Friday, March 14, 2008

Matt's Stats: Baseball Preview Edition

It seems like spring training just began but we are now only a week and a half away from the exciting Japan opener. With that in mind, we are now down to the final positional preview of the year. This last week we did the starting pitchers rankings (I still don't get all the love for Chris Young in the comment section, he is definitely above average, but not a top 5 pitcher in the league) and this week we will conclude with the relief pitchers. There are many differing ways of thought on drafting relievers. Some draft them early and often, and some wait for the inevitable closers that will be available on the waiver wire throughout the year. Personally, I like to have a few big name closers but would never want to be the first to take one. Between the top closer and the 10th closer there isn't much of a difference, but I still believe in taking a big one. What I try to do is wait until closers are starting to be taken and then after about 4 are gone I make my move and get one of the big name closers. I usually prefer to take three closers, with 2 being upper echelon closers and one later on in the draft, maybe one of the bottom more average closers, leading to a high probability of winning the saves category each week. With that in mind here are the top 5 Relievers in each league this season:

NL Relievers:

1) Takashi Saito (RP - Los Angeles Dodgers) - Saito would not be my top choice for closer if forming an expansion team today, but he is the top Fantasy closer this year in the NL. Saito's stats in his two MLB seasons are much better then anyone could have expected when he arrived in America two seasons ago. In 2006 he was 6-2 with 24 saves, 107 K's in 78.1 innings, with a 2.07 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. In 2007, Saito improved on most of those numbers with a 2-1 record, 39 saves, 78 K's in 64.1 innings, with an impressive 1.40 ERA and 0.72 WHIP. Whether it was Wetteland or Mariano, Torre always seems to get the most out of his closer and Saito should be no exception. Look for 40 saves and the lowest ERA and WHIP of any closer in the NL.

2) Francisco Cordero (RP - Cincinnati Reds) - For whatever reason many have criticized Cordero's signing with Cincy, but he is still one of the best closers in the league. Last year in Milwaukee, Cordero had 44 Saves (his second season over 40 saves), and totaled 86 K's in 63.1 innings. Cordero's ERA and WHIP may not be what Saito's are (2.98 and 1.11), but they are still respectable and Cordero should be one of the first relievers off the board in the NL.

3) Billy Wagner (RP - New York Mets) - Wagner is not as dominant with the Mets as he was in his early years with Houston, but he is still one of the top relievers in the NL. The Mets will win plenty of games this year, and if their injuries continue they will be in plenty of close games, making it very likely Wagner gets more save opportunities than last season. Wagner had 34 saves in 2007 and 40 in 2006, barring another late season Mets collapse in 2008 look for Wagner to get closer to 40 saves and about 90 strikeouts.

4) Trevor Hoffman (RP - San Diego Padres) - Hoffman may be old, but as long as you don't tell him your Fantasy season is on the line, he will be able to get you a lot of saves. Hoffman had 42 saves last year, his 4th season in a row and 9th season in his career with over 40 saves.

5) Jose Valverde (RP - Houston Astros) - Valverde broke out last year and led the MLB in saves with 47, but is no higher on this list because of him playing on a possible last place team in Houston. Valverde should be good again, but expect less save opportunities during the season. Also, probably meaningless but of interest over his 5 seasons in the majors: 2003 - 2.15 ERA and 0.99 WHIP, 2004 - 4.25 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, 2005 - 2.44 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, 2006 - 5.84 ERA and 1.46 WHIP, 2007 - 2.66 ERA and 1.12 WHIP...Will this pattern continue in 2008? Everyone knows relievers change a lot from year to year so has Valverde turned the table on his career or is he due for another off season? Only time will tell.

AL Relievers:

1) Joe Nathan (RP - Minnesota Twins) - Nathan is the best closer in the majors and there is no reason not to expect another big season in 2008. Since becoming a closer in 2004, Nathan has had 44, 43, 36, and 37 Saves, with ERAs of 1.62, 2.70, 1.58, and 1.88, and WHIPs of 0.98, 0.97, 0.79, and 1.02. And that's without even mentioning that he can get up to 20 more K's then innings pitched in any season. It'll cost you an early pick but Nathan is the best there is when drafting a closer.

2) Jonathon Papelbon (RP - Boston Red Sox) - In 2 seasons as a closer, Papelbon has totals of 35 and 37 Saves, ERA's of 0.92 and 1.85, and WHIPs of 0.78 and 0.77. Papelbon will also help you in the strikeout category as he totalled 84 strikeouts in only 58.1 innings last season. Papelbon also got to show off his dominance in the playoffs last year, possibly boosting his already high average draft position. Papelbon is an amazing closer and should be one of the first relievers taken in all drafts. Also don't forget to move Papelbon up if your league gives bonus points for dancing.

3) J.J. Putz (RP - Seattle Mariners) - Last year Putz was 6-1 with 40 saves, 82 K's in 71.2 innings, a 1.38 ERA and 0.70 WHIP, giving him one of the best years for a closer in 2007. Thanks to the Bedard acquisition Seattle should be even better this year. Expect Putz to get plenty of save opportunities, making him an excellent pick in 2008.

4) Francisco Rodriguez (RP - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) - K-Rod had 40 saves in 2007, his third consecutive season with at least 40 saves. Rodriguez is one of the best relievers at helping your strikeout total after getting at least 90 K's for 5 consecutive seasons. Also if you want to go by the Valverde every other season logic, 2003 - 3.03 ERA, 2004 - 1.82 ERA, 2005 - 2.67 ERA, 2006 - 1.73 ERA, 2007 - 2.81 ERA, 2008 - an ERA in the 1's? The AL has much better relievers then the NL, so in all MLB leagues, look for K-Rod to be the 4th closer off the board.

5) Bobby Jenks (RP - Chicago White Sox) - After exploding onto the scene in the 2005 Playoffs, Jenks has totalled over 40 saves in both seasons he has pitched. Last year, while the White Sox were a bad team, Jenks had one of his best seasons pitching to a 2.77 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP. You know what you get with Jenks, it may be ugly at times but overall the numbers will be there at the end of the season.

That's all for the positional preview of the 2008 Fantasy Baseball season. I hope everyone enjoyed it and would like to wish everyone good luck in all of their drafts this season! As always if anyone has any questions specific to their teams or leagues, post them in the comments section and I will be happy to answer them. Have a Great Weekend!!

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