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2016 Pure Reliever Rankings: 75% Edition

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

Andrew Miller has consistently been the best reliever in baseball this season.
Andrew Miller has consistently been the best reliever in baseball this season.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

June Edition
All Star Break Edition

August 19th marks the 45 day mark in the 2016 season. We have 45 days left until October 2nd, the last day of the MLB regular season. This date also marks the end of the 2016 Fantasy Baseball season. Hopefully most of you reading this are still contending for your league's championship. With that being said, let's get to some useful information for those final weeks of the season.

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 August 18th):

PLAYER, TEAM POS K W SV ERA WHIP PR PR Rank PR - Wins&Saves Pure RP Rank Change
Andrew Miller, Cle RP 0.95 1.1 1.36 1.8 2.22 7.43 5 4.97 1 4
Seung Hwan Oh, StL RP 0.83 -0.19 1.68 1.71 1.96 5.99 10 4.5 2 8
Zach Britton, Bal RP 0.32 -0.19 5.66 2.23 1.72 9.74 1 4.27 3 -2
Kenley Jansen, LAD RP 0.54 0.07 5.34 1.46 2.13 9.55 2 4.14 4 -2
Chris Devenski, Hou RP 0.62 -0.45 -0.07 1.76 1.71 3.58 35 4.1 5 30
Brad Brach, Bal RP 0.54 1.1 0.09 1.88 1.61 5.21 15 4.02 6 9
Ryan Dull, Oak RP 0.3 0.58 0.09 1.39 2.16 4.52 23 3.85 7 16
Dellin Betances, NYY RP 1.2 -0.19 0.56 1.37 1.2 4.15 26 3.78 8 18
Roberto Osuna, Tor RP 0.46 -0.19 4.07 1.52 1.77 7.63 4 3.75 9 -5
Addison Reed, NYM RP 0.56 0.07 -0.07 1.57 1.58 3.71 34 3.71 10 24
Kelvin Herrera, KC RP 0.5 -0.45 0.72 1.42 1.56 3.76 31 3.49 11 20
Hector Neris, Phi RP 0.71 0.33 -0.07 1.39 1.36 3.71 33 3.45 12 21
Joe Blanton, LAD RP 0.32 0.33 -0.23 1.22 1.78 3.41 36 3.31 13 23
Nate Jones, CWS RP 0.4 0.58 0.25 1.33 1.59 4.14 28 3.31 14 14
Aroldis Chapman, ChC RP 0.36 0.07 4.07 1.3 1.58 7.37 6 3.23 15 -9
Mark Melancon, Wsh RP 0.05 -0.45 5.18 1.66 1.49 7.94 3 3.21 16 -13
Tyler Thornburg, Mil RP 0.46 0.33 0.41 1.29 1.4 3.88 30 3.14 17 13
David Phelps, Mia RP 0.87 0.84 0.25 1.38 0.81 4.15 27 3.06 18 9
Pedro Baez, LAD RP 0.36 0.07 -0.23 0.8 1.82 2.81 39 2.97 19 20
Dan Otero, Cle RP -0.08 0.07 -0.07 1.68 1.18 2.78 40 2.78 20 20
Raisel Iglesias, Cin RP 0.44 -0.45 0.09 1.47 0.77 2.32 52 2.68 21 31
Hector Rondon, ChC RP 0.15 -0.19 2.64 0.93 1.59 5.12 17 2.67 22 -5
Matt Andriese, TB RP 0.54 0.84 -0.07 0.8 1.28 3.39 37 2.62 23 14
Mike Montgomery, ChC RP 0.46 0.33 -0.23 1.44 0.66 2.65 43 2.55 24 19
Ryan Buchter, SD RP 0.5 0.07 -0.07 0.98 1.02 2.5 47 2.5 25 22
Shawn Kelley, Wsh RP 0.5 -0.45 0.72 0.89 1.01 2.68 42 2.41 26 16
Cam Bedrosian, LAA RP 0.15 -0.19 -0.07 1.55 0.66 2.1 59 2.36 27 32
Alex Colome, TB RP 0.23 -0.45 4.23 1.2 0.91 6.13 9 2.35 28 -19
Brad Hand, SD RP 0.75 0.07 -0.23 1.03 0.55 2.17 57 2.33 29 28
Derek Law, SF RP 0.03 0.33 -0.07 1.24 1.04 2.56 44 2.3 30 14
Luke Gregerson, Hou RP 0.23 0.07 2 0.59 1.35 4.24 25 2.17 31 -6
Neftali Feliz, Pit RP 0.19 0.33 -0.07 0.78 1.08 2.31 53 2.05 32 21
Fernando Rodney, Mia RP 0.25 -0.45 3.11 1.13 0.63 4.68 22 2.02 33 -11
