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Monday, April 09, 2007

Erick Karabells' answers our fantasy questions...sort of

So we've gotten mentioned in Keith Law chats, Rob Neyer chats, and now Eric Karabell takes a fantasy question from yours truly. Except that he completely missed the point I was trying to make. But that's ok, because at least other people see our reasoning now. Anyways, the question was posted here and it read as follows:

DWTHTB, *****, Fla.: "Eric, every time I hear you on ESPN Radio or read your blog, I hear you say 'When it comes to closers, saves are all that matters; the other numbers (ERA/WHIP) are irrelevant.' And for someone in a roto league, I would completely agree with you, because 1,250-1,600 innings can negate terrible outings like Jorge Julio on Thursday (1/3 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BB) and Chris Ray on Saturday (2/3 IP, 4 ER, 2 H, 1 BB). However, if you play in a head-to-head league (as I do), then you are completely wrong, and the advice is the exact opposite. Over 50-70 innings, you just don't have enough innings to balance out one or two bad closer outings. In my league last week, I had 10 starts. No starting pitcher gave up more than three earned runs, except Aaron Harang. Yet, I still lost ERA and WHIP. How? Bad closers. Those two outings mentioned above from Ray and Julio raised my ERA from 2.45 to 3.16 and my WHIP from 1.17 to 1.27 (my opponent had ERA/WHIP of 2.91 and 1.18). So excuse me if I discount your advice and don't immediately pick up every closer out there on the waiver wire to protect my ERA/WHIP."

(Ed. note: A bit snarky, but you'd be upset too if you lost 7-5 instead of won 7-5 because you picked up Julio AND Ray gives up a Grand Slam--the worst possible outcome--after getting 2 quick outs).

Eric: Josh's points could make sense, I suppose, except how does he know when the closers are going to get lit up? (You don't unless you own reliable closers like Rivera, Hoffman, Papelbon, K-Rod, Ryan, who never get lit up. Or if they do it happens once a year) I mean, it's easy today for everyone to say they say Julio's nightmare coming (which they didn't) (Yea, a guy who has lost the closer's role for 2 different teams in 2 different leagues, didn't see his blowup coming), but what about Ray? Didja see that coming? (No, but given the fact that he gave up 10 HR last year, I wasn't suprised after seeing the Grand Slam) I'm not going to punt saves in any league just to avoid the rare closing bombings. (Rare for people like Rivera, Hoffman, K-rod, and other reliable CP. Not rare for people like Julio, Dempster, etc..) Josh got unlucky, that's all. Most closers didn't have weeks like Julio and Ray did. In fact, of the 29 pitchers who registered 50 saves the first week, the group allowed a total of 20 earned runs. Julio was not among them, blowing one save and getting removed from another, but Ray, B.J. Ryan and Francisco Rodriguez allowed nine of the runs. You couldn't have known to sit them (The point is that Julio shouldn't even has been on my roster, much less my bench), so my point stands. Yes, you can lose any week in a head-to-head format if a closer gets hammered, but they are still a whole lot safer on the ERA and WHIP than most starting pitchers. Say our e-mailer had avoided Julio, but used Jose Contreras instead (Julio actually gives you a chance to win one category, saves. What does Jose Contreras give you a chance at? Besides contacts with smuggled ballplayers). See the point?

Now, I'm going to post my full response below, but I'm also going to intermix certain answers/replies above to Karabell's thoughts in red.

My response emailed to Eric:

First, thank you for responding to my question. But I think you missed the point of it a little bit. I wasn't complaining about Ray so much (as he is fairly reliable), but about Julio. My point was that in a roto league, you can wait and draft Dempster, Valverde, and Benitez in rounds 12-15. And its very likely that they could match Nathan, Papelbon, and Saito in the number of Saves. And at the end of the season you could still end up with a good ERA/WHIP with Dempster, Valverde, Isringhausen. However, in a H2H league, since lower ranked closers are much much more likely to have blowups (i.e more than 2 ER) than the top-tier closers, its much more likely that you could lose ERA/WHIP one week due to your closers. Obviously, no one knows when their closers are going to blow a game miserably. But the point is that it rarely happens to top level closers and happens frequently to low-level closers. Take the top 7 CP (Hoffman, Rivera, Papelbon, K-Rod, Nathan, Ryan, Street) and you have 7 appearances last year where they gave up more than 2 ER (4 of these from Street alone). So my point is that high end closers are so much more valuable in H2H leagues because they provide the reliability of not costing you ERA/WHIP during a week, whereas you can gamble with lower ranked closers and get just as many saves, but sooner or later they're going to give up 3 runs or like 4-6 hits in an inning and cost you ERA/WHIP. You constantly preach about only looking at a closer's save potential. I think this should be amended to say "Only look Roto leagues". ERA/WHIP do matter in H2H leagues because 1 or 2 bad outings can cost you ERA/WHIP since the inning total is so small. I'd rather drop Julio and take the loss in saves to not run the risk of messing up my ERA/WHIP, than to keep Julio and potentially win saves, but possibly at the expensive of ERA/WHIP. Am I wrong here? Last year I had Lidge, Jenks, and Dempster and I lost ERA/WHIP 4 separate times because one or more of them had blowups. So that's why it I think good closers (i.e. the top half) are essential for H2H leagues. They won't have that 2/3 IP, 3 BB, 4 run outing and if they do, its once during the season, not 3-5 times like Julio, Dempster, et all.

We'll just have to wait and see.

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