Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Evolution of "The Hold"

A Hold is credited any time a relief pitcher enters a game in a Save Situation, records at least one out, and leaves the game never having relinquished the lead.

This fantasy stat has become ever more popular over the past decade. I think we have Tony Larussa to blame for this. Maybe it was his infection and his vertigo? This stat makes players like Roberto Hernandez and Mike Myers people you would actually draft. I personally love this statistic in my fantasy league because it allows more players to be drafted with a purpose. In many leagues without "The Hold" there would be no reason to draft people such as Mike Timlin or Scot Shields.

There are many reasons why "The Hold" is important.

1) People like Francisco Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera started off as set up men. These dominant set up men fill the role of injured or retired closers.

2) Many Set up men not only provide good holds numbers, but they can vulture wins as well.

3) Relief pitchers are great for that coveted k/9 category and can help lower ERA and WHIP.

4) Personally, I love the hold because it allows me to draft people like Roberto Hernandez and Troy Percival with a straight face.

5) Lefty specialists are whores for the hold. Mike Myers can come in and get one out and leave, thus producing a hold for you.

6) Finally, Holds guys can always be found on the waiver wire and can help your squad immediately.

Let's take a look at the holds leaders from the last two years:

2007 Holds Leaders

1) Brandon Lyon, Arizona - 35 Holds
Lyon will be the premier middle reliever in a very deep Arizona bullpen. He may have an opportunity the be the closer as well. Keep an eye on the situation during spring training.

2) Heath Bell, San Diego - 34 Holds
The New York Met castaway dominated the late innings for San Diego last season. In 93+ Innings pitches he racked up 103 Strikeouts. The K's and Innings Pitched may be a warning for possible fantasy owners. If he is striking a lot of guys out, that means he is throwing a lot of pitches.

3) Jon Rauch - Washington 33 Holds
Considering this team only wins a few games a year and this guy had 33 Holds, I would wait and wait and wait to pick him up. Many owners picked him off the waiver wire last season and were happy with his results.

4) Derrick Turnbow - Milwaukee 33 Holds
Once a closer and now a set up man. You never know with this guy and maybe the Brew crew will make him a closer again if The Gagne experiment fails. Either way he should be a solid pick and its an added bonus that if Gagne fails, your set up man becomes your closer.

5) Jonathon Broxton - Los Angeles 32 Holds
I think he may be overworked by Joe Torre this season. Torre is notorious for overworking his bullpen and even brought his own personal whipping boy, Scott proctor to LA to throw every game for him. Look for Broxton's arm to fall off by the All-Star Break.

6) Rafael Betancourt - Cleveland 31 Holds
May have a chance to close if "Stunning" Joe Borowski hits a speed bump this season. He has dual value as a set up man and possibly a closer/save vulture.

7) Scot Shields - Anaheim 31 Holds
Reliable reliever, I always try to get him as my first set up man. His body of work merits this and his stuff has only gotten better.

8) Tony Pena- Arizona 30 Holds
Pena is a part of one of the best bullpens in baseball and he has the opportunity to compete for the closer job. Watch his progress in spring training before deciding on him. He and Lyon should get plenty of holds and may steal some saves even if they are not officially the closer.

9) Hideki Okajima - Boston 27 Holds
His team should win 100 games this season and his starters should hand him the ball in the 8th with a lead early and often. Last year Okajima faded after the All-Star Break. Look for his stamina to improve after experiencing a real MLB season. I would take him right after Shields.

10) Ryan Franklin - St. Louis 25 Holds
He is setting up Izzy in St. Louis. This gives Franklin double value, he could be a dominant set up man and also be next in line to close when Izzy goes down.

2006 Holds Leaders:
Now, let's see who the leaders were in 2006. See if you can make an inference as to why the stats changed for many and why there was such a turnover among the holds leaders.

1)Scott Linebrink 36 Holds
21 Holds in 2007 and an ERA of 3.71. Not the same dominance he had in 2006, and he could have problems pitching in U.S. Cellular field in 2008.

2) Scot Shields 31 Holds
One of the best set up men in baseball had a solid 2007 season. Shields had 31 holds and is setting up for the premier closer in baseball.

3) Joel Zumaya 30 Holds
Guitar Hero, weak ligaments?

4) Aaron Heilman 27 Holds
Couldn't follow up in 2007 with the same success as he had in 2006.

5)Scott Proctor 26 Holds
I'm surprised his arm is still attached.

6) Juan Rincon 26 Holds
Yuck, 14 holds and an ERA of 5.13.

7) Justin Speier 25 Holds
In 2007, Speier almost duplicated his success from 2006 with 24 Holds and an ERA of 2.80.

8) Luis Vizcaino 25 Holds
In 2007 Luis had an 8-2 record and was a reliable member of the Yankees bullpen. Vizcaino vultured many wins, but only recorded 14 holds.

9) Kiko Calero 24 Holds
In 2007 had a bad shoulder,a bad team, and a bad ERA of 5.75. Calero only recorded one save and was not the same pitcher of the prior year.

10) Dan Wheeler 24 Holds
After his great 2006 season, Wheeler followed up with some save chances because Lidge was awful. Wheeler then gave fantasy owners a 5.30 ERA and a 1-9 record in 2007.

After looking at the data, I believe it is obvious that many of these top relievers have a difficult time having the same success year after year. Many of these pitchers were over used and experienced arm problems. Thus, it's a good idea to look at the trends with these pitchers and the ballparks they call home. Before picking a reliever, check how many innings they threw the year before. Scott Proctor was awesome in 2006, but we all know he threw way too much and that had a negative effect on his stats.

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