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2016 Pure Reliever Rankings: Final Edition

A look at the best relief pitchers this season MINUS those pesky saves.

Kenley Jansen finished the season as the #1 closer. How did he finish in the Pure Reliever rankings?
Kenley Jansen finished the season as the #1 closer. How did he finish in the Pure Reliever rankings?
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

June Edition
All Star Break Edition
75% Edition

The 2016 MLB regular season has concluded and with that the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season also ends. Thanks to everyone who reads this column and I hope to continue it next season. Without further delay, let's do this one last time in 2016!

You know the story by now. Fantasy baseball is all about accumulating the RIGHT stats. Sometimes this can be maddening to owners because they have to make sacrifices in order to make gains in certain areas. Whether it be having a guy who hurts your batting average but helps in power or a speedster that helps little anywhere else, owners must roster a balance of everything in order to win leagues.

Closers! So frustrating to own at times! It is so irritating when a guy goes into the 9th inning with a 3 run lead only to give up a couple of hits, walk a guy, and surrender two runs... BUT he gets 3 outs and the SAVE! This scenario leaves owners with an 18.00 ERA, a 3.00 WHIP, and 1 Save. That 1 save is all owners care about, but wouldn't it be nice to have relievers that ACTUALLY PITCH GREAT!

The Formula

Although it's not rocket science here's the way I've calculated what I call 'Pure Reliever Ranking'. I take the overall performance of the reliever and minus BOTH Wins & Saves. Wins are complete luck and a lot of them come when a guy blows a lead only to have his team's offense regain the lead the following inning. I have already made my point as to why saves are out.

When I subtracted wins from the relief pitchers performance, it did not have as significant an impact as I initially thought. The truly eye opening data was when I took away the reliever's save total. This greatly changed the landscape of the top RPs and showed just how overrated certain closers are.

Here are the results (rankings are through October 2nd):

