Bullpen Report: Hold on to these relievers

by | Senior Fantasy Writer
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A few weeks ago, the Bullpen Report took a detailed, numbers-heavy look at holds. There was a lot of strategy involved and it eventually drew the conclusion that while finding holds in the middle of the pack was easier, the upper echelon of relievers with saves outpaces those with holds by a healthy margin.

It drove a nice wave of feedback asking for more information about the elusive hold. Not all leagues count both saves and holds, after all, and some owners just wanted rankings of which holders they should target. Your wish, in short, is our command. What follows are some of this year's top relievers, in terms of holds, followed by a look at K/9 rates among middle relievers and a determination of which four non-closer/starter relievers may be your best adds in 2013.

Your 2013 holds leaders

1. Mark Melancon, Pirates (22 holds)
2. Joel Peralta, Rays (19)
3. Jesse Crain, White Sox (18)
4. David Robertson, Yankees (17)
4. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals (17)
6. Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (16)
6. Tanner Scheppers, Rangers (16)
6. Matt Thornton, White Sox (16)
9. Jared Burton, Twins (15)
9. Scott Downs, Angels (15)

Just to see if someone new is emerging, I give you the June holds leaders:

1. Tanner Scheppers, Rangers (7 holds)
2. Tommy Hunter, Orioles (6)
2. David Robertson, Yankees (6)
2. Dale Thayer, Padres (6)
5. Luis Avilan, Braves (5)
5. Mike Dunn, Marlins (5)
5. Junichi Tazawa, Red Sox (5)
5. Matt Thornton, White Sox (5)
9. Jose Cisnero, Astros (4)
9. Aaron Crow, Royals (4)

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Hunter's. He's found his niche in a relief role this season, but has been limited with holds overall, likely because the Orioles have the late-inning heroics once he's out of the game (conversely, Hunter's benefited from this by racking up three wins on the season, as well as a save). However, Hunter has tailed off a bit from his early season K/9 rate, which is down to 7.0 right now. In fact, the strikeout rate -- along with a low ERA and WHIP -- have to factor into decisions when it comes to adding holds. There are plenty of late-inning situations where two or three pitchers on the same team can factor into a hold, but not all of these relievers can help you in strikeouts and ratios if they're pitching in a losing game or blowout. Also, holds are sometimes tricky to predict -- if you compare the season-long list and the June list, there are only a few constants (Scheppers, Robertson, Thornton) who are near-guarantees to get you holds.

So, my strategy has revolved around getting relievers with high K-rates and low ratios, with the hope being that they simply slide into hold situations. Below are the top 25 non-closer relievers ranked by K/9 (minimum 10 IP):

1. Al Alburquerque, Tigers (2.45 ERA, 1.69 WHIP); 14.73 K/9
2. Andrew Miller, Red Sox (2.93, 1.41); 14.64 K/9
3. Boone Logan, Yankees (2.18, 1.21); 13.50 K/9
4. Charlie Furbush, Mariners (4.03, 1.21); 13.34 K/9
5. Shawn Kelley, Yankees (4.34, 1.21); 13.34 K/9
6. Danny Farquhar, Mariners (6.05, 1.29); 13.03 K/9
7. Robert Coello, Angels (4.03, 1.36); 12.89 K/9 (Note: still a couple weeks from a return)
8. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals (1.89, 1.08); 12.79 K/9
9. Alex Wood, Braves (3.46, 1.31); 12.46 K/9
10. Oliver Perez, Mariners (0.98, 1.27); 12.36 K/9
11. Steve Delabar, Bllue Jays (1.69, 1.29); 12.05 K/9
12. Alex Torres, Rays (0.43, 0.57); 12.00 K/9
13. Mike Gonzalez, Brewers (3.33, 1.44); 12.00 K/9
14. Jesse Crain, White Sox (0.52, 1.07); 11.94 K/9
15. Manny Parra, Reds (5.19, 1.79); 11.94 K/9
16. Jake McGee, Rays (4.99, 1.30); 11.74 K/9
17. Carter Capps, Mariners (5.97, 1.58); 11.37 K/9
18. Josh Lueke, Rays (3.75, 1.42); 11.25 K/9
19. Cody Allen, Indians (1.97, 1.03); 11.25 K/9
20. Tony Cingrani, Reds (3.12, 0.99); 11.22 K/9
21. David Robertson, Yankees (2.59, 1.05); 11.20 K/9
22. Ian Krol, Nationals (0.00, 0.41); 11.17 K/9 *
23. Will Harris, Diamondbacks (2.30, 1.15); 10.91 K/9
24. Rich Hill, Indians (7.20, 1.75); 10.80 K/9
25. Blake Parker, Cubs (1.80, 0.80); 10.80 K/9
Honorable Mention: Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (1.55 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 10.18 K/9); Neal Cotts, Rangers (0.44 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 10.18 K/9)

* - I had to sneak in Krol, who has 9 2/3 IP, because his numbers looked so good across the board

It should also be noted that Steve Delabar (three holds) has been lights-out in June as far as ERA, WHIP and K/9, as have Alex Torres (zero holds) and Nate Jones (one hold).

But of this top 25 in K/9, only four players (bolded) are among the top 25 in holds this season: Rosenthal, Crain, McGee and Robertson. And while it looks like McGee and his inflated ERA may not belong, his recent numbers are very impressive -- over his last 20 innings pitched, McGee has a 1.03 ERA, 0.74 WHIP and a 10.70 K/9.

Rosenthal is currently owned in 25 percent of leagues, Robertson is owned in 19 percent, Crain is owned in 14 percent and McGee is owned in 6 percent. While Rosenthal and Robertson are probably seeing some of their ownership numbers come from hopes that they will be next in line for saves on their teams, Crain has become a trendy trade talk topic and McGee seems to be stuck behind Joel Peralta should anything happen to Fernando Rodney.

But does it matter for holds owners? Probably not. It's true that Rosenthal, Crain, and Robertson have more holds than McGee, but if you're in a holds league and are in need of a some help, I would consider McGee a tremendous add or trade throw-in. His owner may not realize that he's a member of a relatively small group of relievers with great ratios (at least recently), a high K/9 and plenty of hold opportunities.

Miscellany

-With Carlos Marmol being released by the Cubs, he could end up landing with a team that could straighten him out and turn him into a holds-grabbing middle reliever with a high K/9 (career 11.7) and low ratios. The key here is getting the low ratios. As a member of the Ray Searage fan club, I would consider Marmol heading to the Pirates a huge boost for his value.

-Additionally, in compiling these lists, I was able to take a longer look at Blake Parker, who came in at 25th in the K/9 ranks. The 28-year-old has a 1.80 ERA and 0.80 WHIP in 10 innings pitched this season -- all coming in June. And he has pitched the eighth inning or later in all but one game this season. Parker had a 2.98 ERA in the minors, with a 9.7 K/9. With Kevin Gregg a trade possibility, there isn't a clear-cut backup closer in the bullpen (James Russell is the only lefty, and while Carlos Villanueva may have a shot, he's been shaky lately -- a 4.32 ERA in June). There's nothing here outside of a gut call, but maybe the team would like to see if there's anything there with Parker before turning to Villanueva or Henry Rodriguez.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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