The Z Files: OK, I'm SOLD

The Z Files: OK, I'm SOLD

This article is part of our The Z Files series.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with Peter Kreutzer and Tim McLeod with Ron Shandler as moderator. It was a breakout at First Pitch Arizona with the topic centering around how fantasy leagues should adjust rules to best reflect the current MLB landscape. To prepare for the session, we all exchanged ideas and Ron consolidated them into a plan. One of the ideas was adding holds as a category, either as saves plus holds, or saves plus half holds. The term SOLDS has been adopted as a name for the category. Hey, it's better than SHAVES.

I've been adamantly against this proposal. Part of the reason for its inclusion was Ron knows this, and disagreements among panelists is great theatre and good for the discussion.

There are a few reasons why I have been against holds. The unofficial nature of the stat bothers me, but it's secondary to other rationales. For those unaware, holds are not recognized as an official stat. There are multiple versions, with slightly different definitions.

My primary issue is how the unpredictable nature of the metric can alter draft strategy to an extreme level. For the record, I'm all about using non-conventional approaches to take advantage of league rules, but my gut feeling is fading the category would be commonplace and not contrarian.

The unpredictability of holds means a plethora of assets will emerge in-season, so why bother expending draft assets on something so freely available? Instead, why not

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with Peter Kreutzer and Tim McLeod with Ron Shandler as moderator. It was a breakout at First Pitch Arizona with the topic centering around how fantasy leagues should adjust rules to best reflect the current MLB landscape. To prepare for the session, we all exchanged ideas and Ron consolidated them into a plan. One of the ideas was adding holds as a category, either as saves plus holds, or saves plus half holds. The term SOLDS has been adopted as a name for the category. Hey, it's better than SHAVES.

I've been adamantly against this proposal. Part of the reason for its inclusion was Ron knows this, and disagreements among panelists is great theatre and good for the discussion.

There are a few reasons why I have been against holds. The unofficial nature of the stat bothers me, but it's secondary to other rationales. For those unaware, holds are not recognized as an official stat. There are multiple versions, with slightly different definitions.

My primary issue is how the unpredictable nature of the metric can alter draft strategy to an extreme level. For the record, I'm all about using non-conventional approaches to take advantage of league rules, but my gut feeling is fading the category would be commonplace and not contrarian.

The unpredictability of holds means a plethora of assets will emerge in-season, so why bother expending draft assets on something so freely available? Instead, why not fade the category, then bully the hitting categories or funnel capital to starting pitching?

Truth be told, this is how I approach saves by themselves. I'm not the only one, but it's clear the opposite approach -- investing in a top closer or two -- is just as popular, so there is a good mix of strategies.

My concern is that adding holds would tilt the majority approach towards waiting, which throws off the valuation and ranking of batters and starters. This can be accounted for mathematically, but that's not the point. It's more a feeling than analytical, but almost everyone fading a category isn't the way I want to play. I prefer everyone having to decide on an approach and choosing different plans.

A couple years ago, the Tout Wars governing board, of which I am a member, discussed adding a new league with some non-conventional categories. On the table was switching wins for innings pitched and adding holds to the saves category. I was a huge proponent for the former, but against the latter.

When it became clear the new league would have both, I suggested making it saves plus holds, since adding just half holds wouldn't move the needle that much, and if we're going to make a change, LET'S MAKE A CHANGE. The board agreed; thus, the new league uses innings pitched and saves plus holds.

Circling back to the panel discussion, Ron and Tim argued using saves plus half holds doesn't alter the draft much, if at all. They followed up by suggesting it would have a bigger impact on the free agent pool, since there would be more to identifying value among relievers than just throwing darts at the closer flavor of the week and relying on luck to bullseye the guy who goes on to save 20 games, as opposed to the guy who is back in a setup role and cut loose in two weeks.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what they were saying. I did catch bits and pieces, but my mind was racing as I completely misread the repercussions and didn't think things through. I was so fixated on, "LET'S MAKE A CHANGE", that I completely overlooked the benefits of saves plus half holds.

