clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Pure Reliever Rankings

It’s that time of year again! Who are the best relievers in baseball without those pesky saves?

How did the reigning Pure Reliever of the Year fair at the quarter mark of 2017?
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 MLB season is officially entering its 2nd quarter. With that, it’s time to take a look at the best relievers in baseball to this point. For new readers, here’s a little background into what goes into 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.

Pure Reliever Rankings

PLAYER, TEAM K W SV ERA WHIP PR PR Rank PR - Wins&Saves Pure RP Rank Change
PLAYER, TEAM K W SV ERA WHIP PR PR Rank PR - Wins&Saves Pure RP Rank Change
Craig Kimbrel, Bos 0.82 0.45 4.68 1.32 2.2 9.48 2 4.35 1 1
Andrew Miller, Cle 0.45 0.45 -0.26 1.61 1.55 3.8 17 3.61 2 15
Felipe Rivero, Pit 0.24 -0.16 -0.26 1.58 1.5 2.9 29 3.32 3 26
Chris Devenski, Hou 1.25 0.45 0.57 0.61 1.46 4.33 12 3.31 4 8
Anthony Swarzak, CWS 0.08 0.45 -0.26 1.14 2.08 3.48 20 3.29 5 15
Corey Knebel, Mil 0.93 -0.76 0.98 1.5 0.75 3.4 23 3.18 6 17
Justin Wilson, Det 0.5 -0.16 0.98 1 1.58 3.91 16 3.09 7 9
Wade Davis, ChC 0.08 0.45 3.45 1.51 1.48 6.96 3 3.06 8 -5
Raisel Iglesias, Cin 0.24 -0.16 2.62 1.55 0.97 5.23 7 2.77 9 -2
Greg Holland, Col 0.29 -0.76 7.56 1.24 1.2 9.53 1 2.73 10 -9
Brad Hand, SD 0.56 -0.76 -0.26 1.12 1.05 1.71 53 2.73 11 42
Kenley Jansen, LAD 0.61 0.45 3.04 0.92 1.18 6.2 4 2.71 12 -8
Archie Bradley, Ari 0.34 -0.16 -0.26 1.14 1.11 2.18 40 2.6 13 27
Carl Edwards Jr., ChC 0.18 -0.16 -0.26 1.14 1.23 2.14 41 2.56 14 27
Mike Minor, KC 0.18 -0.16 -0.26 1.09 1.24 2.1 42 2.52 15 27
Nick Goody, Cle -0.35 -0.76 -0.26 1.45 1.38 1.46 62 2.48 16 46
Tyler Clippard, NYY 0.34 -0.76 0.16 1.06 1.07 1.87 48 2.47 17 31
Jose Ramirez, Atl -0.19 0.45 -0.26 1.14 1.47 2.61 31 2.42 18 13
Chase Whitley, TB -0.35 -0.16 0.16 1.22 1.5 2.37 38 2.37 19 19
Yusmeiro Petit, LAA 0.5 -0.16 -0.26 0.92 0.88 1.9 47 2.32 20 27
Tommy Kahnle, CWS 0.45 -0.76 -0.26 0.84 1.02 1.3 64 2.32 21 43
Joe Biagini, Tor 0.34 -0.16 0.16 0.48 1.49 2.31 39 2.31 22 17
Erasmo Ramirez, TB 0.13 0.45 -0.26 0.7 1.47 2.5 36 2.31 23 13
Adam Warren, NYY 0.08 -0.16 -0.26 0.88 1.31 1.86 49 2.28 24 25
Chris Rusin, Col 0.02 0.45 0.16 0.99 1.27 2.89 30 2.28 25 5
Ryan Tepera, Tor 0.29 1.05 0.16 0.61 1.33 3.44 22 2.23 26 -4
Josh Fields, LAD 0.13 -0.76 0.16 1.24 0.83 1.6 58 2.2 27 31
Bud Norris, LAA 0.4 -0.16 3.04 0.62 1.04 4.94 9 2.06 28 -19
Wade LeBlanc, Pit -0.03 1.05 0.16 0.97 0.98 3.13 28 1.92 29 -1
Addison Reed, NYM 0.29 -0.76 2.21 0.47 1.09 3.3 25 1.85 30 -5
Matt Bush, Tex 0.02 0.45 1.8 1.05 0.7 4.03 14 1.78 31 -17
Trevor Rosenthal, StL 0.4 -0.16 0.98 0.49 0.83 2.54 34 1.72 32 2
Brad Peacock, Hou 0.08 0.45 -0.26 1.05 0.58 1.9 46 1.71 33 13
Alec Asher, Bal 0.02 -0.16 -0.26 0.99 0.68 1.29 65 1.71 34 31
Michael Feliz, Hou 0.18 -0.16 -0.26 0.76 0.74 1.28 66 1.7 35 31
Alex Colome, TB -0.19 -0.76 4.27 0.8 1.04 5.16 8 1.65 36 -28
Cody Allen, Cle 0.4 -0.76 4.68 0.98 0.18 5.48 6 1.56 37 -31
Matt Albers, Wsh -0.35 0.45 0.57 0.89 1.01 2.56 33 1.54 38 -5
Dellin Betances, NYY 0.24 1.05 0.57 1.02 0.27 3.15 27 1.53 39 -12