PLAYER, TEAM POS K W SV ERA WHIP PR PR Rank PR - Wins PR - Wins&Saves Pure RP Rank Change
Andrew Miller, Cle RP 1.13 1.39 1.33 2.11 2.77 8.72 4 7.33 6 1 3
Chris Devenski, Hou RP 0.82 0.13 -0.1 2.14 2.43 5.41 17 5.28 5.38 2 15
Kenley Jansen, LAD RP 0.82 -0.08 5.88 1.7 2.65 10.97 1 11.05 5.17 3 -2
Zach Britton, Bal RP 0.32 -0.29 5.88 2.57 1.94 10.43 2 10.72 4.84 4 -2
Seung Hwan Oh, StL RP 0.8 0.55 2.24 1.86 1.88 7.32 8 6.77 4.53 5 3
Addison Reed, NYM RP 0.6 0.13 -0.1 1.78 1.73 4.14 26 4.01 4.11 6 20
Mark Melancon, Wsh RP 0.18 -0.29 5.88 1.9 1.79 9.46 3 9.75 3.87 7 -4
Aroldis Chapman, ChC RP 0.59 0.13 4.45 1.64 1.62 8.43 6 8.3 3.85 8 -2
Dan Otero, Cle RP 0.04 0.34 -0.1 1.96 1.74 3.99 31 3.65 3.75 9 22
Brad Brach, Bal RP 0.62 1.39 0.03 1.74 1.31 5.08 19 3.69 3.66 10 9
Ryan Dull, Oak RP 0.31 0.34 0.16 1.36 1.95 4.12 28 3.78 3.62 11 17
Nate Jones, CWS RP 0.42 0.34 0.16 1.4 1.8 4.12 29 3.78 3.62 12 17
Tyler Thornburg, Mil RP 0.59 0.97 1.46 1.44 1.52 5.98 13 5.01 3.55 13 0
David Phelps, Mia RP 0.98 0.76 0.29 1.67 0.9 4.6 21 3.84 3.55 14 7
Roberto Osuna, Tor RP 0.46 0.13 4.45 1.16 1.69 7.89 7 7.76 3.31 15 -8
Joe Blanton, LAD RP 0.42 0.76 -0.23 1.41 1.44 3.8 33 3.04 3.27 16 17
Brad Hand, SD RP 0.93 0.13 -0.1 1.14 1.1 3.2 44 3.07 3.17 17 27
Kelvin Herrera, KC RP 0.52 -0.29 1.33 1.08 1.55 4.19 25 4.48 3.15 18 7
Hector Neris, Phi RP 0.78 0.13 0.03 1.33 1 3.28 42 3.15 3.12 19 23
Mike Montgomery, ChC RP 0.62 0.13 -0.23 1.65 0.86 3.02 46 2.89 3.12 20 26
Cody Allen, Cle RP 0.54 -0.08 3.93 1.2 1.3 6.89 10 6.97 3.04 21 -11
Dellin Betances, NYY RP 1.18 -0.08 1.33 0.84 0.86 4.13 27 4.21 2.88 22 5
Shawn Kelley, Wsh RP 0.42 -0.08 0.68 0.97 1.5 3.48 35 3.56 2.88 23 12
Pedro Baez, LAD RP 0.47 -0.08 -0.23 0.88 1.4 2.45 50 2.53 2.76 24 26
Alex Colome, TB RP 0.27 -0.29 4.58 1.39 1.03 6.99 9 7.28 2.7 25 -16
Raisel Iglesias, Cin RP 0.47 -0.08 0.55 1.34 0.86 3.14 45 3.22 2.67 26 19
Matt Bush, Tex RP 0.11 0.76 -0.1 1.12 1.42 3.31 41 2.55 2.65 27 14
Will Harris, Hou RP 0.24 -0.5 1.33 1.32 1.06 3.45 36 3.95 2.62 28 8
Steve Cishek, Sea RP 0.36 0.13 3.02 0.93 1.18 5.62 14 5.49 2.47 29 -15
Carlos Torres, Mil RP 0.39 -0.08 0.03 1.23 0.81 2.37 54 2.45 2.42 30 24
Kyle Barraclough, Mia RP 0.96 0.55 -0.23 1.02 0.43 2.72 47 2.17 2.4 31 16
Ryan Buchter, SD RP 0.39 -0.08 -0.1 0.89 1.1 2.2 55 2.28 2.38 32 23
Derek Law, SF RP -0.07 0.13 -0.1 1.22 1.21 2.39 53 2.26 2.36 33 20
Jeurys Familia, NYM RP 0.49 -0.08 6.4 1.31 0.52 8.64 5 8.72 2.32 34 -29
Pedro Strop, ChC RP 0.09 -0.29 -0.23 0.7 1.28 1.54 64 1.83 2.06 35 29
Luke Gregerson, Hou RP 0.21 0.13 1.72 0.57 1.23 3.85 32 3.72 2 36 -4
Kevin Siegrist, StL RP 0.19 0.55 0.16 0.93 0.82 2.65 48 2.1 1.94 37 11
Tony Watson, Pit RP 0.06 -0.29 1.72 0.81 1.04 3.34 38 3.63 1.91 38 0
Blake Treinen, Wsh RP 0.14 0.13 -0.1 1.35 0.4 1.92 57 1.79 1.89 39 18
Tony Barnette, Tex RP -0.09 0.76 -0.23 1.35 0.6 2.39 51 1.63 1.86 40 11
Edwin Diaz, Sea RP 0.55 -0.71 2.11 0.79 0.52 3.26 43 3.97 1.86 41 2
Sam Dyson, Tex RP 0.01 -0.08 4.71 1.29 0.42 6.36 12 6.44 1.73 42 -30
