10 Middle Relievers for 2012
Apr 2, 2012 by Dan Wheelock
Middle reliever is the most unheralded position in baseball. In real life, middle relievers are usually the weakest links of their team’s pitching staff and in fantasy baseball they are usually ignored altogether. In roto leagues you would be very wise to draft one or two middle relievers on your team, especially in deeper mixed leagues and in NL or AL-only leagues. Keep in mind that in head to head points leagues middle relievers are pretty useless. They are not as valuable in head to head roto leagues as either, unless your league allows daily lineup changes.
Some middle relievers can help out your ratios pretty significantly while others can give you some rogue saves. There is constant closer turnover in the MLB. Guys like Javy Guerra and Ryan Madson started 2011 as setup men but they were closing games before too long. Roto teams are always chasing saves so why not get ahead of the curve and draft a couple middle relievers that have a chance at getting you some saves.
Below are ten middle relievers that will be very valuable in 2012 because of their great ratios, strikeout rate and/or save opportunities.
Mike Adams, TEX – It truly is a travesty that Adams has never gotten an opportunity to close. The man has a career 2.11 ERA and 0.99 WHIP! It looked like he may get his chance this season with Heath Bell likely leaving town, but he was traded to the Rangers late last year. In 2012, Adams will be setting up Joe Nathan, who had a 4.84 ERA in 2011 after returning from Tommy John surgery. Nathan is now 37 years old and I will be surprised if he can make it through the season. Adams will no doubt get some saves this season but he should be owned anyway for his ratios and strikeout contributions.
Jonny Venters, ATL – Venters will probably not more than five saves this season since Craig Kimbrel is the unquestioned closer in Atlanta. That doesn’t mean he’s not valuable, however. Venters has posted a sub-2.00 ERA in his first two seasons and had a 1.09 WHIP in 2011. He has a career 9.9 K/9 ratio as well. Venters has also pitched over 80 innings each of the past two seasons which is nice because the great ratios are weighted more against your totals than, say, 50 innings would be.
Mark Melancon, BOS – Melancon was another of the middle relievers that emerged as a closer in 2011. He had a 2.78 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with 66 strikeouts in 74.1 innings. He was traded to Boston in the offseason and is now the primary setup man to Andrew Bailey. Bailey is extremely injury-prone and is already battling a thumb issue. I wouldn’t be shocked if Melancon ends the year with 10-to-15 saves.
Vinnie Pestano, CLE – Pestano had a superb 2011. He struck out 12.2 batters per nine innings to go along with a 2.32 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He is next in line for saves in Cleveland and Chris Perez doesn’t exactly have a long leash. Perez likes to make things interesting every time out and he is also recovering from an oblique injury. I can see Pestano taking over for Perez at some point this season.
Tyler Clippard, WAS – Clippard somehow had 19 decisions (11 wins and 8 losses) in 2010 despite not starting a game. That was obviously a big fluke. His record was just 3-0 in 2011. Clippard improved his ratios drastically from 2010 to 2011. His ERA went from 3.07 to 1.83 and his WHIP went from 1.21 to 0.84. He has a career strikeout rate of 10.0/9 which is also great. Drew Storen, the Nationals’ closer, will start 2012 on the DL so Clippard will get at least a few saves this year.
David Robertson, NYY – Robertson appears to be the closer of the future for the Yankees, assuming Mariano Rivera retires sometime in the next 10 years. He had a higher WHIP (1.13) than ERA (1.08) in 2011, something you don’t see very ofteN. Robertson also struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings. He struck out 100 hitters in 2011, as many as some starters. Robertson could get some saves if Mo needs a day off here and there.
Kenley Jansen, LAD – Jansen struck out an obscene 16.1 batters per nine innings in 2011, 96 total. His ratios were also serviceable (2.85 ERA and 1.04 WHIP). He could take over for Javy Guerra if Guerra falters at some point this season. Jansen, a converted catcher, has the stuff of a closer and would be helpful to any roto team.
Greg Holland, KC – Joakim Soria will have to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2012 season. The Royals have yet to name a closer and one of the candidates is Greg Holland. Jonathan Broxton is expected to get the job because he has a lot of experience in that capacity. Holland will put up better numbers, however. He posted a 1.80 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in 60 innings in 2011. He also struck out 11.1 hitters per nine innings. Holland is worthy of a roster spot and could end up getting 20+ saves.
Sergio Romo, SF – Romo is another elite middle reliever that put up excellent numbers in 2011. His ERA (1.50) WHIP (0.71) and strikeout rate (13.1) were all superb. He sported a 14.0 K/BB ratio. The only issue with Romo is his lack of workload. He only pitched 48 innings last year so he doesn’t accumulate as many Ks as you would like and his ratios don’t help your team as much as they could if he had more innings.
Joel Peralta, TB – Peralta’s ratios (2.93 ERA and 0.92 WHIP) and strikeout rate (8.1/9) are OK compared to the rest of the guys on this list. He is on here because of his save potential. Peralta is setting up for the soon-to-be 36-year-old Kyle Farnsworth. Farnsworth had 25 saves in 2011 but has never had back-to-back double-digit save seasons. He’s just way too inconsistent. My money is on him not getting the job done this year. That means Peralta could be one of the middle relievers that end up closing a good portion of their team’s games.
Photo from Flickr user SD Dirk
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