A.L. Relievers: Bids vs. Earnings 2008
A more detailed discussion of what American League relievers did in 2008 can be found here. Like I did in my last post, I flipped the values from 4x4 to 5x5. For relievers - and particularly for closers - this makes a significant difference in what they're worth.
One of the reasons Brett asked me to break these data out into two separate charts was because starting pitchers and relievers are different enough that lumping them together into one group solely based on salary didn't make sense. Brett gave a lot of reasons as to why this is so, but the biggest difference to me is that you can always ignore saves at the auction or try to FAAB them later.
Brett's argument is one we've all heard before:
when you're looking at the bottom end, there are going to be some guys drafted there for a few bucks who end up becoming closers and are worth $25, who will total(ly) skew the numbers.In 5x5, you have to dig to find any closers who earn $25. Mariano Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez, Jon Papelbon, and Joakim Soria did it in the A.L. last year. That makes the fact that the 10 costliest relievers took a $3 loss last year all the more surprising.
There were only five relievers bought at auction last year who saved 10 or more games last year and weren't the most expensive Roto reliever on his Major League team: B.J. Ryan (32 saves), Dan Wheeler (13), Brandon Morrow (10), Jensen Lewis (13), and Fernando Rodney (13). As a result, there are some profits at the bottom of the heap but they're not significant. Rodney gives back all but $3 of his earnings in saves with what he did in ERA/WHIP and only turns a $1 profit.
The best reliever bought at auction in the A.L. who saved less than 10 games was J.P. Howell, who cost $1 and earned $16 in 5x5, versus $18 in 4x4. Those 92 whiffs propped him up quite a bit.
Whether you're paying for saves or not, middle relievers pay off - even in 5x5. Pitchers 21-30 here cost $1 per pitcher less than the 41st through 50th most expensive starting pitchers and earned $2 more per pitcher. Even pitchers 31-40 came within $1 per pitcher of matching those same starting pitchers and could have been had - on average - for $1.
N.L. Relievers: Bids vs. Earnings 2008
You're looking at the same $8 drop in earnings for the 10 best pitchers from 4x4 to 5x5 in the N.L. that you saw in the A.L. But while you could tolerate a $3 loss in the A.L., you're looking at absolute carnage in the N.L. Brad Lidge ($22), Jose Valverde ($22), and Kerry Wood ($20) are the only relievers purchased in auction who even top $20 in earnings.
The two major leagues were entirely different last year when it came to how well the second-tier closers and fliers worked out. Of the 40 most expensive relievers, there were also five in the N.L. who weren't the most expensive in their MLB bullpens but saved 10 or more games. The difference is that those five - Kerry Wood (34), Brian Fuentes (30), Brandon Lyon (26), Jon Rauch (18), and Jonathan Broxton (14) - had far more of an impact.
These closers-in-waiting weren't cheap, though. Fuentes and Rauch were in the #21-30 grouping, but the other three were in the 11-20 group.
The other thing that jumps out at me in the N.L. is that paying for cheap relievers didn't pay off as much as it did in the A.L. However, you're still looking at very similar earnings for the 21st through 40th most expensive relievers as you are for the 41st through 60th most expensive starting pitchers.
It is far more difficult to gauge trends when it comes to relievers because the closer role changes hands frequently, middle relievers are far more fungible to major league organizations, and middle relievers are far less predictable from year to year. While these data are certainly interesting to look at, I would be reluctant to draw any solid conclusions from the charts above.