Fantasy Toolbox : Closers & Saves

Fantasy Toolbox : Closers & Saves

Fantasy Toolbox : Closers & Saves

Another new feature here at the Mop Up Duty, this time dealing with fantasy baseball. In the fantasy world itself, there are a number of axioms or well held truths. Sometimes they’re right on the money and sometimes they ain’t. With the “Toolbox” we’ll delve into topics of this nature and others.

Today we’ll look at one of the most widely held fantasy “rules”, which is try to draft a closer on a winning team. The prevailing logic behind this is the team will win more games, giving the closer more save opportunities and hopefully save conversions.

To test this theory I went back to the beginning of the millennium, threw out the strike shortened 2004 season (due to less than 162 games played) and averaged out the number of saves a team can expect at a certain win level. The win levels are;

90 + : A superior team. If they do not gain a playoff spot, they’ll end up within a few games of one.

81 – 89: A good team, playing .500 or above baseball. This group contains many “weak” division winners, and wildcard hopefuls.

70 – 80: Below .500 clubs. This group usually includes under-achievers and small market teams.

Below 70: The butt of many baseball jokes. Home of the Rays, Royals and others on numerous occasions.

In total 180 seasons were included in the study, again going back to the 2000 season but excluding the shortened 2004 campaign. The results:

Team Wins Team Saves Save to Win Percent
90+ 45.77 47.86
81-89 42.41 50
70 – 80 38.4286 50.86
Under 70 33.378 52

Teams Wins & Saves Chart

The trendline clearly shows the higher amount of saves a team yields when it wins more ballgames. So that theory holds true –No real surprise.

Yet the percent of games that are saved go in the opposite order. A weaker team relied upon saving a higher percentage of their wins than a better club. One would assume that the better teams score more runs and can win by a higher margin, thus not relying upon the save as much as poorer teams, all of this on a percentage basis of course.

Even with the obvious trend, is the whole number of saves between groups profound enough to warrant drafting upon the “high win, high save” axiom? Well, yes and no. The difference between a 90+ win team & a 75 win team is a rather high 7+ saves. But the difference between neighboring groupings is rather negligible (3 saves).

Fantasy Advice: When ranking closers, along with the usual stat suspects (ERA, K, Whip, etc) also tier closers by your predicted team records. When it comes down to it, the difference between a 90+ tier (Rivera) and an 80 – 89 tier (BJ Ryan) will statistically be a few saves. But dropping from a 90+ tier to a Chris Ray type (70 – 81 wins) can become something to worry about. Don’t go overboard on this theory, but remember that with closers saves should be the most important factor on draft day.

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4 replies on “Fantasy Toolbox : Closers & Saves”
  1. Great stuff, Kman. I’d love to know if there is a correlation between saves and runs scored. This is a small sample size, but of the top ten teams in runs scored, 4 of them are top ten in saves. At the same time, the yankees have scored the most runs in the league and have yet to record a save. Thinking out loud here, but if the yankees have scored the most in the league (91) and are 22nd in the league in runs allowed (53), it’s possible there is a correlation between saves and the differential between runs scored and allowed. What do you think?

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