Fantasy Baseball Strategy: The Saves Game – Finding Great Closers

Identifying great closers isn't easy and finding the right time to draft them can be frustrating. Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Shawn Childs explains his strategies to accumulate saves.

Wins may be the most difficult part of the game to figure out, but closers are the most frustrating. On draft day, I have a tough time using a high draft pick on a one category player. I also hate chasing closers and closers in waiting around on the free agent market. The last couple of years in the high stakes games I’ve tried to cheat saves. At times it can work, but many times a weakness will cost me a bench spot which hurts my team in other areas. If you cheat saves and you are wrong, you need to roster more inventory to increase your chances of finding the next closer to earn a job.

In the high-stakes market in 15-team leagues, you need about 85 to 90 saves on the year (about 3.5 saves per week). The best teams will use seven starters and two closers. If you fall behind in saves, you are forced to use a third closer to make up ground. It can work as long as you are in the right position in wins and Ks.

Closers can make an impact in multiple ways – saves, Ks, ERA, and WHIP.  At times, they can be a difference maker in wins. A great example of a five-category closer was Craig Kimbrel. His 2013 season should be my goal when I’m looking for a number one closer. He saved 50 games with four wins, 1.21 ERA, 0.881 WHIP, and 98 Ks.

One of my goals is to find 150 Ks from my two closers. If I find two relievers with this skill set at the right price, I will beat most teams at the backend of my pitching staff. In today’s game, there is a rise in closers that can get 100+ Ks.

It’s hard to project wins from a closer, but some closers get a chance to pitch in tie games. Maybe the goal should be 45 saves and wins combined. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve cheated saves over the past couple of years. This year I want to find one plus closer. The change in the flow of player pool helps execute this thought process.

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There are many question marks in most seasons at the closer position, which will allow some Fantasy owners to get out by cheating saves. This draft plan allows a Fantasy owner to gain an edge on offense or starting pitching. To me, it’s all about price point. Saves have gradually moved back in the high stake’s market. Even with that, I have to decide if an SP2 is more important than an elite closer. Most teams will draft two starters inside the first seven or eight rounds. The question comes down to: will a plus closer slide far enough to fit your plan or does your draft structure allow you to take a third pitcher in the first eight rounds? For most teams, they won’t look at the second tier closers until rounds 10 or 11.

If you decide to cheat saves, you are at the mercy of the inventory, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” At some point, saves become more valuable than skill set.

In the past, I’ve drafted the player I’ve thought had the better skills set. I’ve learned over past couple of years; the player with the best skill set doesn’t always end up with the job in the 9th inning. Most of the time a manager chooses a player with the most experience. The key is drafting the right player. If I’m wrong, I just gave away a pick. I’m not a fan of doubling up in one bullpen if both players are getting some respect unless the second option can be found in the late rounds.

The cloudier the situation, the more risk/reward, which allows all players to be discounted to a point. When I get closer to the season, I will have a better idea of the favorites to win closing jobs. At the same time, that player could have a short lease.

As I go through the closer inventory, I’m trying to identify the best options. I also need to understand the draft flow. I want to minimize my risk (giving away picks) and maximize my opportunity.

When I’m ranking these players, Ks is a big factor for me. Save opportunities are important, but it is sometimes difficult to predict. I’ve seen closers from poor teams match closers from top teams many times in saves. I ranked the top closers as the pitchers who I think have the best chance at keeping their job plus K ability. The second half of the closer inventory is ranked will upside in mind. Some have job security risk, but I like their opportunity.

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Shawn Childs
About Shawn Childs 446 Articles
Shawn Childs has been a high stakes Fantasy baseball and football player since 2004 where he had success in his first season (three titles and $25,000 in winnings). In early years of the high stakes market in Fantasy baseball, he was ahead of the curve in player evaluation, draft value, and free agent bidding setting up four top-five finishes in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has four AL-only Auction titles, one NL-only title, and five Main Event titles plus an overall title in 2012 at RTFBC (netted $10,000). This success led to an induction into the NFBC Baseball Hall of Fame. His success in the high stakes market led to a career in providing Fantasy Baseball and Fantasy Football content. On the football side, he’s competed and won in all different formats – auctions, draft championship, main events, and high-dollar leagues. He won 2nd place overall in the 2014 Most Accurate Salary Cap Expert contest at FantasyPros.As a dual-sport player, it was natural to transition to the daily games where he is a “swing for the fences type of guy.” Childs has appeared in one FanDuel NFL Live Final and one DraftKings NFL Live Final, a season-ending tournament which led to a couple of chances to win over $1,000,000.