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Bullpen battles

There are teams who have two legitimate contenders for top arm in the bullpen, who wins? Should you care?

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Why must we play with saves?  It only causes heartaches, and injuries force players in daily leagues to scramble to the waiver wire to add the next man up. While I could argue the benefits of using net saves + holds, but truthfully, most players enjoy 5x5 standard rules because those are the stats they are most familiar with.  What I will look into instead, are a few teams who have multiple relievers who are all threats for the title of top arm in the bullpen, regardless of one being entrenched as a closer or not.  This list will give you a better idea of who is the incumbent closer, should the present one falter or get hurt.  So with that introduction lets begin the exercise:

Name

G

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

GB%

HR/FB

ERA

FIP

xFIP

Player A

68

60.1

10.14

2.69

0.6

0.314

80.80%

50.60%

8.90%

2.39

2.64

2.88

Player B

73

72.1

9.46

2.12

1.12

0.29

82.90%

42.40%

12.30%

2.99

3.44

3.31

So Player A was better at striking batters out, preventing home runs, and inducing runners.  Player B gave up fewer walks, and did better in babip, and stranding batters, typically the two factors that are most attached to luck.

Name

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

SwStr%

Player A

35.40%

66.70%

50.10%

47.40%

87.50%

72.40%

46.80%

13.70%

Player B

29.10%

61.80%

44.90%

65.50%

82.30%

76.60%

48.20%

10.20%

Player A gives up less contact, and gets players to swing more often.  With those greater number of swings, he also induces more swinging strikes.

Player A is Keone Kela

Player B is Shawn Tolleson

While I wouldn't recommend you buying in on Kela right now, its clear that he was the better reliever last year.  Tolleson is the more polished arm, but Kela is 22, and works off of his elite fastball, something many owners like to see in a closer.

Here's another example of a bullpen where there's plenty of talent that you should be ready for in the future.

Name

G

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

GB%

HR/FB

ERA

FIP

xFIP

Player A

55

51.1

8.77

1.75

0.7

0.24

79.20%

39.80%

7.80%

2.45

2.9

3.35

Player B

67

58

9.62

3.57

0.93

0.298

84.30%

46.50%

13.00%

2.79

3.63

3.46

Player C

70

57.1

11.15

1.57

0.47

0.331

72.70%

44.80%

6.50%

2.98

1.91

2.42

Looking at these three pitchers, Player C looks like he's the best arm in this bullpen, followed by player A, and then Player B brings up the rear.  Then we will look at the plate discipline info against them:

Name

O-Swing%

Z-Swing%

Swing%

O-Contact%

Z-Contact%

Contact%

Zone%

F-Strike%

SwStr%

A

31.70%

76.10%

54.80%

64.00%

77.70%

73.90%

51.90%

64.90%

14.10%

B

31.40%

62.90%

44.40%

58.30%

88.80%

76.20%

41.50%

57.00%

10.40%

C

39.20%

61.80%

48.70%

53.10%

75.50%

65.10%

42.10%

70.40%

16.70%

This makes it apparent that player C had the best year, making players swing and miss the most by far, while getting the first pitch strike like a machine.  Player A has the best ability to put the ball in the strike zone.  Player B just seems to be the worst pitcher of the group, but still a solid arm.

Player A is Hunter Strickland

Player B is Santiago Casilla

Player C is Sergio Romo

And the list goes on and on and on.  Dellin Betances had a better year than Andrew Miller, granted they were both top 10 relievers in 2015.  Wade Davis was better than Ryan Madison, who was better than Greg Holland. LIAM HENDRICKS was better than Brett Cecil and Roberto OsunaCarter Capps and his jump delivery that created a 16.84 K/9, was better than A.J. Ramos and far better than Steve Cishek.  The moral of this story, is that you'll never be able to predict these guys.  There is too much instability, and too much rides on too small of a sample.

If you are in one of those lucky leagues that uses net saves plus holds, the following pens have relievers who are very good beyond the opening day closer:

BALTIMORE ORIOLES (Darren O'Day and Mychal Givens)

BOSTON RED SOX (Carson Smith and Koji Uehara)

TORONTO BLUE JAYS (Liam Hendricks and Brett Cecil)

HOUSTON ASTROS (Josh Fields and Luke Gregerson)

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (Hunter Strickland and Sergio Romo)

MILWAUKEE BREWERS (Will Smith, Jeremy Jeffress, and Michael Blazek) I'm a Smith fan.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia)

So next season, as is always true, DO NOT DRAFT a top 5 closer.  Acquire 3 or 4 lower end closers who get strikeouts.  Someone will lose their job, someone will beat expectations, and someone else will just putter along.  In my dynasty I made a habit out of recycling relievers last season, and just moving them away as quickly as possible as supplemental pieces in deals.