Mychal Givens, Bal RP 0.69 0.97 -0.23 0.82 0.23 2.47 49 1.5 1.73 43 6
Craig Kimbrel, Bos RP 0.47 -0.29 3.8 0.46 0.74 5.18 18 5.47 1.67 44 -26
Zach Duke, StL RP 0.23 -0.29 0.03 1.19 0.23 1.38 69 1.67 1.64 45 24
Koji Uehara, Bos RP 0.14 -0.29 0.68 0.38 1.07 1.98 56 2.27 1.59 46 10
Wade Davis, KC RP -0.12 -0.29 3.28 1.11 0.52 4.51 23 4.8 1.52 47 -24
Jim Johnson, Atl RP 0.23 -0.29 2.37 0.77 0.52 3.59 34 3.88 1.51 48 -14
Hector Rondon, ChC RP 0.06 -0.29 2.11 0.37 1.07 3.32 39 3.61 1.5 49 -10
Hunter Strickland, SF RP 0.04 -0.08 0.16 0.71 0.71 1.54 65 1.62 1.46 50 15
Travis Wood, ChC RP -0.12 0.13 -0.23 0.81 0.71 1.29 70 1.16 1.39 51 19
Trevor Cahill, ChC RP 0.19 0.13 -0.23 1.01 0.18 1.27 72 1.14 1.37 52 20
Alex Wilson, Det RP -0.09 0.13 -0.23 0.94 0.45 1.2 75 1.07 1.3 53 22
Fernando Salas, NYM RP 0.16 -0.08 0.55 0.22 0.91 1.76 61 1.84 1.29 54 7
Brad Ziegler, Bos RP 0.06 0.13 2.63 1.39 -0.17 4.04 30 3.91 1.28 55 -25
Francisco Rodriguez, Det RP -0.04 -0.08 5.49 0.6 0.68 6.65 11 6.73 1.24 56 -45
Nick Vincent, Sea RP 0.18 0.13 0.16 0.3 0.72 1.48 66 1.35 1.19 57 9
Jeremy Jeffress, Tex RP -0.2 -0.08 3.28 1.16 0.23 4.39 24 4.47 1.19 58 -34
Bruce Rondon, Det RP -0.15 0.34 -0.23 0.5 0.83 1.28 71 0.94 1.17 59 12
A.J. Ramos, Mia RP 0.31 -0.5 4.97 0.93 -0.13 5.58 16 6.08 1.11 60 -44
Neftali Feliz, Pit RP 0.11 0.13 0.03 0.39 0.61 1.27 73 1.14 1.11 61 12
Michael Feliz, Hou RP 0.67 0.97 -0.23 -0.16 0.54 1.79 60 0.82 1.05 62 -2
Santiago Casilla, SF RP 0.18 -0.29 3.8 0.39 0.47 4.55 22 4.84 1.04 63 -41
Joe Biagini, Tor RP 0.13 0.13 -0.1 0.81 0.1 1.06 80 0.93 1.03 64 16
Jake Diekman, Tex RP 0.08 0.13 0.29 0.46 0.5 1.45 67 1.32 1.03 65 2
Ken Giles, Hou RP 0.78 -0.29 1.72 0.06 0.12 2.39 52 2.68 0.96 66 -14
Wade LeBlanc, Pit RP -0.05 0.13 0.03 0.28 0.73 1.11 78 0.98 0.95 67 11
Hansel Robles, NYM RP 0.5 0.55 -0.1 0.57 -0.12 1.4 68 0.85 0.95 68 0
Jerry Blevins, NYM RP -0.04 0.13 0.03 0.65 0.29 1.07 79 0.94 0.91 69 10
Ross Stripling, LAD RP 0.32 0.34 -0.23 0.23 0.36 1.02 83 0.68 0.91 70 13
Tyler Clippard, NYY RP 0.29 0.13 0.16 0.42 0.21 1.2 74 1.07 0.91 71 3
Adam Ottavino, Col RP -0.32 -0.5 0.68 0.47 0.69 1.03 82 1.53 0.85 72 10
Erasmo Ramirez, TB RP 0.14 0.76 0.03 0.38 0.23 1.55 63 0.79 0.76 73 -10
Juan Nicasio, Pit RP 1.38 1.39 -0.23 -0.34 -0.3 1.89 58 0.5 0.73 74 -16
David Robertson, CWS RP 0.34 0.34 4.58 0.48 -0.14 5.6 15 5.26 0.68 75 -60
Jason Grilli, Tor RP 0.44 0.76 0.29 0.05 0.13 1.66 62 0.9 0.61 76 -14
Brandon Kintzler, Min RP -0.32 -0.71 1.98 0.61 0.3 1.87 59 2.58 0.6 77 -18
Fernando Rodney, Mia RP 0.32 -0.29 3.02 0.52 -0.26 3.31 40 3.6 0.58 78 -38
Ryan Madson, Oak RP -0.09 0.55 3.67 0.39 0.16 4.69 20 4.14 0.47 79 -59
Brandon Maurer, SD RP 0.29 -0.71 1.46 -0.24 0.25 1.06 81 1.77 0.31 80 1
Mauricio Cabrera, Atl RP -0.37 0.34 0.55 0.59 0.05 1.16 77 0.82 0.27 81 -4
Tony Cingrani, Cin RP -0.09 -0.29 1.98 0.03 -0.45 1.19 76 1.48 -0.5 82 -6
Jeanmar Gomez, Phi RP -0.12 -0.08 4.58 -0.47 -0.53 3.38 37 3.46 -1.12 83 -46

