As we move into the heart of the season -- those warm spring months that lead into the summer and then through the Dog Days -- the standings are beginning to stabilize.
That means your relative position in those same standings has similarly settled to a large degree.
Allen can help, even sans SVO
What that really says is for the most part you want that steady production, week-to-week, from as many players as possible.
What makes that tough in most leagues -- at least the deeper leagues, with restrictions on your roster size -- is that at this point so few everyday players emerge.
Of course there are injuries that foster extra playing time for bench players, and there are those players who lose playing time due to ineffectiveness.
But, if you are the owner of Jose Fernandez, suddenly you have to replace a big hole in your rotation.
Ideally, you have deep enough pitching that this move only reduces your starter core from six to five, but it still suggests you will need to at least plug the hole. And though there is likely a dearth of starting arms worth a gamble in your league, relief pitcher is one area that is usually a gold mine of decent arms in middle relievers.
The problem with middle guys is they might pick up four or five innings a week max, meaning it is hard to gain much ground with them.
But their beauty is they generally can strike batters out; they grab an occasional win and save; and they rarely throw long enough to really hurt your WHIP or ERA.
Furthermore, in a lot of formats, Holds has become a category, and the middle relievers can obviously help with that.
Finally, if you have a basically good rotation but are blessed with an erratic arm like Ubaldo Jimenez, you can sit your starter while he works out the kinks, activating a middle guy to hold the spot and give some numbers while Ubaldo works into his summer groove.
So, let's finish this time with some middle relievers who might indeed still be in your free-agent pool, and who could help you keep those pitching numbers a little stable as you manipulate your rotation through the summer months.
Steve Delabar (Toronto Blue Jays): I first noticed Delabar a couple of seasons back when he struck out the side on nine pitches: not your everyday occurrence. Over his career, Delabar has 194 strikeouts over 146 1/3 innings, with a 12-9 mark, 3.44 ERA, and a 1.207 WHIP. He averages 72 innings a year and 95 whiffs, and has eight holds so far this year.
Fernando Abad (Oakland Athletics): Oakland has a pretty good menu of relievers with Ryan Cook, Luke Gregerson, and Sean Doolittle, but Abad has emerged with the best stuff this year. The owner of a 0.61 ERA and 0.409 WHIP, Abad has 16 whiffs over the 14 2/3 frames he has twirled and has a couple of holds thus far. By the way, give an honorable mention to the Athletics' Dan Otero.
Cody Allen (Cleveland Indians): Many thought Allen would challenge as the Tribe closer this year, and he still well might emerge with the job. For now he is doing great setting up, posting a line of 2-1, with a save, a 1.76 ERA and 1.117 WHIP to go with 23 strikeouts over 15 1/3 innings. He has eight holds.
Kevin Siegrist (St. Louis Cardinals): Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez (who has eight holds) get all the hard-throwing bullpen ink for the Cardinals, but Siegrist is very quietly establishing himself as key to the Busch pen. At 1-1, 3.86, Siegrist has nine holds and a 1.163 WHIP to go with 22 whiffs over 16 1/3 innings.
Zach Britton (Baltimore Orioles): Sometimes the path of a Major Leaguer does not go as planned, as with Britton, who came up as a starter and then struggled. But out of the Orioles pen this year, the lefty has been a completely different animal. Britton has a 3-0 record and 0.84 ERA over 21 1/3 innings, with 15 strikeouts, a 0.89 WHIP and seven holds.
Brad Ziegler (Arizona Diamondbacks): Ziegler is a pitcher I saw a lot during his Oakland tenure, and his deceptive delivery allows him to both keep the ball down (only 13 homers over 413 2/3 innings) and though he has just 270 whiffs over that span, he has a 1.23 WHIP which shows how he can keep runners off base. Last year Ziegler was deadly, with an 8-0, 2.22 record, and though he is 0-0 so far this year, he has a 0.90 ERA and 15 whiffs over 20 innings to go with a 0.85 WHIP and seven holds. Better, that delivery does not seem to indicate Tommy John anything looms.
Tyler Clippard (Washington Nationals): Long one of the best setup men in the Majors, and though Clippard has had control issues with 10 walks over his first 15 innings this year, he also has 21 K's. Now 29, the former New York Yankees ninth-round pick (2003) has pretty much been toiling in a setup gig for seven seasons (with one as the closer), and he has averaged a 6-4, 2.97 mark over 80 innings each year with six saves (remember, though, he grabbed 32 in 2012) 89 whiffs, and a 1.11 WHIP. Clippard has nine holds this season.
Chris Withrow (Los Angeles Dodgers): Withrow established himself as Kenley Jansen's counterpart last year over 34 2/3 innings, with 43 strikeouts to go with a 3-0, 2.60 record and a 0.95 WHIP. The big (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) right-hander has picked it right back up this year with a 0-0, 1.00 mark over 18 innings with 24 strikeouts, and though he has walked 15, Withrow has allowed just four hits (1.06 WHIP). Withrow has five holds.
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Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.