2019 Fantasy Baseball: Looking at Usage to Determine Roles

Senior Fantasy Baseball Expert Adam Ronis teaches you an important lesson about analyzing usage to determine player roles in Major League Baseball!

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Learning lessons is one of the more important things in Fantasy Baseball and people made mistakes on the waiver wire over the weekend. Speculating for saves has become difficult with several teams employing more than one option. Many setup men and sometimes as many as three or four bullpen arms are being stashed in the anticipation of injuries or a change in the position.

One of the more volatile situations this year was with the Angels. Many didn’t think Cody Allen, who was signed to a one-year deal in the off-season, would hold the job. He had a bad second half with the Indians last year and was awful to begin the year. Allen landed on the Injured List with a back injury last week.

Fantasy owners were trying to determine if Ty Buttrey or Hansel Robles would close. As fantasy players, we follow these teams closely and think we know who the better option is. Often times, we are correct, but it doesn’t matter. We don’t make the decisions. Don’t let your bias get in the way.

Most people believe Buttrey is the better arm. That doesn’t mean he will get the first shot to close. Almost every bid I saw where both were available, Buttrey went for a lot more money. In leagues where both were available, I had Robles higher and landed him in two leagues.

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Why? Look at the usage over the last week even before Allen landed on the IL and they were giving Allen a break from the closer role.

The first indication the Angels were leaning in the direction of Robles was April 22 against the Yankees. In the ninth inning of a tie game at home, the closer is usually called upon and the Angels went to Robles, who struck out the side.

On April 24, Buttrey entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the seventh inning and pitched into the ninth inning. He went 2.2 innings and allowed two hits, one run, no walks and struck out three and took a loss. Robles came in to get the final out of the ninth with the Angels trailing 6-5.

That indicated Robles might have been the lean to close, but it could have been the game was on the line in the seventh and manager Brad Ausmus wanted to go with the best arm to get out of it. On Sunday April 28, Buttrey came into a 4-1 game in the bottom of the eighth inning against the Royals and allowed two hits, one run, no walks and struck out two. The Angels added three runs in the top of the ninth inning and the save was no longer in play. Robles came in for the ninth inning and allowed two hits, one run and a walk.

On Tuesday night, Buttrey came into the game in the eighth inning and pitched a scoreless inning with a strikeout to get the win, while Robles pitched the ninth inning with a walk and strikeout to get his second save.

Buttrey had a chance to close last season and saved four games at the end of the season. If the Angels were that high on him, why did they bring in Allen? That was just another sign revealing how the Angels felt.

Robles has pitched 14 innings and has a 3.21 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 29.8 percent strikeout rate and 8.8 percent walk rate. Buttrey has pitched 14 innings and has a 1.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 32.8 percent strikeout rate and 5.2 percent walk rate. Buttrey has allowed more hard contact than Robles and has been the better pitcher, but it’s about the role the manager puts them in.

Robles might not keep the job and Buttrey might finish with more saves this season. The point is managers don’t always go with the better pitcher or make logical decisions. Look at the patterns for usage and make decisions that way. At the beginning of the season, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli didn’t name a closer, but almost every chance there’s a save with Blake Parker available, he gets it. Pay attention to the way a manager deploys a bullpen to get clues of the plan.

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