I'm sure Ron and Tim made these points, but once they convinced me the draft dynamics do not change appreciably with saves plus half holds, I had a series of epiphanies. The first was that the relievers most likely to be among the leaders in holds would be drafted as speculative closers anyway using the current scoring. Maybe the order would be shuffled, but the same names would populate the final rosters.

The most important realization pertains to in-season roster management. As suggested, a lot of free agent efforts are focused on trying to acquire players with a chance to collect saves. Very little heed is given to their skills; it's all about ninth-inning opportunity. Having middle relievers who garner holds among the available inventory adds another dynamic.

Relievers who consistently capture holds are probably more skilled than flavor of the week closers. Furthermore, even though their holds total is cut in half for scoring purposes, they might be adding similar value to the category since many closers who emerge in-season are on non-competitive MLB teams, or have lesser skills, and thus record fewer saves.

The result is incentive to base free agent reliever decisions on a combination of skills and roles, just as is done with every other position. Calling back to the notion of how I prefer the game to be played, this is the way.

Cutting to the chase, I have come around on saves plus half holds as a category. If I had a flux capacitor, I'd set it to just before I proposed Tout Wars use saves plus holds. With my luck, I'd end up in the Wild West.

For kicks, I ran 2022 earnings using saves, saves plus half holds and saves plus holds to get a feel for how the rankings would shift. The results are in a sortable table which is fun to check out. Earnings are for a 15-team, 5x5 mixed league. The ranks are among all pitchers.

PlayerSVHOSV$SV+1/2HO$SV+HO$SV RankSV+1/2HO RankSV+HO Rank
1Emmanuel Clase420$19$18$16222426
2Ryan Helsley197$16$16$15272727
3Edwin Diaz324$15$15$13283232
4Daniel Bard340$13$12$10343945
5Jordan Romano362$13$11$10364046
6Kenley Jansen410$12$10$8404959
7Scott Barlow246$12$11$11424142
8Liam Hendriks370$11$9$7435464
9Paul Sewald208$9$9$9515355
10Evan Phillips219$8$10$12544438
11Devin Williams1526$8$11$12554236
12Ryan Pressly330$8$6$5566682
13Camilo Doval271$8$7$5576376
14Clay Holmes207$8$8$7586165
15Alexis Diaz1013$8$9$9595552
16Felix Bautista1513$8$8$8615956
17A.J. Minter534$6$10$13654634
18Jorge Lopez231$6$5$3668190
19Jason Adam821$6$8$9675849
20Rafael Montero1423$6$8$9696050
21Brock Burke09$6$6$7726566
22David Robertson203$6$5$4738288
23Raisel Iglesias1715$5$6$6767372
24Jhoan Duran818$5$6$7776863
25Adam Ottavino318$5$6$7786762
26Taylor Rogers314$4$3$18096121
27John Schreiber822$4$6$7816961
28Matt Moore514$4$5$5858475
29Adam Cimber419$4$5$7867568
30Anthony Bass023$4$6$8897160
31David Bednar194$4$3$190100116
32Andres Munoz422$3$5$6947970
33Craig Kimbrel222$3$2$095113142
34Josh Hader360$3$1-$297128168
35Gregory Soto302$3$1-$199121160
36Giovanny Gallegos1412$3$3$31009093
37Jimmy Herget97$3$2$2101104107
38Cionel Perez124$2$5$71038369
39Erik Swanson314$2$3$41048986
40Kyle Finnegan1114$2$3$310610397
41Reynaldo Lopez09$2$2$2109107105
42Garrett Whitlock64$2$1$1110119132
43Keegan Thompson10$2$1$0111125144
44Dillon Tate516$2$3$311210191
45Griffin Jax118$1$3$41139484
46Bryan Abreu28$1$2$2114114114
47Trevor Stephan319$1$3$41179585
48Michael King116$1$3$31189989
49Collin McHugh017$1$3$41199787
50Seranthony Dominguez915$1$2$2120110101
51Sam Hentges18$1$1$1122118120
52Eli Morgan010$1$1$2125116112
53Penn Murfee07$1$1$1127123125
54Alex Vesia116$1$2$312810894
55Hector Neris325$1$3$51299180
56Chase De Jong13$1$0$0130138154
57Dylan Lee09$1$1$1133126126
58Erasmo Ramirez05$0$0$0134144151
59Nick Martinez88$0$0$0135143152
60Jaime Barria05$0$0$0136146153
61Domingo Acevedo420$0$2$313711299
62Chris Martin29$0$0$0138136138
63Diego Castillo79$0$0$0139147150
64Tanner Houck81$0-$1-$2140165174
65Robert Suarez111$0$0$1141134131
66Keegan Akin23$0-$1-$1142161167
67A.J. Puk420$0$1$2143117104
68Tim Mayza216$0$1$1146129119
69J.P. Feyereisen17-$1-$1-$1147157161
70Brooks Raley622-$1$1$2149120106
71Brandon Hughes88-$1-$1-$1150158165
72Ryne Stanek117-$1$1$1151130115
73Chris Flexen20-$1-$2-$3153174184
74Carl Edwards213-$1$0$0154145135
75David Peterson01-$1-$2-$3157179180
76Wandy Peralta49-$1-$1-$1159163162
77Enyel De Los Santos13-$1-$2-$2160175175
78Dylan Coleman016-$1$0$1161142128
79Nabil Crismatt05-$1-$2-$2163169170
80Ryan Tepera617-$1$0$1164148133
81Yimi Garcia122-$1$1$2165131109
82Scott Effross416-$1$0$0166154141
83Mychal Givens27-$2-$2-$2167176171
84Alex Lange021-$2$0$1169137117
85Trevor Williams11-$2-$3-$3170189198
86Steven Okert019-$2$0$1171151129
87Tanner Scott204-$2-$3-$4172201221
88Matt Bush318-$2-$1$0173156136
89Pete Fairbanks86-$2-$3-$3175187193
90Joe Mantiply222-$2$0$1176149122
91Clarke Schmidt24-$2-$3-$3177188192
92Jose Alvarado222-$2$0$1178150123
93Steven Wilson15-$2-$2-$3179186189
94Colin Poche723-$2$0$1180152127
95Brad Boxberger129-$2$1$318112798

