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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Pure Reliever Rankings

A look at the best relief pitchers in baseball MINUS those pesky saves.

Archie Bradley and Fernando Rodney were on opposite sides of the spectrum when you compare standard RP ranks with my Pure Reliever rankings.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 MLB season is officially over. With that, it’s time to take a look at the best relievers in baseball. For new readers, here’s a little background about what makes up the Pure Reliever Rankings.

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.

Top 50 Pure Relievers of 2017

PLAYER K W SV ERA WHIP PR Std Rank PR - Wins&Saves Pure RP Rank Change
PLAYER K W SV ERA WHIP PR Std Rank PR - Wins&Saves Pure RP Rank Change
Craig Kimbrel 1.17 0.36 4.89 2.06 2.7 11.19 2 5.94 1 1
Kenley Jansen 0.89 0.36 5.77 2.12 2.41 11.56 1 5.43 2 -1
Chad Green 0.79 0.36 -0.24 1.78 2.46 5.16 20 5.04 3 17
Felipe Rivero 0.54 0.36 2.84 2.04 1.99 7.78 5 4.58 4 1
Andrew Miller 0.66 0.14 0.06 1.89 1.93 4.68 23 4.48 5 18
David Robertson 0.71 1.22 1.82 1.76 2 7.5 7 4.46 6 1
Brad Hand 0.81 -0.07 2.84 1.75 1.88 7.2 8 4.43 7 1
Yusmeiro Petit 0.76 0.36 0.35 1.42 2.01 4.9 22 4.19 8 14
Corey Knebel 1.17 -0.51 5.48 1.97 0.82 8.94 3 3.97 9 -6
Chris Devenski 0.74 1.01 0.35 1.35 1.86 5.31 19 3.95 10 9
Blake Parker 0.51 -0.07 0.94 1.25 2.04 4.67 24 3.8 11 13
Pat Neshek 0.23 0.36 -0.09 1.79 1.78 4.06 33 3.79 12 21
Ryan Madson 0.2 0.36 0.06 1.55 1.95 4.11 31 3.69 13 18
Matt Albers 0.13 0.79 0.06 1.73 1.8 4.51 27 3.66 14 13
Archie Bradley 0.4 -0.07 -0.09 1.95 1.29 3.46 38 3.62 15 23
Anthony Swarzak 0.59 0.57 0.06 1.58 1.38 4.18 30 3.55 16 14
Mike Minor 0.54 0.57 0.64 1.41 1.47 4.64 25 3.43 17 8
Mychal Givens 0.54 1.01 -0.24 1.27 1.37 3.95 34 3.18 18 16
Raisel Iglesias 0.61 -0.07 3.87 1.43 1.05 6.88 13 3.08 19 -6
Alex Claudio 0.01 0.14 1.38 1.52 1.44 4.49 28 2.97 20 8
Roberto Osuna 0.46 -0.07 5.48 0.65 1.85 8.36 4 2.95 21 -17
Ken Giles 0.46 -0.51 4.75 1.33 1.14 7.18 9 2.94 22 -13
Dominic Leone 0.43 -0.07 -0.09 1.29 1.2 2.75 46 2.91 23 23
Carl Edwards Jr. 0.64 0.36 -0.24 0.93 1.31 3.01 42 2.89 24 18
Chris Rusin 0.26 0.36 0.06 1.44 1.15 3.26 39 2.84 25 14
Adam Warren -0.02 -0.07 -0.09 1.2 1.63 2.65 49 2.81 26 23
Addison Reed 0.35 -0.29 2.55 1.16 1.28 5.04 21 2.78 27 -6
Juan Nicasio 0.28 0.36 0.64 1.28 1.12 3.68 35 2.68 28 7
Sean Doolittle 0.11 -0.29 3.28 0.84 1.53 5.48 18 2.49 29 -11
Wade Davis 0.4 0.14 4.45 1.26 0.71 6.96 11 2.37 30 -19
Cody Allen 0.61 -0.07 4.16 0.98 0.73 6.41 15 2.32 31 -16
Josh Fields 0.08 0.36 0.06 0.9 1.3 2.7 47 2.28 32 15
Brandon Morrow -0.09 0.57 0.06 1.08 1.16 2.79 45 2.16 33 12
Dellin Betances 0.74 -0.07 1.23 0.93 0.43 3.25 40 2.09 34 6
Edwin Diaz 0.56 0.14 4.75 0.73 0.75 6.93 12 2.04 35 -23
Ryan Tepera 0.43 0.79 0.06 0.59 0.94 2.81 44 1.96 36 8
Brad Brach 0.25 0.14 2.4 0.82 0.84 4.45 29 1.91 37 -8
Arodys Vizcaino 0.15 0.36 1.82 0.92 0.84 4.08 32 1.9 38 -6
Hector Neris 0.51 0.14 3.58 1.01 0.36 5.6 17 1.88 39 -22
Shane Greene 0.3 0.14 1.08 1.18 0.4 3.1 41 1.88 40 1
Brandon Kintzler -0.27 0.14 4.02 0.96 0.81 5.66 16 1.5 41 -25
Aroldis Chapman 0.23 0.14 2.99 0.61 0.65 4.62 26 1.49 42 -16
Alex Colome 0.05 -0.29 6.65 0.76 0.56 7.74 6 1.38 43 -37
Greg Holland 0.25 -0.07 5.77 0.45 0.66 7.06 10 1.36 44 -34
Trevor Rosenthal 0.35 -0.07 1.38 0.49 0.43 2.56 50 1.25 45 5
Justin Wilson 0.41 0.14 1.67 0.57 0.17 2.96 43 1.15 46 -3
Fernando Rodney 0.16 0.36 5.48 0.07 0.5 6.58 14 0.74 47 -33
Bud Norris 0.31 -0.29 2.55 0.09 0.01 2.67 48 0.41 48 0
AJ Ramos 0.28 -0.29 3.72 0.22 -0.26 3.67 36 0.24 49 -13
Kelvin Herrera 0.01 -0.07 3.58 0.07 -0.02 3.56 37 0.05 50 -13

