contending team looking to get an extra boost. To hold onto a Pat Neshek, Matt Bush, Tommy Hunter, Jake Diekman type when you’re not contending is not advised.
Next article, we’ll focus on specific relievers to bolster your staff for the year. In the meantime, feel free to leave comments and questions!
See you next week.