Fantasy Baseball: Closing Arguments – Cut Tony Watson?

Pirates Tony Watson

This week on Closing Arguments, I tell you to cut Tony Watson and break down the reasons why. A secondary element this week is giving you some tools for you to use when doing your own research. As Closing Arguments moves along, I like giving the reader the ability to evaluate talent on their own.

Here is the updated closer list.

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Current CloserNext in lineTeamLeagueNotes
Brad Brach Darren O'DayBaltimoreAmerican LeagueZach Britton DL
Craig KimbrelJoe KellyBostonAmerican League
Dellin BetancesAdam WarrenNew York YankeesAmerican LeagueAroldis Chapman DL
Alex ColomeBrad BoxbergerTampa BayAmerican LeagueBoxberger inj
Roberto OsunaJason GrilliTorontoAmerican League
David RobertsonTommy KahnleChicago White SoxAmerican LeagueNate Jones DL
Cody AllenAndrew MillerClevelandAmerican League
Justin WilsonFrancisco RodriguezDetroitAmerican League
Kelvin HerreraJoakim SoriaKansas CityAmerican League
Brandon KintzlerRyan PresslyMinnesotaAmerican League
Ken GilesLuke GregersonHoustonAmerican League
Bud NorrisYusmeiro PetitLos Angeles AngelesAmerican League
Santiago CasillaRyan MadsonOaklandAmerican League
Edwin DiazNick VincentSeattleAmerican League
Matt Bush Jeremy JeffressTexasAmerican League
Jim JohnsonMauricio CabreraAtlantaNational League
A.J. RamosKyle BarracloughMiamiNational League
Addison ReedFernando SalasNew York MetsNational LeagueJeurys Familia - Blood clot issue
Hector NerisJoaquin BenoitPhiladelphiaNational League
Koda GloverShawn KelleyWashingtonNational League
Wade DavisCarl EdwardsChicago CubsNational League
Raisel IglesiasDrew StorenCincinnatiNational League
Corey KnebelJacob BarnesMilwaukeeNational League
Tony WatsonDaniel HudsonPittsburghNational League
Seung Hwan OhTrevor RosenthalSt. LouisNational League
Fernando RodneyRandall DelgadoArizonaNational League
Greg HollandAdam OttavinoColoradoNational League
Kenley JansenSergio RomoLos Angeles DodgersNational League
Brandon MaurerRyan BuchterSan DiegoNational League
Mark MelanconDerek Law San FranciscoNational League

The table was updated on 01JUN2017.

Washington Nationals updated with Koda Glover off the DL and he seems to be the closer.

We will need to monitor the status of the battles in Milwaukee (Neftali Feliz v. Corey Knebel) and Seattle (Edwin Diaz v Nick Vincent.) Both closers were demoted with the alleged opportunity to work their way back into high leverage situations. So far that has not happened and Knebel and Vincent are getting the saves.

As mentioned above, I am also here to give you some powerful yet basic tools of analysis. You may have heard these discussed elsewhere or during a game. Today, let us discuss the strikeout to walk ratio for pitchers, abbreviated as K:BB. This is a predictive tool. That means it performs a similar function like targets do in fantasy football. Targets allow the fake footballer to estimate how a player may perform in the future. Specifically how many catches a wide receiver may get, based on their targets. However it is just that, you have to factor in the other factors like drop rate / red zone usage etc. The same goes for pitchers when using K:BB. Do they have swing and miss stuff (swinging strike %) or give up a lot of home runs? Do they pitch in a pitcher’s park?

What is a good K:BB ratio? For Pitchers in general we are looking for at least 2:1. Since we focus on closers here, their standards are higher. I would say minimum you want to see 3:1 K:BB ratio but ideally it would be over 4:1. This is just a tool though, it doesn’t guarantee anything and can fluctuate in small samples.

That is the background of K:BB but let’s see it in an actionable case. The case of Tony Watson, closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Those who follow me on the twitter machine know I am a Pirates fan (hat to breast.) You must separate fandom from fantasy sports to have any real long term success. Getting that out of the way, let us look at Tony Watson’s 2016 and 2017 numbers.

From this we see Tony Watson had a K:BB of 58:20 -roughly 3:1 last season. This year he has 18 strikeouts compared to 8 walks. That is a K:BB ratio of 2.25:1, which is less than the threshold of 3:1 I mentioned earlier. That doesn’t mean you should instantly cut any relief pitcher who is ever below that number. That would be irresponsible and silly. I expect Tony Watson to improve and turn things around for the remainder of the year. This is at least partially based on his historical performance. From 2014 through 2016, per Baseball Reference, Tony Watson’s had a 201:52 K:BB ratio. That is basically 4:1, and is a really impressive number.

Given that, you might be wondering why I am suggesting to cut him. First of all, there what I have seen watching the games. The old eye test on Tony Watson in 2017 is that he is struggling. Home runs have spiked on him, but that likely won’t continue. He has blown a few saves, but it isn’t just that. He isn’t missing bats, and the outings are not clean. This is a subjective note, but one that fits in with the K;BB numbers we discussed above.

There are other factors we need to look at. With all pitchers, the first question should be his innings pitched and is he approaching some type of limit. No issue there with Tony Watson. He has only appeared in roughly 23 innings. [This is also why he has been less valuable this season.] Does he have a challenger within the Pirates who pitching better? Yes, yes he does. His name is Felipe Rivero *fire emoji*. He is worth another separate article. But for the purpose of Tony Watson just know that Rivero has been pitching much better late in games and was even acquired as the Pirates’ “closer of the future.” There is also Juan Nicasio and Daniel Hudson who have pitched more effectively than Watson.

The biggest X factor with Pirates players and Tony Watson specifically due to his contract nearing its end, is the probability of him being traded at the trade deadline. His team will likely be on the outside of the playoff picture at the end of July (pour out an IC Light 40oz.) and looking to move players such as Watson. This causes a few problems as an owner of Tony Watson. It is likely he moves to a set-up role as an 8th inning for a few reasons. First he is left handed and a lot of managers prefer right handed closers. Secondly his performance this year has been below his historical marks. A new team would feel better about acquiring him and sliding him into the 7th or 8th inning spot and letting him prove his mettle. Guessing at trade partners, outcomes, and future roles is a dicey business. Watson and the Pirates play their home games in a very favorable pitcher’s park. If he is traded it is very likely he will play for a team with more hitter friendly stadium. Now we move on to wrapping this up as clean as the ending to The Sopranos.

What action should you take with Tony Watson? I will break it down simply, cut him unless you are really desperate for saves. Definitely cut him in a points or shallow league. In standard 5 x 5 roto leagues, try upgrade to a high strikeout closer or non-closer even. Deep mixed and only leagues, you’re probably going to have to hold onto him. I would strongly recommend adding Felipe Rivero as a hedge and for standalone value. Basically cut Tony Watson if losing five saves a month won’t kill your team. Also keep in mind the predictive tool of the K:BB ratio when evaluating relief pitchers for your fake baseball team. See you next time.


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