Interesting Finds

Craig Kimbrel finishes 2017 as the #1 Pure Reliever in baseball. He tops Kenley Jansen who finishes #2 despite Jansen being the #1 RP when saves are calculated. Both closers had tremendous seasons but Kimbrel’s advantage in strikeouts (126 to 109) coupled with a slightly better WHIP (0.68 to 0.75) give the Red Sox closers the edge.

Andrew Miller, last year’s top Pure Reliever, finishes 5th this season. He had 13 less appearances in 2017 compared to 2016. Even then, taking down Kimbrel might have been out of the question. Still, this ranking system benefits Miller greatly, just as it is meant to do. Miller is 18 spots higher as a Pure Reliever than a standard RP in fantasy.

Archie Bradley received the biggest boost in value without saves involved. The Diamondbacks reliever just up 23 spots from #38 to Pure Reliever #15. Bradley appeared in 63 games posting a 1.73 ERA 1.04 WHIP and a 9.7 K/9. This comes a year after having a 5.02 ERA in 26 games as a starter. The Diamondbacks might have found their closer of the future. Fernando Rodney is a free agent after this season. If Rodney is no longer a Diamondback in 2018, Bradley has a ton of fantasy appeal heading into next season’s drafts.

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. When I first wrote this article back in June of 2016, Familia was piling up saves for the Mets but his stats outside of that category were dreadful. When I removed his value tied up in wins and saves, Familia dropped a whopping 70 spots between his standard fantasy rank and his Pure Reliever rank. Thus, this section of the article is named after him.

Back during the All-Star break update of these rankings we had a pretty even 3-way tie between Jim Johnson, Alex Colome, and Fernando Rodney for the Familia of 2017. Johnson was removed from the closers role. Colome and Rodney both have strong cases for this ‘award’. Greg Holland has even joined the fray. I’m giving the 2017 Jeurys Familia award to Alex Colome! Colome led all of baseball with 47 saves but had a mediocre 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He also only struck out 58 over 66.2 IP. A K/9 under 8.0 is not that of an elite RP. Colome finished the season as the #6 RP in standard scoring. My Pure Reliever rankings drop him 37 spots to the #43 Pure RP.

Here are a few relievers who lost the most value without their saves:
Colome #6 to #43
Roberto Osuna #4 to #21
Edwin Diaz #12 to #35
Brandon Kintzler #17 to #41
Greg Holland #9 to #44
Fernando Rodney #15 to #47

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 most closers are unjustly overrated. This data can also be used to show how well some under the radar non-closers are pitching. 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!