Over the last two pieces, we have covered a lot of ground when considering how to build and value a bullpen in dynasty and long-term keeper formats. In part one, we marveled at the great Arthur Rhodes while acknowledging the volatility in the new normal.  In part two, we did a data dive to underscore the volatility and limited upside non-closer relievers can bring to the team.  Ian, Keaton, and Patrick took some time on the TDG pod to discuss this topic and maybe you should give it a listen.

Alright, enough meta.  In part three, we’re talking about true value relievers bring to the table.

A Game of Fire and Ice

In leagues where teams are quickly pointing the finger for the heavy reliever strategy, managers point to the ratios strategy.  In other words, we’re banking on the belief that ERA, WHIP, and K/9 would be better than your run of the mill SP4.  That’s largely accepted as a truth.  However, lets compare the rations of the composite closer to the composite non-closer. Please note, I used data through 5/2/2018 from our Fantrax TDGx2 league.

Composite of Top 30 Closers of 2018
(Relievers with 3 saves or more)



Total Games Appeared



2.99 / 3.09 / 3.02





Site Wide Ownership %



Composite of Top 30 Non-Closers of 2018
(Relievers with 3 saves or less, sorted by WAR)



Total Games Appeared


2.17 / 2.13 / 2.61




Site Wide Ownership %


Wow.  I want to say that I half expected some differences, but this is even surprising to me.  In case you can’t tell by the stark contrast in numbers, let me break it down for you in words.  The top 30 non-closers pitch more innings in less games, have better peripherals, strike out just as many players, walk less, and are less owned by a wide margin. You may also want to consider noted super human and non-closer Josh Hader was placed in the Top 30 closers bin. Imagine how much different it would be if he was put in with the non-closers.

So with that said, here are the names of some criminally under owned players for your consideration.

Paul Sewald, NYM
I am convinced this guy suffers from boring name syndrome.  Nothing gives me sparks when I look at this dude. He looks like he llke a B-rate Neal McDonough. Just like Neal McDonough, you know him, you appreciate him when he’s around, you quickly forget about him, and then some guy on the internet spends 20 minutes reading his reference page. Sewald, like McDonough, is criminally underrated and a complete grinder.  Even though he’s 3% owned in Fantrax, he’s pitched more innings than any of the top 30 closers (save Josh Hader), he owns a respectable 10.26 K/9, a very healthy 1.09 BB/9, and is his DRA (2.01) more than a full run lower than his ERA.  Maybe stop pitching junk reliever AJ Ramos and throw Sewald into the late innings?

Adam Cimber, SDP
Full disclosure. Ben Diamond and I own him in TDGx2.  With 19.1 IP, he’s a high usage reliever that continues to K at a high rate. No, not Josh Hader rates. OK? Not everyone needs to be Josh Hader. Still, he’s another guy that has a FIP a run below his ERA, walks 1.89 BB/9, and his BABIP seems to be at a perfectly reasonable .318.  Yet somehow, he’s 13% owned. For what? So some schmuck owner can chase saves with 88% owned and sure-to-be-replaced soon Arodys Vizcaino?  No thanks. Give me the better player every day and twice on Sunday (pending double header).

See you next week.

The Author

Adam Lawler

Adam Lawler


  1. tim
    May 4, 2018 at 11:14 am

    I’ve really enjoyed this series of articles on middle relievers. I’m in a dynasty league that counts holds. Would you drop Luis Garcia for Paul Sewald?

    • May 4, 2018 at 4:32 pm

      Well, thank you for the kind words! I’ve really enjoyed writing it. If we’re talking about Luis Garcia the Nationals reliever, I would lean yes. Sewald has better peripherals and a better K rate. Less opportunities for Holds though, so it’s something to consider when deciding your needs.

      Next week, I’m going to do a bit of a data dive on whether or not Holds are more team dependent than we might think. Stay tuned!

  2. Jackson
    May 5, 2018 at 4:40 am

    I see articles like this every year. Everyone knows if you have a couple of really good middle relievers it’s like having a terrific starting pitcher. The problem is these top 30 non-closers (who are not identified here) come from a pool of about 180 players. I have no doubt these great stats for the top 30 non-closers are padded by many obscure relievers from the back of their bullpens who are having great years so far. Pre-season you’d have to pick their name out of a hat or throw darts at a wall. We’d also see a lot of the top 30 pre-season guys missing. Remember Rafael Bettencourt ?

    If we did know who these obscure pitchers were, it wouldn’t matter. We’d go pick them up and they’d go back to who they really are and be replaced by other mystery men and you wind up chasing your tail all year.

    Sorry, not impressive.

    • May 5, 2018 at 6:21 am

      I think you are missing the point. In the first two articles, we highlighted several areas that build upon this piece. First, your argument is predicated on the idea that these relievers need to be identified before the season in order to gain value. That’s simply not true. Relievers tend to pitch about 60 innings over the course of a year. Most have pitched about 15. Second, we identified that the holds relievers keep value within the year butntypixbut not year over year. If you identify the reliever early enough, you can keep them for the year and return them. This underscores (1) they tend to have and hold more value in a year then your average closer with less investment and (2) they are a more volatile asset.

      Sorry you weren’t impressed. We’ll keep trying.

  3. Rod
    May 16, 2018 at 9:58 am

    I was impressed. As someone in my first ever holds league this season. I’ve found this series very helpful. Definitely keep it coming with the analysis and recommendations.

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