Pitching by the Numbers: Sweet relief

Sean Doolittle is the Bay Area closer MVP. (Getty)
Sean Doolittle is the Bay Area closer MVP. (Getty)

Let’s look at the relievers that are most valuable in Yahoo! leagues with innings caps, which are therefore not really strikeout leagues but actually K/9 leagues.

The idea here is simple. We subtract the innings of relievers (minimum 20) from their strikeouts. Each surplus K gains you an increased K/9 rate of 1.0 for every nine innings thrown by the rest of your staff while that relievers K/9 stays at 9.0 (a winning number). So Dellin Betances has 25 surplus Ks (61 in 36 innings) that we can “give” to the rest of our staff while keeping Betances' K/9 at 9.0. That effectively raises the K/9 of the remainder of your staff by 1.0 for 225 innings (25 multiplied by 9). That’s very valuable, more valuable I would argue than many closers even though Betances has zero saves, especially when combined with Betances’s sterling averages. Plus, Betances finds extra value in his high inning total relative to other relievers.

Here are the other leaders in K/9 value behind Betances (again, this is Ks minus IP multiplied by nine):

Obviously, you want closers who get saves while also generating a K/9 surplus that can lift rest of your staff (these guys should also generate good ERAs and WHIPs unless homers or walks are out of whack). So that predictably elevates Kimbrel and Jansen. Robertson and Holland also are not surprises. But look at Doolittle, who caused a lot of Twitter debate this weekend with Scott Pianowski and I advocating strongly on his behalf. It’s very easy to argue that Doolittle is a top 10 closer.

Note Josh Fields, who has struck out 22 of his last 49 batters faced. I know the averages are ghastly at the moment but it’s pretty easy to envision a scenario where Chad Qualls gets traded to a contender in need of a reliever and Fields, an elite college closer and former first-round pick, is elevated.

Aroldis Chapman is the king of this stat, but didn’t meet the innings requirement. He is plus-9 already in only 13 innings and thus has an incredible value of 81 innings of K/9 boosting. So, yeah, he’s REALLY good.

I’d also argue strongly that these pitchers are valuable in all formats because they are giving you cheap Ks (usually, not always — witness Fields to date).

Now let’s just isolate closers, mostly to illustrate what some are costing you in Yahoo innings-capped formats in having negative K/9 value (remember, each K a closer is short of innings pitched costs nine innings of minus 1.0 K/9 for the rest of the staff where he’s rostered).

If it’s close to zero, the saves are too valuable. But LaTroy Hawkins is killing your K/9, lowering it by 1.0 for 117 innings by the rest of your staff. Romo is a problem, too, though not a huge one. The point is Romo is not nearly as valuable a closer as his saves total indicates. And, yes, Doolittle over Romo rest of season, easily (K/9 has already stabilized for these relievers).

Soria is tricky coming off the shoulder woes. I would not expect him to remain healthy all year. But for as long as he does stay healthy, he’s elite.

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