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Equivalent Fantasy Average: July pitcher wrap-up

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So do you pay for saves or don't you? EFA might help with the answers. Then again, it might not. This is complicated.

Scott Cunningham

I hate what I call bumper-stickering, dropping some clever quote into a conversation and then kicking back like any argument is over. "If you don't vote, you can't complain" or "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" or, I don't know, "Republican't."

It has nothing to do with the politics or beliefs or each particular statement; it's just so damned lazy. It treats situations as though there's no nuance, no gray area that isn't covered by a quarter of a tweet.

"Don't pay for saves."

It's the same thing, really. Four words, 19 characters. Twenty if you count the period. We say it because it feels accurate, because it makes some sense, because people paid for saves once and someone came up with an argument. It might be true. Heck, I basically subscribe to it in standard leagues.

But is it true?

This is the second month of Pitcher Equivalent Fantasy Average, my sorting metric for all pitchers, starters and relievers alike. (For the methodology, read last month's piece - it's complicated.) And just like a month ago, there's a reliever at the top of the list. So does that negate the bumper-sticker advice? Let's dive in.

"Pay for saves"

Francisco Rodriguez is No. 1 in EFA. Craig Kimbrel is No. 2. Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen, Koji Uehara, Steve Cishek, and Trevor Rosenthal are No. 4-8. Way to go, Clayton Kershaw at No. 3, sure, but the most fantasy-helpful pitchers so far this year have been the guys getting the saves.

"Don't pay for saves"

Well, sure, but if eight of the top 10, 16 of the top 20 are closers, doesn't that mean that you can wait a while? You might not get the No. 1, but if you get the No. 6 and they're all that close, it's basically the same thing.

"Pay for saves"

Is it, though? There are 44 pitchers with an EFA of less than 3.00. only 16 of that 44 (36 percent) are below 2.50; only three are below 2.20. Francisco Rodriguez, the leader, is at 2.03, by virtue of his 0.94 WHIP and second-in-MLB 33 saves, and the difference between him and No. 4 is the same as the difference between No. 4 and No. 15. The best are way ahead.

"Don't pay for saves"

Yeah, but that's Francisco Rodriguez. Dude went 38th among relievers in the preseason, and that wasn't good enough to even be in the draft list overall in standard leagues. Of the preseason top 10 closers off the board, Sergio Romo has lost his job, and Joe Nathan probably should have. Jim Johnson went ahead of Jonathan Papelbon; Jason Grilli, Ernesto Frieri, and Addison Reed all went ahead of Huston Street. Meanwhile, we didn't know in the preseason whether the Rangers would go with Joakim Soria or Neftali Feliz. Current closers Sean Doolittle, Jake McGee, Santiago Casilla, Hector Rondon, Chad Qualls, and Jake Petricka all went undrafted.

"Pay for saves or don't"

Look, you could go either way on this. Kimbrel was the No. 1 closer off the board this season, and he's the No. 2 pitcher now. If you know, beyond any doubt, that the top closer in March will be the top closer in August, it probably makes sense to go big on the guy. But if you trust your ability to target the saves coming into the league and think you can accurately find the next K-Rod, hey, hold off.

Then again, what if the guy you are sure of is Nathan? He had 43 saves in 46 chances a year ago, with a 1.39 ERA, a 0.897 WHIP, and 10.2 K/9. And what if the "next-man-up" you thought you could identify was Luke Gregerson (he was mine), who currently has three saves?

The answer? As it is with anything, it depends. You know your strategy better than anyone. Pay for saves, don't pay for saves - you get the right players, you'll win, you get the wrong ones, you'll lose.

That was a lot of words. Won't come close to fitting on a bumper sticker. Nuance FTW.

And now to the list:

Rank Player Team EFA
1 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 2.03
2 Craig Kimbrel ATL 2.09
3 Clayton Kershaw LAD 2.18
4 Greg Holland KAN 2.24

Kenley Jansen LAD 2.24

Koji Uehara BOS 2.24
7 Steve Cishek MIA 2.27
8 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 2.29
9 Felix Hernandez SEA 2.31
10 Fernando Rodney SEA 2.32
11 Johnny Cueto CIN 2.33

Huston Street SDP/LAA 2.33
13 Glen Perkins MIN 2.37
14 David Robertson NYY 2.38
15 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 2.47
16 Aroldis Chapman CIN 2.49
17 Rafael Soriano WAS 2.50
18 Adam Wainwright SLC 2.51
19 Zach Britton BAL 2.54
20 Addison Reed ARI 2.56
21 Masahiro Tanaka NYY 2.61
22 Corey Kluber CLE 2.62
23 Chris Sale CWS 2.64