Wandy Peralta, Cin 0.24 0.45 -0.26 0.42 0.79 1.64 55 1.45 40 15
Joakim Soria, KC 0.24 0.45 -0.26 0.95 0.26 1.64 56 1.45 41 15
Alex Wilson, Det -0.51 -0.16 0.57 1.03 0.9 1.83 50 1.42 42 8
Nick Vincent, Sea -0.24 0.45 -0.26 0.61 1.04 1.6 57 1.41 43 14
Jerry Blevins, NYM 0.02 0.45 -0.26 0.76 0.61 1.59 59 1.4 44 15
Jose Torres, SD 0.24 0.45 0.16 0.05 1.11 2 44 1.39 45 -1
James Pazos, Sea 0.34 -0.16 -0.26 0.77 0.26 0.96 75 1.38 46 29
Arodys Vizcaino, Atl 0.02 0.45 -0.26 0.58 0.74 1.53 61 1.34 47 14
Jim Johnson, Atl -0.08 0.45 3.04 0.45 0.97 4.82 11 1.33 48 -37
Joe Kelly, Bos -0.41 0.45 -0.26 1.03 0.54 1.36 63 1.17 49 14
Alex Claudio, Tex -0.62 -0.16 0.16 0.85 0.9 1.13 69 1.13 50 19
Bryan Shaw, Cle -0.14 -0.16 0.16 1.01 0.24 1.11 71 1.11 51 20
David Robertson, CWS 0.08 1.05 1.8 0.47 0.53 3.92 15 1.07 52 -37
Brad Brach, Bal 0.08 -0.76 3.45 0.23 0.75 3.75 18 1.06 53 -35
Brandon Kintzler, Min -0.46 0.45 4.27 0.98 0.43 5.67 5 0.95 54 -49
Michael Lorenzen, Cin 0.02 0.45 0.16 0.34 0.59 1.56 60 0.95 55 5
Danny Farquhar, TB -0.19 0.45 -0.26 0.56 0.57 1.13 70 0.94 56 14
Will Harris, Hou -0.24 -0.16 0.16 0.61 0.55 0.91 76 0.91 57 19
Ryan Madson, Oak -0.24 -0.16 0.16 0.76 0.37 0.89 78 0.89 58 20
Keone Kela, Tex 0.02 -0.16 0.16 0.09 0.78 0.89 79 0.89 59 20
Roberto Osuna, Tor -0.14 0.45 2.21 0.31 0.7 3.54 19 0.88 60 -41
Derek Law, SF -0.03 1.05 1.39 0.72 0.16 3.29 26 0.85 61 -35
Ken Giles, Hou 0.02 -0.16 4.27 0.21 0.5 4.84 10 0.73 62 -52
Jorge De La Rosa, Ari -0.3 0.45 -0.26 0.6 0.42 0.91 77 0.72 63 14
Hunter Strickland, SF -0.14 -0.16 -0.26 1.05 -0.28 0.22 83 0.64 64 19
Ryan Buchter, SD -0.19 0.45 0.16 0.21 0.62 1.24 67 0.63 65 2
Mychal Givens, Bal 0.02 2.26 -0.26 0.34 0.24 2.61 32 0.61 66 -34
Hector Neris, Phi -0.14 -0.16 1.39 0.28 0.36 1.74 52 0.51 67 -15
Cam Bedrosian, LAA -0.62 -0.16 0.98 0.62 0.37 1.2 68 0.38 68 0
Nate Jones, CWS -0.3 -0.16 -0.26 0.47 0.06 -0.17 87 0.25 69 18
Koda Glover, Wsh -0.57 -0.76 0.98 0.4 0.41 0.46 80 0.24 70 10
Matt Barnes, Bos -0.03 1.05 -0.26 0.14 0.1 1 73 0.21 71 2
Aroldis Chapman, NYY 0.02 -0.16 2.62 0.18 -0.15 2.52 35 0.06 72 -37
Kelvin Herrera, KC -0.08 -0.16 3.45 -0.02 0.15 3.34 24 0.05 73 -49
Edwin Diaz, Sea 0.08 -0.16 2.62 -0.16 0 2.38 37 -0.08 74 -37
Tony Watson, Pit -0.35 0.45 3.86 0.59 -0.35 4.19 13 -0.12 75 -62
Joaquin Benoit, Phi -0.24 -0.16 0.16 -0.11 0.23 -0.12 86 -0.12 76 10
Mark Melancon, SF -0.57 -0.76 3.04 0.37 -0.02 2.06 43 -0.22 77 -34
Seung-Hwan Oh, StL -0.24 -0.16 3.86 0.39 -0.39 3.46 21 -0.24 78 -57
Santiago Casilla, Oak -0.35 -0.16 2.21 -0.25 0.33 1.79 51 -0.26 79 -28
AJ Ramos, Mia -0.19 -0.16 1.39 0.1 -0.18 0.97 74 -0.26 80 -6
Darren O'Day, Bal -0.19 -0.16 0.57 0.02 -0.12 0.12 84 -0.29 81 3
Zach Britton, Bal -0.73 -0.76 1.8 0.63 -0.52 0.42 81 -0.62 82 -1
Jeurys Familia, NYM -0.57 -0.16 0.98 0.07 -0.34 -0.01 85 -0.83 83 2
Shawn Kelley, Wsh -0.14 1.05 0.98 -0.52 -0.29 1.08 72 -0.95 84 -12
Neftali Feliz, Mil -0.3 -0.16 3.04 -0.66 -0.01 1.91 45 -0.97 85 -40
Fernando Rodney, Ari -0.14 -0.16 3.86 -1.25 -0.64 1.67 54 -2.03 86 -32
Francisco Rodriguez, Det -0.19 -0.16 2.62 -1 -0.9 0.37 82 -2.09 87 -5
Rankings are through May 21

