Eight of the top 10 A.L. pitchers in 2006 were closers. This is the second year in a row this has happened, so it's not all that uncommon. What is eye-opening is that six closers - Nathan, Papelbon, K-Rod, Ryan, Mariano, and Putz - all cracked $40. In 2005, only Mariano and Nathan cracked $40.
A slightly closer look at these guys tells you why. In 2005, Mariano and Nathan were the only guys with a WHIP below 1. In 2006, all of the aforementioned $40+ closers had a WHIP below $1, with the exception of K-Rod. Same goes for the ERAs. Only Putz had an ERA over 2 in the $40+ closer group. Last year only Mariano and Street had ERAs under 2.
And the impact of this super group of closers on your pennant races is dramatic:
Top 10 A.L. Earners 2006 - ERA
This type of chart always surprises someone who is new to Roto pricing theory. For veterans, it's not as surprising. They knew that Joel Zumaya's 83 1/3 IP at a 1.94 ERA is worth more than C.C. Sabathia's 3.22 ERA over the course of nearly 200 IP.
What's most dramatic here, though, isn't the inclusion of 5 relievers as much as the increase in dollars earned in one category. In 2005, only 4 A.L. pitchers earned $9 or more in ERA. Last year, 11 pitchers did it.
What about WHIP?
Top 10 A.L. Earners 2006 - WHIP
Mariano, Zumaya and K-Rod are replaced by Moose and Putz. Otherwise, this list is a near mirror of the other one.
I'm going to keep digging into these data this winter. A few early, and cursory conclusions:
1) Top relievers helped out A.L. Roto teams as much as starters and, in a few cases, were a huge help. Joe Nathan earned $19 with his ERA/WHIP alone. Only 14 American League starters earned that much across Wins/ERA/WHIP combined.
2) This class of A.L. relievers may not be a one-year anomaly. Nathan, K-Rod, Ryan, Putz and Street are all relatively young and could very well do this for years.
3) Johan Santana deserves an essay unto himself. He earned $32.43 with his ERA/WHIP. Only Halladay ($36) and Liriano ($33) earned more across all four pitching categories.