Jake Diekman, Tex RP 0.09 0.07 0.25 0.68 1.25 2.33 51 2.01 34 17
Cody Allen, Cle RP 0.46 -0.19 3.43 0.65 0.82 5.17 16 1.93 35 -19
Kyle Barraclough, Mia RP 0.95 0.84 -0.23 0.83 0.12 2.52 46 1.91 36 10
Tony Barnette, Tex RP -0.12 0.84 -0.23 1.32 0.64 2.46 48 1.85 37 11
Will Harris, Hou RP 0.15 -0.45 1.68 0.91 0.76 3.06 38 1.83 38 0
Edwin Diaz, Sea RP 0.38 -0.7 1.04 1.01 0.43 2.16 58 1.82 39 19
Kevin Siegrist, StL RP 0.03 0.58 -0.07 0.73 1.06 2.33 50 1.82 40 10
Blake Treinen, Wsh RP 0.01 0.33 -0.07 1.34 0.39 1.99 60 1.73 41 19
Brandon Kintzler, Min RP -0.4 -0.7 1.68 1.18 0.95 2.7 41 1.72 42 -1
Tony Watson, Pit RP 0.01 -0.19 0.88 0.9 0.81 2.41 49 1.72 43 6
Steve Cishek, Sea RP 0.38 -0.19 3.75 0.47 0.83 5.24 14 1.68 44 -30
Hunter Strickland, SF RP 0.05 0.07 0.09 0.85 0.72 1.77 64 1.61 45 19
Jason Grilli, Tor RP 0.38 0.33 0.41 0.6 0.54 2.25 54 1.51 46 8
Sam Dyson, Tex RP -0.1 -0.45 4.07 1.06 0.49 5.08 18 1.46 47 -29
Craig Kimbrel, Bos RP 0.36 -0.19 3.11 0.47 0.61 4.36 24 1.44 48 -24
Wade Davis, KC RP -0.24 -0.45 3.11 1.11 0.54 4.08 29 1.42 49 -20
Mychal Givens, Bal RP 0.56 1.36 -0.23 0.77 0.08 2.54 45 1.41 50 -5
Jeurys Familia, NYM RP 0.34 -0.19 6.14 0.91 0.14 7.33 7 1.38 51 -44
Matt Bush, Tex RP -0.08 0.58 -0.07 0.71 0.75 1.89 62 1.38 52 10
Santiago Casilla, SF RP 0.3 -0.19 4.23 0.63 0.44 5.41 12 1.37 53 -41
Michael Feliz, Hou RP 0.71 1.1 -0.23 -0.01 0.65 2.22 55 1.35 54 1
Jeanmar Gomez, Phi RP -0.14 0.07 4.87 0.97 0.45 6.22 8 1.28 55 -47
Zach Duke, StL RP 0.15 -0.19 -0.07 0.97 0.12 0.97 70 1.23 56 14
Jeremy Jeffress, Tex RP -0.08 -0.19 4.07 1.1 0.16 5.07 19 1.19 57 -38
Ryan Pressly, Min RP 0.21 0.84 -0.07 0.6 0.28 1.86 63 1.09 58 5
Ken Giles, Hou RP 0.62 -0.45 0.09 0.34 0.12 0.72 73 1.08 59 14
Sean Doolittle, Oak RP -0.18 -0.19 0.41 0.5 0.62 1.16 69 0.94 60 9
Francisco Rodriguez, Det RP -0.12 -0.45 5.18 0.6 0.4 5.63 11 0.9 61 -50
Ryan Madson, Oak RP -0.03 0.33 3.75 0.51 0.42 4.97 20 0.89 62 -42
A.J. Ramos, Mia RP 0.25 -0.45 4.87 0.63 -0.02 5.29 13 0.87 63 -50
Adam Ottavino, Col RP -0.55 -0.7 -0.07 0.84 0.52 0.03 80 0.8 64 16
Koji Uehara, Bos RP 0.15 -0.19 0.72 -0.14 0.76 1.31 68 0.78 65 3
Tyler Clippard, NYY RP 0.23 0.07 -0.07 0.26 0.24 0.73 72 0.73 66 6
Erasmo Ramirez, TB RP 0.19 1.1 -0.07 0.17 0.28 1.67 67 0.64 67 0
Jim Johnson, Atl RP -0.01 -0.19 1.36 0.41 0.19 1.76 65 0.59 68 -3
Brad Ziegler, Bos RP 0.01 0.07 3.11 0.95 -0.39 3.74 32 0.56 69 -37
Juan Nicasio, Pit RP 1.3 1.61 -0.23 -0.6 -0.4 1.68 66 0.3 70 -4
Brandon Maurer, SD RP 0.34 -0.7 0.72 -0.34 0.29 0.3 76 0.28 71 5
David Robertson, CWS RP 0.27 0.07 4.55 0.16 -0.23 4.83 21 0.21 72 -51
Tony Cingrani, Cin RP -0.12 -0.19 2.16 0.32 0 2.17 56 0.2 73 -17
Mauricio Cabrera, Atl RP -0.47 -0.19 0.25 0.39 0.24 0.22 78 0.16 74 4
Joakim Soria, KC RP 0.17 0.33 -0.07 0.11 -0.27 0.26 77 0 75 2
Darren O'Day, Bal RP -0.22 0.07 0.25 0.09 0.01 0.2 79 -0.12 76 3
Arodys Vizcaino, Atl RP 0.07 -0.45 1.36 0.21 -0.59 0.6 74 -0.31 77 -3
Carlos Estevez, Col RP 0.13 -0.19 1.52 -0.59 -0.02 0.85 71 -0.48 78 -7
Jonathan Papelbon, Wsh RP -0.26 -0.19 2.79 -0.07 -0.33 1.94 61 -0.66 79 -18
Jake McGee, Col RP -0.26 -0.7 2.16 -0.34 -0.49 0.36 75 -1.1 80 -5

