Protecting and Drafting Middle Relievers

By JeffBarton | December 7th, 2009

Most successful Scoresheet team managers would agree that winning a championship without having at least a couple of top middle relievers is virtually impossible.  In real life baseball, most MLB starters only go 5-7 innings these days, and therefore are limited to that many innings in a Scoresheet game.  So, even if you have a great closer like Nathan or Rivera to take close out the 9th inning for you, your team still has to get thru the 7th and 8th innings.

But the kicker is knowing in February or March which middle relievers are going to have a great season.  After all, most middle relievers are in that role because their major league manager or GM does not think they are good enough to be either a starter or a closer. So middle relievers are even more unpredictable than pitchers in general.

Thus, rather than spending protected spots or high drafts picks on those risky middle relievers, most team owners use quite a few draft picks in round 18-28 on middle relievers, hoping that if they draft 4 or 5 of them that maybe 2 or 3 will turn out to be good picks (the shotgun approach).

My strategy is different. Instead of drafting a lot of middle relievers in hopes a couple work out, I prefer loading up on starting pitchers, getting at least 8 of them on my team before the baseball draft is over.  I do that because I know that come May there is certain to be at least a couple of teams in my league that need starting pitching (they will have holes due to injuries or just plain lousy performance by some of their starters.)  And I have found that teams that are desperate for starting pitching are often happy to trade away their best one or two middle relievers for even just a so-so starter, as those teams need the innings a starter provides.  They are willing to trade away pitchers with much better ERAs just to get the innings eater they need.

The difference between trading for a middle reliever in May and drafting one in March is that for some reason, a middle reliever who has a great April seems to keep up that great work all season long, but then next season may be completely different.  I do not know what it is that makes middle relievers perform so consistent for a whole season once they start the baseball season strong, and yet be so unpredictable from year to year.   That dichotomy is why I like my strategy of drafting starting pitchers and then trading them for middle relievers during the baseball season.


By Mark Weiner on December 7th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Thanks Jeff…a great article. I agree with you for the most part. Starters become more valualble as the season rolls on. A few solid middle relievers are still valuable also. I think a good mix is very important. Thanks for the tip.

By Larry Hayes on December 11th, 2009 at 6:29 pm

Your comment that relievers who start off strong tend to continue strong is an interesting observation. And come to think of it, I can think of several recent instances where exactly that has occurred. Perhaps previously erratic relievers who suddenly “find it” can keep up their new-found level of performance–but maybe for just that one magical season. While I can certainly see the value of having extra SPs at the start of the season, I seldom would amass more than 6 (or maaaaaybe 7) because that strategy could lead to the under-utilization of those resources (namely, the extra SPs) when their roster spots could be taken up by other players (not necessarily relievers) who could contribute more over the first several weeks leading up to the first supplemental — when the many early-overachieving pitchers are available and gobbled up.

By Chip Seraphine on December 20th, 2009 at 8:55 pm

So, in Scoresheet what is the downside (if any) to putting starting pitchers in your bullpen? I usually have 1-2 good relivers and then a couple “inning eater” starters rather than waste a lot of roster slots on group of middle relievers.

Does the game give (MLB) starters any sort of penalty for pitching out of the (scoresheet) pen?

No, the program has no penalty at all for using a real life starter as a reliever. But many folks prefer to use real relievers just because relievers in general tend to have slightly better ERAs (in real life) than do starters.

By Dennis Cleary on December 21st, 2009 at 1:31 pm


That’s an interesting idea, but not really practical in the leagues I’m in. Your approach requires a fair amount of luck, just like prospecting for relievers does.

The top 4 starters on every MLB team’s depth chart (whether it’s a magazine or a top website) are generally either kept or drafted very high in my leagues. If a guy’s value is based on his being the #5 starter for a team, then is he really a better bet than picking up a reliever with a track record of success? In either case, there’s a lot of risk. If you draft a reliever with skills and he doesn’t pan out, you still have a reliever skills who could find his game later in the year. But if you draft a below average pitcher who loses his starting gig, all you have is a below average pitcher.

Just my 2 cents. Your mileage may vary. :)

By David Ruddick on December 27th, 2009 at 9:27 am

Absolutely dead on… the whole season requires that you get enough Innings Pitched so that you don’t get the dreaded AAA and his stinking ERA, usually 7.00 or worse.

I also draft a bevy of innings pitched Pitchers to make sure (as much as possible) that I get a 5.00+ ERA vs a 7.00+ era of the AAA guy. Face it, unless you have the inside track of how a human being is going to perform each year, you simply need to go with either a three year average and or roll the dice!

Play Ball!!!!!



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