Traditionally in fantasy baseball, a sure-fire way to keep your ERA and WHIP down and accumulate wins and K’s is to load up your team with front-end rotation guys like Kershaw, Wainwright, and Hernandez. While this strategy is all well and good, it takes away from being able to draft top end offensive guys like Stanton, Trout, and Cabrera in those early rounds. The solution is obviously to create an effectively balanced team where pitching and offense equate each other. Keeper leagues are different in the sense that your keepers could be all pitchers or all hitters. In this case you’d be more prone to draft guys who will fill the voids you currently have.
Having aces on your club will certainly propel you to the top of your league’s pitching categories. There are other guys that will help the cause as well, and you don’t even have to expend a top draft pick to acquire them – actually you don’t have to expend any draft selections. Who are these players? Middle relievers. While closers will surely disappear and are usually owned almost 100% of the time across the board in Yahoo! leagues (the platform I will cite for this piece), the bridge guys that get the ball to the closer are often available. These seventh and eighth inning flamethrowers have helped destroy the notion of ‘getting the starter out of the game to get to the bullpen’. Another thing is, they could be in line for a promotion to closer if the current guy falters or gets hurt. This has happened in KC (Wade Davis has taken over from Greg Holland who is injured) and in Colorado, LaTroy Hawkins’ demotion opens the door for Rafael Betancourt (2.35 ERA, 3 hits in 7.2 innings) or the phenom Adam Ottavino (12 Ks, one hit, 0 ER in 8.1 innings).
Guys like Joaquin Benoit (replaced by Craig Kimbrel as SD’s closer; owned in 70% of Yahoo! leagues), Aaron Barrett (WSH, owned in 2%), Tanner Roark (WSH, owned in 36%) and Yimi Garcia (LAD, owned in 15%) are all great options. A scoreless inning in relief from two pitchers tacked onto a starter who gave up 2 earned in 6 innings (3.00 ERA) will mean a 2.25 ERA (2 ERA over 8 innings). And these guys pitch relatively often – roughly 70 to 75 innings a year.
These relievers are sprinkled all over the waiver wire. Most fly under the radar and are available to help your squad. The examples I could provide are too many to write about in this blog. Have a look at the waiver wire – I guarantee there are sleepers available who are quietly having great starts to the season. They will lower your team’s ERA and could be in line for a promotion to closer in some cases. This is definitely a topic to revisit as the season progresses and I’m sure as it does I will have several more concrete examples to back up my claims written here.