Zack Greinke LAD 2.64

David Price TAM/DET 2.64

Max Scherzer DET 2.64
27 Sergio Romo SFG 2.67
28 Scott Kazmir OAK 2.71
29 Joe Smith LAA 2.73
30 Garrett Richards LAA 2.74
31 Yu Darvish TEX 2.77
32 Jon Lester BOS/OAK 2.78

Mark Melancon PIT 2.78
34 Joe Nathan DET 2.79
35 Sean Doolittle OAK 2.80
36 Jake McGee TAM 2.84
37 Sonny Gray OAK 2.85

Tyson Ross SDP 2.85
39 Julio Teheran ATL 2.86
40 Cody Allen CLE 2.88
41 Jenrry Mejia NYM 2.91
42 Casey Janssen TOR 2.92
43 Madison Bumgarner SFG 2.93
44 Tanner Roark WAS 2.98
45 Hyun-Jin Ryu LAD 3.02
46 Lance Lynn SLC 3.03

Joakim Soria TEX/DET 3.03
48 Jordan Zimmermann WAS 3.04
49 Alfredo Simon CIN 3.05
50 Dellin Betances NYY 3.08

On the offensive side, there are five categories, in which all players can contribute, and there's only one rate stat. For pitchers, there are still five categories. But starters can't even access one of them (barring the occasional billion-inning game fluke), relievers are barely relevant in two (counting stats really work against the guys with 30 percent the innings total), and there are two rate stats.

So when a whole group of pitchers are scoring zero in a category decided by standard deviations, the ones that do score get a big boost. That helps explain the closers at the top; there are only 30-some pitchers getting saves, while there are almost 200 getting wins.

Meanwhile, Tanaka, the leader among starters a month ago, fell to only 21st through July, a testament to his production in the first half. Meanwhile, Aroldis Chapman didn't even pitch in April, but he's been so good that he's already in the top 15.

Rank Player Team EFA
51 LaTroy Hawkins COL 3.08

Kyle Lohse SLC 3.08
53 Jake Arrieta CHC 3.09
54 Wade Davis KAN 3.10
55 Hector Rondon CHC 3.12
56 Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 3.14
57 Cole Hamels PHI 3.15
58 John Lackey BOS/SLC 3.17
59 Rick Porcello DET 3.18

Jered Weaver LAA 3.18
61 Dallas Keuchel HOU 3.19

Stephen Strasburg WAS 3.19
63 Wily Peralta MIL 3.20
64 Doug Fister WAS 3.21

Ervin Santana ATL 3.21
66 Ian Kennedy SDP 3.22

Tony Watson PIT 3.22
68 Jonathan Broxton CIN 3.23

Tyler Clippard WAS 3.23
70 Jesse Hahn SDP 3.25
71 Pat Neshek SLC 3.28
72 Joaquin Benoit SDP 3.29
73 Jean Machi SFG 3.31
74 Josh Beckett LAD 3.32

Jesse Chavez OAK 3.32
76 Tim Hudson SFG 3.33

Jake Odorizzi TAM 3.33
78 Bartolo Colon NYM 3.34

Phil Hughes MIN 3.34

James Shields KAN 3.34

Marcus Stroman TOR 3.34

Alex Wood ATL 3.34
83 John Axford CLE 3.35

Wei-Yin Chen BAL 3.35

Zach Duke MIL 3.35

Mike Dunn MIA 3.35

Jason Hammel CHC/OAK 3.35

Tommy Hunter BAL 3.35
89 Mark Buehrle TOR 3.36

Jorge de la Rosa COL 3.36

Jason Grilli PIT/LAA 3.36

Chad Qualls HOU 3.36
93 Henderson Alvarez MIA 3.37

Santiago Casilla SFG 3.37

Alex Cobb TAM 3.37

Tim Lincecum SFG 3.37

Matt Shoemaker LAA 3.37

Chris Young SEA 3.37
99 Bryan Morris PIT/MIA 3.38
Darren O'Day BAL 3.38

The sign-late thing didn't work out so well for Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales, but Ervin Santana has done all right, coming in around the same level as bigger stars like Stephen Strasburg and Jered Weaver. The moral of that story is, if you're a pitcher, try to sign with a National League team.

The back-to-back ranking of Jason Grilli and Chad Qualls highlights a feature/bug of EFA: It is entirely looking-back, so it can't be seen as predictive. Also, all parts of this season are weighted equally, so Grilli's early-season saves count the exact same as Qualls' more-recent ones, for better or worse.

Dude, 51-100 has Jake Arrieta, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Young, and others we never would have guessed. Maybe it isn't "don't pay for saves"; maybe it's just "don't pay for pitchers."

