First and foremost, if you are playing in a league that counts Holds or utilizes Middle Relievers, check out the tool we posted in our 2008 Draft Guide. This post however, will focus on the benefits of drafting a quality middle reliever in normal 5x5 roto leagues.
Let's say you play in a 12 team, mixed, 5x5 roto league, 23 man roster which includes 9 pitchers used anyway you like. I am about to prove to you quite quickly why a top-notch middle reliever, who you can steal in the last 2-3 rounds of the draft or for a buck in auctions, can help you win your fantasy leagues.
Imagine you're in round 21 of the draft and you're looking to fill that last Pitcher slot. Let's say the highest rated SP on the board is Tom Glavine. You would agree that Tom Glavine is usually available in 12 team mixed leagues in the 21st round?? Trust me, he's normally there and a lot of times you will even have a shot at him off the waiver wire after the draft. What would you say is a normal stat line for Tom Glavine on any given 5th day? Would you say that Glavine normally goes 6 innings, gives up 3 runs, 8 hits, 3 walks and 2 K's? Maybe he gets the win and maybe he doesn't, but this is the type of pitcher you can get late in the draft. We all know that Tom Glavine is serviceable and sometimes he's masterful, but over a full season, he'll just be mediocre....especially in 2008.
In that same 21st round, you most likely will have a shot at a middle reliever like Jonathon Broxton or Hideki Okajima who in a normal week could go 5 total innings over 3 appearances, no runs, no walks, 2 hits and 10 K's. Now let's compare....
One normal start by Tom Glavine: 6IP, 3ER, 8H, 3BB, 2K
Three normal appearances by a top Middle Reliever: 5IP, 0ER, 2H, 0BB, 10K
Its obvious that 5 relief innings pitched over 3 combined appearances in a week is a much better fantasy play than a normally good outing from Tom Glavine. In 5x5 roto leagues, if your man is not a K guy and he's constantly putting up a 4.00ERA per game or higher because he only goes 6 innings per game, you're better off using a top middle reliever.
The trick? Well, you have to utilize the best middle relievers, guys who can keep their ERA/WHIP under 2.00/1.20, stats well below your league average. Here are a few Middle Relievers to think about. These are guys that will keep ERA/WHIP down while giving you a ton of strikeouts. Without the strikeouts, this strategy is worthless unless your starting pitchers can keep your team at the top of the strikeout category, then you can use these guys strictly for ERA/WHIP. Here are the ones I personally trust as of this point in preseason....
Here are a few Starting Pitchers that you may opt to pass on in exchange for a more valuable Middle Reliever. These are quality SP's, but they lack either the K potential or they won't be as good as they're names say they are....
I'm borderline on Joe Blanton and Brian Bannister
Moral of the story is, if you are forced to pick one of these SP's and one of those RP's are available, I'd opt for the RP as you'd probably get better stats each week from a top middle reliever than you would a 5 or 6 inning start from a mediocre starting pitcher.
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