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
And only 5 of those relievers made it into this edition's top 10: Miller, Oh, Britton, Jansen, Brach
Dellin Betances and Ryan Dull (who were #12 and #13 in the June edition) make the top 10 for the second straight month.

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, and now is back at #1. Miller has done this with incredible season totals: 1.47ERA 0.73WHIP 90K. He also has a 14.7K/9 and a 11.25 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 15 overall RP this season and, like Miller, has ranked inside the top 4 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, Raisel Iglesias, and Cam Bedrosian inside the top 50. Iglesias has a 0.87ERA 0.84WHIP and 36K in 31 innings since joining the Reds bullpen back in late June. Those who lost the most value in dropping their win totals include Brad Brach(#15 to #27), David Phelps(#27 to #37), Kyle Barraclough(#46 to #59), Tony Barnette(#48 to #61), and Michael Feliz(#55 to #68). Brach and Feliz each have 7 wins while the others have 6 a piece. Mychal Givens saw the biggest hit to his value as taking away his 8 wins dropped him from #45 to #65.

The most eye opening data came from removing saves.

As noted earlier, eliminating saves push Miller and Oh up to #1 and #2. Britton and Jansen (who are #1 and #2 with saves being accounted for) slip 2 spots each to #3 and #4 respectively. Chris Devenski, whose 30 spot jump is the 3rd highest of the month, lands a #5 ranking as a Pure Reliever. His 2.30ERA 1.00WHIP and 74K have been mostly unnoticed as he is available in over 95% of leagues. Fantasy owners who are looking for a relief pitcher who can put up solid innings and a close to K per inning would be wise the pick up the Astros rookie.

Just like last month, the top 20 standard RP and the top 20 Pure Relievers differ greatly. 12 of the top 20 Pure Relievers rank outside the top 20 when saves are involved. In fact, 8 of those 12 pitchers rank 30 or worse when saves are included. Bedrosian (#59 to #27) moves up the most (32 spots) without saves. Iglesias (#52 to #21) is just behind him with a 31 rank increase.

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 redeemed himself a bit in the 2nd update, but still fell 42 spots. This time around, the Mets closer, whose loses his league leading 40 saves, drops 44 spots from #7 to #51. Since the All Star break he has put up 9 saves with 19K, but his 3.77ERA and 1.53WHIP over that span are damning to owners looking to improve their standing in those categories. It is particularly frustrating when there is a much better reliever, Addison Reed, in the same bullpen. Jeanmar Gomez fell 47 spots. Familia and Gomez lost the most value of any top 10 standard relievers. Gomez's fall can also be attributed to his low strikeout total which negatively impact his value. The biggest drop this month belongs to David Robertson who falls from #21 to #72 (51 spots). Both Francisco Rodriguez and A.J. Ramos lost 50 spots of value without their save and win totals. Others who's value noticeably dropped without saves include:
Alex Colome #9 to #28
Cody Allen #16 to #35
Steve Cishek #14 to #44
Santiago Casilla #12 to #53
Jeremy Jeffress #19 to #57
Ryan Madison #20 to #62
Brad Ziegler
#32 to #69

In addition to those pitchers, Sam Dyson, Craig Kimbrel, and Wade Davis all lost 20 or more spots without saves. Carlos Estevez, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jake McGee land at the bottom of the Pure Reliever rankings. All 3 NEGATIVELY impact their owners without saves.

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!