Rank Player Team EFA
101 R.A. Dickey TOR 3.39

Jose Fernandez MIA 3.39
103 Dan Otero OAK 3.42

Jose Quintana CWS 3.42

Yordano Ventura KAN 3.42
106 Aaron Harang ATL 3.43

Andrew Miller BOS/BAL 3.43

Jeff Samardzija CHC/OAK 3.43

Carlos Torres NYM 3.43

Michael Wacha SLC 3.43
111 Danny Duffy KAN 3.44
112 Brad Boxberger TAM 3.45

Mike Leake CIN 3.45
114 Casey Fien MIN 3.46

Anibal Sanchez DET 3.46
116 Jacob deGrom NYM 3.47

Collin McHugh HOU 3.47
118 Ronald Belisario CWS 3.48
119 Gerrit Cole PIT 3.49

Gio Gonzalez WAS 3.49

Bud Norris BAL 3.49

Jason Vargas KAN 3.49
123 Grant Balfour TAM 3.50

Zack Wheeler NYM 3.50
125 Homer Bailey CIN 3.51

Roenis Elias SEA 3.51
127 Aaron Loup TOR 3.52

C.J. Wilson LAA 3.52
129 Chase Anderson ARI 3.53

Luke Gregerson OAK 3.53
131 Chris Archer TAM 3.54

Yovani Gallardo MIL 3.54

Bryan Shaw CLE 3.54
134 David Carpenter ATL 3.55

Tom Koehler MIA 3.55
136 Wade Miley ARI 3.56

Zach Putnam CWS 3.56

Neil Ramirez CHC 3.56

A.J. Ramos MIA 3.56

Brad Ziegler ARI 3.56
141 Antonio Bastardo PHI 3.57

Matt Garza MIL 3.57

Drew Pomeranz OAK 3.57
144 Aaron Crow KAN 3.58

Ernesto Frieri LAA/PIT 3.58

J.P. Howell LAD 3.58
147 Kyle Gibson MIN 3.60

Tony Sipp HOU 3.60
149 Josh Collmenter ARI 3.61
Matt Lindstrom CWS 3.61
Rank Player Team EFA
Yoervis Medina SEA 3.61
Dale Thayer SDP 3.61
153 Jake Petricka CWS 3.62
154 Shawn Kelley NYY 3.63

Edinson Volquez PIT 3.63

Daniel Webb CWS 3.63
157 Jeurys Familia NYM 3.64

Josh Fields HOU 3.64
159 Fernando Abad OAK 3.65

Brad Brach BAL 3.65

J.A. Happ TOR 3.65

Charlie Morton PIT 3.65

Jon Niese NYM 3.65

Drew Smyly DET/TAM 3.65
165 Carlos Carrasco CLE 3.66

Dan Haren LAD 3.66

Tommy Milone OAK/MIN 3.66

Vance Worley PIT 3.66
169 Drew Hutchison TOR 3.67

Hiroki Kuroda NYY 3.67

Drew Storen WAS 3.67

Anthony Varvaro ATL 3.67
173 David Phelps NYY 3.68
174 Jordan Lyles COL 3.69

Pedro Strop CHC 3.69

Josh Tomlin CLE 3.69
177 Jake DIekman PHI 3.70

Yusmiero Petit SFG 3.70

Jordan Walden ATL 3.70
180 Jeremy Affeldt SFG 3.71

Al Alburquerque DET 3.71

Bronson Arroyo ARI 3.71

Danny Farquhar SEA 3.71

Shelby Miller SLC 3.71

Tom Wilhelmsen SEA 3.71
186 Jarred Cosart HOU/MIA 3.72

Kevin Gausman BAL 3.72

Kevin Jepsen LAA 3.72
189 Andrew Cashner SDP 3.73

Marco Estrada MIL 3.73

Cliff Lee PHI 3.73
192 John Danks CWS 3.74

Dillon Gee NYM 3.74

Kelvin Herrera KAN 3.74

Francisco Liriano PIT 3.74

Daisuke Matsuzaka NYM 3.74

Ryan Vogelsong SFG 3.74
198 Joel Peralta TAM 3.75
199 Brett Cecil TOR 3.76
Joba Chamberlain DET 3.76
Rank Player Team EFA
Jaime Garcia SLC 3.76
Todd Redmond TOR 3.76
203 Vic Black NYM 3.77