Interesting Finds

Craig Kimbrel claims the top Pure Reliever spot at the quarter mark of this season. He’s currently the #2 RP when saves and wins are factored in but moves up 1 spot without those stats. The biggest positive for Kimbrel is the incredible control. After walking 5.1 per 9 in 2017, Kimbrel has walked just 2 batters in 19.2 innings. His K rate is also the highest it’s been since 2012. He has a 0.92 ERA and 0.41 WHIP and has earned the title of best Pure Reliever.

The reigning 2016 Pure Reliever of the Year, Andrew Miller, take a backseat to Kimbrel but still sits at the #2 Pure Reliever at the quarter mark of 2017. Because it is still early in the year, the rest of the top 10 has some interesting names. Felipe Rivero, Anthony Swarzak, and Corey Knebel all make the top 10 Pure Relievers despite being ranked at 20 or worse in standard fantasy rankings. Rivero and Swarzak have incredible ratios to help boast their value. Knebel has the season most strikeouts of any relievers so far, behind Chris Devenski. Devenski lands at #4 in the Pure Reliever rankings.

Taking away wins most greatly impacts Mychael Givens. Givens leads all relievers with 5 wins on the season despite a 3.47 ERA. He drops 49 spots from standard rankings when wins are no longer factored in.

The most eye opening data came from removing saves.

As noted earlier, eliminating saves and wins pushed Kimbrel and Miller to #1 and #2 respectively in the Pure Reliever Rankings. Among the top 10 RP in standard fantasy, only Kimbrel, Wade Davis, Raisel Iglesias, and Greg Holland remain in the top 10 Pure Relievers. Kenley Jansen is just outside this group at Pure Reliever #12. Holland has pitched very well but his league leading 19 saves influence his standard value far greater than any other closer.

Of the remaining 5 top 10 RP in standard fantasy, only Bud Norris cracks the top 30 Pure Relievers. Let’s take a closer look at those pitchers in the next section of the article. It’s time for the Jeurys Familia Problem!

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.

So who’s the Jeurys Familia of 2017? Look no further than Pirates closer Tony Watson. One could make the case for Francisco Rodriguez or even Fernando Rodney, but neither of those relievers ranked very highly in standard scoring to begin with. Watson is the #13 RP on the season but loses 62 spots without saves and wins to end up as the #75 Pure Reliever.

Historically, (1 year of data, I mean) low strikeout pitchers do very poorly in this study. It should come as no surprise among the biggest drops in the Pure Reliever rankings Watson and Brandon Kintzler are both among the top 5 worst drops from standard to Pure Reliever.

14 relievers are actually negatively impacting your fantasy teams when wins and save are no longer factored in. A few can be written off due to them missing time with injuries. Among those 14 are Watson, Edwin Diaz, Seung-Hwan Oh, AJ Ramos, Rodney and K-Rod. Oh was consistantly among the best Pure Relievers last season. 2017 has been a complete 180 for him. Here are a few relievers who lost the most value without their saves:
Greg Holland #1 to #10
Bud Norris #9 to #28
Alex Colome #8 to #36
Cody Allen #6 to #37
Santiago Casilla #22 to #63
Brandon Kintzler #5 to #54
Ken Giles #10 to #62
Tony Watson #13 to #75

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 and see you at the All-Star Break!