At this point in the season you should have a solidified lineup and pitching staff, your holes are clearly identified and you’re using your extra roster spots to try and fix those holes. Some teams have more room to speculate than others, but there is always room for middle relievers in roto leagues. They offer higher strikeout rates and ratio help to offset the weak links on your pitching staff. A good trio of middle relievers can produce the numbers of an elite pitcher. If you combined the numbers of three popular preseason middle relievers – Joaquin Benoit, David Hernandez, and Vinnie Pestano – you would have 88 1/3 IP’s, 120 K’s 3 W’s 2 SV’s 2.34 ERA 1.14 WHIP. Looks a heck of a lot better than Tim Lincecum, doesn’t it?
Anyway, we can play the advantage of hindsight game all day. How can you use middle relievers to help you now? Find the ones that will have 9th inning jobs a little over a month from now. You won’t find elite options in many leagues as diagramed above, but you can still find some good ones and there are several available that could slip their way into end-game work. See, below
Land mines – first, lets start off with guys you don’t want a part of now, consider them plan B’s to consider late July if your speculative adds don’t get the job
Brandon Lyon, Houston – Unfortunately he has the ‘proven veteran’ tag that often wins out with managers. Do not believe in his current numbers – 2.60 ERA 1.28 WHIP 28 K in 27 1/3 IP. Believe in the larger sample size, he is not a good pitcher. He is currently benefiting from an unsustainable BABIP and HR rate, anyone that has owned Lyon before is well aware of his gopher prone nature so a 5.7% HR/FB is simply not the norm. Pass.
Dale Thayer, San Diego – Define, mirage. He locked down some saves while Huston Street was on the shelf, but in very ugly fashion. He has very mediocre stuff and it showed on how many hard hit balls he yielded. His periph’s corrected as he lost the job, so what he has posted now is more in line with expectations.
Anything on the Cubs – The rotating closer mess while Carlos Marmol was on the DL should be enough. If it isn’t pick a new hobby.
Aaron Crow – He has the skills to handle the role, but unfortunately he does not have the experience which his competition has. We’ll detail him below.
Rex Brothers – He must have been pitching hurt earlier this season. The pitcher we’ve seen of late – 8 IP 14 K 1.12 ERA 0.63 WHIP – is much more in line with the arm we saw in 2011. He has the whole left handed thing working against him, but he is the most dominant arm in the bullpen.
Stephen Pryor – The way Tom Wilhelmsen is pitching it will be tough for Pryor to unseat him when he comes back and if League is dealt, but his minor league numbers were nothing short of dominant. He’s not one to add immediately, but when he’s ready t return from the DL, speculate.
Jared Burton – Glen Perkins was the default choice of many entering the season because there wasn’t anyone else in the bullpen worth considering. Burton has now emerged. He showed glimpses while he was on Cincinnati but never put it all together. This year he has spiking is K% all the way up to 26% (career 20.4%) and trimming his BB% (9.1%) all the way down to 2.8% while maintaining career norms with LD% and FB%, in fact his HR/FB (15.4%) is due for a correction. His only problem is the chances of Capps being traded. Among the 4 dark horses, I’d bet on him first.
Wilton Lopez – He is currently on the shelf and has a proven veteran in front of him problem detailed earlier. However, he is the best young option and on a team that is in full blown rebuilding mode they have to give the kid a shot before going with the veteran. He has always been a control artist (career 4.5% BB rate), but both his K% and GB% have peaked this year. If the elbow is not an issue he should have the job by August 1st.
Greg Holland – Like Rex Brothers, clearly he was not pitching healthy to start the season. Since returning from the DL he has been lights out putting up 22 K’s in 17 IP’s with a 1.06 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. He’s also been cited as a closer for the future in the past and locked down games in 2011 when Joakim Soria was unavailable. This is the #1 option to add right now if he’s still out there. His 2nd half performance will be why the Royals do not pick up Soria’s off season option, it won’t be because of his elbow.