How Closers Impact Your Overall Rotisserie Score
By Todd “The True GURU” Farino, at The Closer Report
For years I’ve been pushing the industry and fantasy managers alike to see the value of closers on a fantasy baseball team. I’m sure some of you have heard my rants about the value of closers and even how high to draft them on my many podcasts and blog articles. Since I’ve started my crusade for closers back in 2009, closers have gained the popularity they deserve in drafts, but are still the most undervalued set of player on a fantasy roster.
This article is here to set the record straight on the value of closers. There is a myth that still circulates that closers are in effect valueless. In fact, some say don’t even draft them, hope for free agency. I’ll tell you one thing, nobody has ever won a serious fantasy leagues pinning all their hopes on free agency. That is about as predictable as guessing who the next CY Young will be or who will win the World Series. Heck, those are a cake walk compared to fantasy baseball free agency. Either way, this article has one purpose, to reveal the absolute importance and impact of closers on your overall rotisserie score.
Establish the control variables for the research. It’s important to establish exactly what should be in place to maximize the value of your fantasy bullpen. Most rotisserie leagues offer at least three RP (Relief Pitcher) slots. Some offer more like P (any pitcher), but for our control group, I’ll assume that we’ll have three starting closers and even one or two relief pitchers on the bench. I will also assume that the closers drafted are pretty good ones. It’s important that a top tier closer is drafted, along with two other tier two or tier three closers. If you want the maximum impact, get great closers.
Next, how many overall innings do your closers and fantasy team throws?
Most leagues I play in either have a 1500 inning limit or don’t have a limit. In the leagues without a limit, the number of innings range from 1400 to 1600, so 1500 innings is a great median to use for my research. This is important to know because next we will determine just how many of those innings will be used by your closers.
The average MLB closer in 2011 threw 65.1 innings for closers that recorded 20 saves or more and were full time closers. That means, if you start just three closers, they will take up at least 196/1500 innings, roughly 13%. Again, that is if you only roll with three closers. I have leagues where I can throw 4 or 5 closer, plus I always make sure I slide in a bench RP when my closers have days off. While I won’t add into this equation a 4th or 5th starting closer, I will add 50 innings for starting backup RPs. Remember, you must build the proper bullpen to maximize its value. So I’ve deducted that closers (RPs) will accumulate at least 250 innings of 1500, which is roughly 16.67% of the total innings used.
Now, let’s see their overall impact on Rotisserie scoring. As I’m sure most of you reading this article fully understand the rotisserie scoring system, but if not here is a quick break down and how I will use it. The average league consists of 12 teams, 10 categories. That means 120 points are up for grabs. 12 points are given to each category. If a team is in first place in a given category that team gets 12 points. If a team is in last place, it receives 1 point.
This category alone shows the power that closers bring to your fantasy team. Closers are the only position type on a fantasy roster that has its own category for scoring. No other player can score in the SAVE category. Starting pitchers will not score in the saves category, except for a freaky instance of a 22 inning game. Otherwise, your bullpen can score up to 12 points for your team with this category alone. That is 10% of the scoring already.
Total Rotisserie Scoring So Far: 10%
Closer Impact on Total Scoring(120): 10%
Amount of Rotisserie Points Gained: 12
In 2011, the closers with 20 or more saves averaged 3.4 wins. Having three closers, that equates to10-11 wins added to your win totals by closers. Wins are normally the tightest pitching category and is often separated by less than 2 wins for another point. For example, in the Battle of The Fantasy Gods league that I participated in last season, I finished with 84 wins. The team above me had 85, the team below me had 83. Wins are a critical Rotisserie stat and are hard to come by on a consistent basis. If your starting pitchers has a rough week, you’ll be happy if your relief pitchers add a win or two for the stats. Just going with the 10-11 wins. In this league, I accumulated 8 wins from my bullpen (not my best bullpen). If I would have had a more superior bullpen, I could have added at least 4 more wins (maybe more with my bench) and gained 2 more points. The wins category ranged from the top 111 wins to the bottom, 75 wins in this league. In the middle, 9 teams were separated by 11 wins or less. Using a quick calculus formula I deduce that a 4-5 man bullpen (3 starters) would be responsible for an average impact deviation low end 4 points, high end 6 points in rotisserie scoring.