A.J. Burnett PHI 3.77

Dustin McGowan TOR 3.77

Hector Santiago LAA 3.77

Chris Tillman BAL 3.77
208 Gavin Floyd ATL 3.78

Jason Frasor TEX/KAN 3.78

James Paxton SEA 3.78

Tyler Skaggs LAA 3.78

Adam Warren NYY 3.78
213 Trevor Bauer CLE 3.79

Neal Cotts TEX 3.79

Michael Pineda NYY 3.79

Will Smith MIL 3.79

Justin Verlander DET 3.79
218 Ken Giles PHI 3.80

Kevin Quackenbush SDP 3.80
220 Miguel Gonzalez BAL 3.81

Brandon McCarthy ARI/NYY 3.81
222 Mat Latos CIN 3.82

Aaron Sanchez TOR 3.82

Tyler Thornburg MIL 3.82
225 Martin Perez TEX 3.83

Shae Simmons ATL 3.83

Justin Wilson PIT 3.83
228 Rubby de la Rosa BOS 3.84

Neftali Feliz TEX 3.84

Shane Greene NYY 3.84

Caleb Thielbar MIN 3.84
232 Charlie Furbush SEA 3.85

Junichi Tazawa BOS 3.85
234 Steve Delabar TOR 3.86

Robbie Erlin SDP 3.86

David Hale ATL 3.86

Danny Salazar CLE 3.86
238 Rex Brothers COL 3.87

Odrisamer Despaigne SDP 3.87

Kevin Siegrist SLC 3.87

Carlos Villanueva CHC 3.87
242 Jared Burton MIN 3.88

Ryan Cook OAK 3.88

Jim Henderson MIL 3.88

CC Sabathia NYY 3.88
246 Alex Torres SDP 3.89
247 Kyle Hendricks CHC 3.90
Edward Mujica BOS 3.90
Sergio Santos TOR 3.90
Jose Valverde NYM 3.90
Rank Player Team EFA
251 Erik Bedard TAM 3.91

Adam Ottavino COL 3.91

Chase Whitley NYY 3.91

Travis Wood CHC 3.91
255 Jerry Blevins WAS 3.92

Nathan Eovaldi MIA 3.92
257 Luis Avilan ATL 3.93

Roberto Hernandez PHI 3.93

Sam LeCure CIN 3.93

Jeff Locke PIT 3.93

Tsuyoshi Wada CHC 3.93

Taijuan Walker SEA 3.93

Allen Webster BOS 3.93

Chris Withrow LAD 3.93
265 Jimmy Nelson MIL 3.94

Manny Parra CIN 3.94
267 Joe Kelly SLC/BOS 3.95

Javier Lopez SFG 3.95
269 Nick Vincent SDP 3.96
270 Brett Anderson COL 3.97

Matt Cain SFG 3.97

Tony Cingrani CIN 3.97

Matt Thornton NYY 3.97
274 Kyle Farnsworth NYM/HOU 3.98

Jeremy Hellickson TAM 3.98

Yohan Pino MIN 3.98

Brian Wilson LAD 3.98
278 Brad Hand MIA 3.99

Jim Johnson OAK 3.99

Alexi Ogando TEX 3.99

Dan Straily OAK/CHC 3.99

Brandon Workman BOS 3.99
283 Carlos Martinez SLC 4.00

Mike Minor ATL 4.00

J.J. Putz ARI 4.00
286 Chris Capuano BOS/NYY 4.01

Jeremy Guthrie KAN 4.01

Matt Harrison TEX 4.01

J.J. Hoover CIN 4.01

Ubaldo Jimenez BAL 4.01

Brandon Kintzler MIL 4.01

Matt Moore TAM 4.01

Bobby Parnell NYM 4.01
294 Tyler Matzek COL 4.02

Paco Rodriguez LAD 4.02
296 Scott Carroll CWS 4.03

Brett Oberholtzer HOU 4.03
298 Craig Breslow BOS 4.05

Erasmo Ramirez SEA 4.05
300 Colby Lewis TEX 4.06
Rank Player Team EFA
Brandon Morrow TOR 4.06
Hector Noesi SEA/TEX/CWS 4.06
Nick Tepesch TEX 4.06
304 Nate Jones CWS 4.07

Chris Perez LAD 4.07
306 Heath Bell TAM 4.08

Justin Masterson CLE/SLC 4.08

Rafael Montero NYM 4.08

Jason Motte SLC 4.08

Juan Nicasio COL 4.08

Ivan Nova NYY 4.08
312 Eddie Butler COL 4.09

Scott Feldman HOU 4.09

Brandon Maurer SEA 4.09

Franklin Morales COL 4.09
316 Zach McAllister CLE 4.10

Jacob Turner MIA 4.10
318 Trevor Cahill ARI 4.11

Bruce Chen KAN 4.11

Kevin Gregg MIA 4.11
321 Andrew Heaney MIA 4.13

Jose Veras CHC/HOU 4.13
323 Edwin Jackson CHC 4.14

Kyle Kendrick PHI 4.14

Vidal Nuno NYY/ARI 4.14
326 Clay Buchholz BOS 4.15
327 Wandy Rodriguez PIT 4.19
328 Felix Doubront BOS/CHC 4.20
329 Jhoulys Chacin COL 4.21
330 Robbie Ross TEX 4.22
331 RIcky Nolasco MIN 4.24
332 Tanner Scheppers TEX 4.25
333 Kevin Correia MIN 4.26

Jake Peavy BOS/SFG 4.26
335 Eric Stults SDP 4.27
336 Paul Maholm LAD 4.29