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Custom League Statistic: Net Saves + Holds

One of the more unique statistics available to fantasy commissioners is net saves plus holds. How does the value of relief pitchers change when you use this statistics, and are there consistent performers from year to year?


After receiving a request in Ray's long weekend all questions answered thread, let's take a look at a statistic that is becoming a more prevalent option in custom leagues. Yahoo added this statistic as a custom option this year, and it seems to me like a very good way to potentially add more usable players to your league. That statistic? Net Saves + Holds.

The Calculation: Saves (SV) + Holds (HLD) - Blown Saves (BSV)

To me, there are really three advantages to this statistics over just saves or holds:

1. You punish (slightly) relievers who get the numbers but also cough up just as badly.

This seems like the Carlos Marmol effect. Pitchers who go 30 for 39 in save opportunities, while they are helping your team, do not particularly get punished for blowing saves within the save category. It is entirely possible that a closer could come into a game, get a blown save and a loss with only giving up a single hit and no earned run. I like the idea that the reliever who comes in and proceeds to give up the hit or walk that costs the team the lead gets punished even if their runner doesn't score.

2. A change in role doesn't affect their value particularly.

Think about it this way: There are any number of closers who literally have no value to fantasy owners in most leagues should they lose their closing job. For example, look at a pitcher like Matt Capps. Capps was the closer for some of the season for Minnesota last year, providing a below-average strikeout rate and total, a below-average earned run average (for a reliever), and a solid WHIP. A lot of his value in most leagues is tied into whether or not he has the closer's job, and the second he loses it ends up almost universally dropped. However, if he was removed from the closer's role and moved back to the 8th inning, he is just getting a different statistic rather than a useless one.

3. You essentially give saves and holds equal value, adding more players to help across multiple categories.

To fantasy owners with this statistic, it doesn't matter which one they get, just that they get one of them. For example, a player like Tyler Clippard in 2012 went from being the 8th inning guy (getting a bunch of holds) to the closer (getting a bunch of saves). The value doesn't vary based on his role, which opens up the potential for middle relievers to have substantially more value that is not entirely driven by their role. Take a look at the top 10 in this category for each of the last three seasons, along with the 3-year average leader board.

2012 2011 2010 3-Yr Average
Jim Johnson 48 Jose Valverde 49 Heath Bell 44 Heath Bell 35
Fernando Rodney 46 John Axford 44 Brian Wilson 43 Rafael Soriano 35
Rafael Soriano 42 J.J. Putz 41 Rafael Soriano 42 Jose Valverde 34
Tyler Clippard 40 Drew Storen 41 Neftali Feliz 40 John Axford 32
Craig Kimbrel 39 Mariano Rivera 39 Joakim Soria 40 Chris Perez 32
Aroldis Chapman 39 Craig Kimbrel 38 Luke Gregerson 37 Mike Adams 30
Grant Balfour 37 Heath Bell 38 Brandon Lyon 37 Jonathan Papelbon 30
Sergio Romo 36 Joel Hanrahan 36 Matt Capps 36 Joel Hanrahan 29
Joel Peralta 36 Jonny Venters 36 Kevin Gregg 34 Tyler Clippard 28
Chris Perez 35 Francisco Rodriguez 35 Mike Adams 33 Francisco Rodriguez 28

When you look at 2012 specifically, you see six of the ten who spent time in both a holds role and a saves role during the season for significant time. Looking at the three year average leaderboard, you see an even split of closers and non-closers as well. What this statistic does is level the playing field a bit towards pitchers who pitch well (see Mike Adams) rather than just pitchers who pitch last.

So the big question becomes this: How do you come up with rankings for saves and holds? To me, it is pretty clear the rankings you would do for just saves don't really change all that much when you make the category Net Saves + Holds instead. There would be relievers who qualify as elite holds types - Clippard, Jansen, Marshall all come to mind in this group - who would likely move into the top 15 for relief pitcher rankings.

In addition, players with less than complete locks on the closer jobs seem likely to jump as well. Players like Sergio Romo, Ernesto Frieri, and Brandon League all seem likely to see a slight bump as they would be in line for holds at a high level should they falter in the 9th inning.

Overall, you can add some very interesting angles to your fantasy league with a stat like Net Saves+Holds instead of using saves or holds, and make a larger number of players ownable for your fantasy team.