A reader asked me if I'd rather have Mike Adams or Ryan Dempster coming back in trade. I told the reader Adams, and went into my usual speech about how middle relievers are sorely underrated in terms of Roto value.
However, while my knee jerk reaction leans toward Adams, a lot would depend on my team's circumstances. If I just needed to move the chains, Adams would be an easy choice. But if I needed to throw a Hail Mary, I'd might choose Dempster.
I went back and took a look at the top earners by month in 2010 in the National League to see how many middle relievers fell into this category. The answer is not many.
Middle Relief Top 30 by Month: July through October, 2010
July: Logan Ondrusek, Johnny Venters.
Month over month, the vast majority of pitchers who are the best for any given month are starting pitchers. Next are closers, with middle relievers trailing significantly.
If you look at the year as a whole, middle relievers don't even figure. Tyler Clippard was the highest ranked middle reliever in N.L.-only 5x5 last year at 39th.
Obviously, someone should own the 39th best pitcher in the National League in an N.L.-only. And are you better off owning a good middle reliever than a bad starting pitcher. But if you need to jump up in a hurry or are falling out of the race, you might want to just roll the dice on a starting pitcher. It's probably going to be too late in any event, but a starting pitcher has a better chance of putting up a huge month than a middle reliever ever does.