Total Rotisserie Scoring So Far: 20%
Closer Impact on Total Scoring(120): 13.3 - 15%
Amount of Rotisserie Points Gained: 16-18
ERA is another category that closers can impact for final scoring. Top tier closers tend to have very low ERAs and even with only 250 innings out of 1500, their ERAs will impact your total score. Don’t believe anyone else who tells you different. Let’s look at the ERA scores for our test league, 2011 Battle of The Fantasy Gods:
I’ve highlight the portions of this data where the ERAs were critically close. Having 4-5 relief pitchers with an average ERA below 2.50 with 250 innings in the book clearly would change your ERA significantly. Let’s say your team ERA without your closers was 3.50 with 1250 innings. Now add in your relief pitchers at 2.40 for 250 innings. Your team ERA would drop 18 point to 3.32. Now looking at the ERA results of the example league 18 points could impact up to 8 points. Based on my formula that would give an average impact deviation of low end 4 points, high end 5 points in rotisserie scoring.
Total Rotisserie Scoring So Far: 30%
Closer Impact on Total Scoring(120): 16.7 – 19.2%
Amount of Rotisserie Points Gained: 20-23
The ever dangerous WHIP. Now this is a category where closers can hurt you, but likely will help if you draft correctly. In 2011, closers with 20 more saves averaged a WHIP of 1.15. Let’s look at the WHIP scores for our test league, 2011 Battle of The Fantasy Gods:
I’ve highlight the portions of this data where the WHIPs were critically close, which covers 11 of the 12 teams. . Let’s say your team WHIP without your closers was 1.35 with 1250 innings. Now add in your relief pitchers at 1.15 for 250 innings. Your team WHIP would drop 3 points to 1.32. Now looking at the WHIP results of the example league 3 points could impact up to 5 rotisserie points. Based on my formula that would give an average impact deviation of low end 2 points, high end 3 points in rotisserie scoring.
Total Rotisserie Scoring So Far: 40%
Closer Impact on Total Scoring(120): 18.33 – 21.7%
Amount of Rotisserie Points Gained: 22-26
Strikeouts are one of the biggest categories that closers can impact. With the large volume of strikeouts that are recorded during the regular season by fantasy pitching staffs, having closers with high strikeout totals will have a huge impact on your over fantasy score. In 2011, closers with 20 more saves averaged 67 strikeouts each. Let’s look at the total strikeouts for our test league, 2011 Battle of The Fantasy Gods:
I’ve highlight the portions of this data where the strikeouts were critically close, which covers all 12 teams. Let’s say your team’s strikeout totals without your closers was 1000 with 1250 innings (very nice K/9 of 7.2). Now add in your relief pitchers at for 250 innings (67 * 3 + 49 Ks for your bench RPs) .That increase in striekouts is enough to jump your score from last to first. Of course, all the other teams will have bullpens, so a jump that high is unlikely. However based on my formula that would give an average impact deviation of low end 4 points, high end 8 points in rotisserie scoring.
Total Rotisserie Scoring So Far: 50%
Closer Impact on Total Scoring(120): 21.7 – 28.3%
Amount of Rotisserie Points Gained: 26-34
The average fantasy roster contains 26 players with roughly 20 starting slots. Rostering 5 RPs occupies 19% of your lineup, but would likely impact at minimal 21.7 percent of your score. My calculation above leaned towards the conservative with my impact deviation variables. Another analysis that I’ve done for another league in 2009 showed a 30%+ impact from closers, so lots will depend on your league variables. Whatever those are, closers are a critical component to your fantasy team. The winner of my research league (2011 Battle of The Fantasy Gods) was Jeff Boggis. He scored 107 points, of which 50 points came from his pitching staff. His bullpen was stacked with RP draft picks Drew Storen, Craig Kimbrel, and Arnoldis Chapman. He had two waiver wire pick ups of Jason Motte and Javy Guerra to further suppoer his bullpen. He finished with the third highest pitching score (50) and was among the top 4 in Saves, Wins, and Strikeouts. He finished ninth in ERA and seventh in WHIP. That is the impact having a great fantasy bullpen can have on a team. Closers allow you to maximize inning potential where starters can’t. The number of points compiled in one inning of closer work dramatically outweighs the points compiled into one inning of a starters work. Whether or not you agree to draft lots of closers, draft them high, or draft them at all, you cannot disagree with their overall impact on your fantasy team. If you want to win, have a strong bullpen and make sure you draft in the right spots. Drafting closers in the 6, 7, and 8th rounds aren’t going to win your league for you. You have to draft closers very smart and at the right time.