There are 57 relievers with positive earnings in the saves pool. Six more are added when half holds are used, with four more jumping into the saves plus holds format.

Fifty-one relievers populate all three draft-worthy pools. Gregory Soto, Josh Hader and Craig Kimbrel didn't make the cut in the saves plus holds format. Alex Lange, Joe Mantiply, Jose Alvarado, Colin Poche, Dylan Coleman, Steven Okert, Robert Suarez and Ryan Tepera only made the saves plus holds list.

A.J. Minter, Brad Boxberger, Cionel Perez, Anthony Bass, Hector Neris and Devin Williams earnings increased the most by adding holds. 

Josh Hader, Kenley Jansen, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Pressly and Gregory Soto decreased the most with holds in the equation.

How the different scoring systems affected A.J. Minter is intriguing. He finished as the fourth-most valuable reliever in saves plus holds. This prompted me to tweet out this poll:

As I'm typing this, only 3.6 percent voted for 4th. The leader is 17th with 41.8 percent followed by 9th with 32.7 percent, while 21.8 percent feel they're all too high.

As you likely surmised, the order is saves, saves plus half holds and saves plus holds. I found it interesting how so many are in favor of saves plus holds, but only 3.6 percent were happy with Minter's No. 4 ranking.

A little while later, I asked:

Curiously, 36.1 percent of the respondents favor saves plus holds. Granted, the same people may not have voted in both polls, but even so, the implication is that those championing saves plus holds aren't fully aware of the repercussions. I don't want to read too much into these polls. I just thought they'd be a fun exercise to close out this discussion.

Where do you stand on the issue? Have I changed your mind, or at least prompted you to think about it?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Todd Zola
Todd has been writing about fantasy baseball since 1997. He won NL Tout Wars and Mixed LABR in 2016 as well as a multi-time league winner in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. Todd is now setting his sights even higher: The Rotowire Staff League. Lord Zola, as he's known in the industry, won the 2013 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year award and was named the 2017 FSWA Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year. Todd is a five-time FSWA awards finalist.
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