Interesting Finds

Here was the top 10 Pure Relievers in my first post back in June: Andrew Miller, Seung Hwan Oh, Will Harris, Brad Brach, Zach Britton, Alex Colome, Joe Blanton, Kenley Jansen, Chris Devenski, Hector Neris
Of that group only 6 repeated top 10 at my All Star break update: Brach, Miller, Jansen, Oh, Blanton, Britton
5 of those relievers made it into the 75% edition's top 10: Miller, Oh, Britton, Jansen, Brach
Miller, Jansen, Britton,
and Oh all ended the season as top 6 Pure Relievers. Brach remains top 10 as well ending his year at #10 exactly.

Andrew Miller has been absolutely dominant this season. He started off as the #1 Pure Reliever in June, fell to #2 (despite improving his numbers) at the All Star break, rose back up to #1 at the 75% mark, and now he finishes the season as the #1 Pure Reliever. Miller has done this with incredible totals: 1.45ERA 0.69WHIP 123K. He also has a 14.9K/9 and a 13.67 K/BB ratio. Saves or no saves, you can't do much better than Miller this season.

Jansen, Oh, Britton, and Brach should not be underappreciated though. Oh has been a top 10 overall RP this season and, like Miller, has ranked inside the top 6 Pure Relievers all season.
These rankings are designed to value a pitcher without saves. This makes it difficult for some closers to grade well. Jansen and Britton have consistently ranked high among Pure Relievers which prove they are extremely valuable even without the all important 'save' statistic. Britton is even getting AL Cy Young consideration, which I wrote about here. His Orioles teammate, Brad Brach, may be a lesser known name, but his season numbers justify him landing among the best Pure Relievers.

Taking away wins moves Edwin Diaz and Will Harris inside the top 30. Diaz moves up 17 spots without factoring in wins for relievers. Brandon Kintzler also moved up a healthy 12 spots without wins. Those who lost the most value in dropping their win totals include Brad Brach(#19 to #34), Joe Blanton(#33 to #44), Mychal Givens(#49 to #64), Juan Nicasio(#58 to #83), Michael Feliz(#60 to #79), and Erasmo Ramirez(#63 to #81). Brach and Nicasio tied Miller with 10 wins this season. Brach and Nicasio fell significantly more without those wins.

The most eye opening data came from removing saves.

As noted earlier, eliminating saves push Miller up to #1. Britton and Jansen (who are #1 and #2 with saves being accounted for) slip 2 spots each to #3 and #4 respectively. Chris Devenski, who moves up 15 spots, ends the year as the #2 Pure Reliever. His 2.16ERA 0.91WHIP and 104K justify this finish despite him not being on most fantasy owner's radars all season. Addison Reed sees a 20 spot increase to #6 when saves and wins are no longer factored in.

Just like last month, the top 20 standard RP and the top 20 Pure Relievers differ greatly. 10 of the top 20 Pure Relievers rank outside the top 20 when saves are involved. In fact, 5 of those 10 pitchers rank 30 or worse when saves are included. This shows  Pedro Strop (#64 to #35) moves up the most (29 spots) without saves

The Jeurys Familia Problem

This is my favorite part of this research. This section of the post is dedicated to those relievers whose value is tied almost ENTIRELY to saves. In June, Jeurys Familia dropped 70! spots losing his saves, making him the poster boy for this class of relievers. Familia ends the year as the #34 Pure Reliever. Losing his league leading 51 saves, drops the Mets closer 29 spots from #5 to #34. He finishes the year much better than he started. His final numbers are solid, but with the #6 Pure Reliever, Addison Reed, looming, 2017 could see a new, and much better, Mets closer. Francisco Rodriguez(#11 to #56), David Robertson(#15 to #75), Ryan Madison(#20 to #79), and Jeanmar Gomez(#37 to #83). all drop 45 spots or more without saves. A few or those pitchers have far better options behind them. The biggest drop belongs to David Robertson who falls from 60 spots. Ryan Madison drops 59 spots, good for 2nd biggest drop of value this season. Others who's value noticeably dropped without saves include:
Alex Colome #9 to #25
Sam Dyson #12 to #42
Craig Kimbrel #18 to #44
A.J. Ramos #16 to #60
Santiago Casilla #22 to #63
Fernando Rodney #40 to #78

Conclusion

This is not a harbinger to cut all these closers. Saves are still an important stat to a fantasy owner's success. This is simply a post to open some eyes and inform baseball fans that most closers are unjustly overrated. This data can also be used to show the awesome seasons non-closers are pitching. This can help owners who are not needing saves the last several weeks of the year. These relievers can build counting numbers without damaging other ratio categories. The purpose of this post is to show the true value of a relief pitcher beyond the world of saves.

Please leave comments if you have any further questions and feel free to let me know what you found most interesting in this research. Thanks for the read and see you next season!