If you need Saves on your roto team, take heart. You can almost always get them, or at least identify where they will be coming from, with these simple steps:
Find the real teams that are underachieving. Do this with the Pythagorean formula introduced 35 years ago by Bill James: Runs Scored² divided by (Runs Scored² + Runs Allowed²) equals Winning Percentage. Do this for all the teams or let ESPN do it for you. By Winning Percentage these are the teams that are better than they have played so far this year:
Injuries and trades aside, these teams will play better from now on. Unusually and very wonderfully for this year, five of the top six underachieving teams are already good-to-very-good teams. It’s nice to know that the Twins will be better, but 31 Expected Wins from now on are barren fields to plow in lands where the Cubs should win 50 and the Cardinals should win 45. As an aside, the Cubs’ .673 EW% is the highest I’ve seen in a long time.
We might as well do their opposites too, the teams who can be expected to be worse from now on:
The main argument for why teams play better than they should is that they have good bullpens and therefore win more close games. There is something to the argument but less than you might think. The Royals have the 2nd-best bullpen, true. But the Yankees with their Holy Trio rank only 13th – what a waste of talent – the Giants 16th, and forget about the Phillies and Rangers. Again minus trades – but not injuries because injuries figure to make a team worse – these teams are headed down, actually better bets to decline than the top teams are to improve, because of the injury factor. Too bad we can’t sell them short in Vegas. (You can try it on a game basis but I would only do it when getting odds, which means do it now before the odds adjust and they start being the underdogs more often.) Decline probably won’t be disastrous in the case of better teams like the Giants and Rangers, but if you own their closers you should expect to fall off in Saves.
You should also multiply the Pythagorean W% by the remaining games each team has to get Projected Wins. There are differences: at the ASB, the Red Sox and Orioles have 75 games remaining, the Blue Jays only 71. You can’t get a Save unless there is a game. The teams with the most Expected Wins:
Red Sox 43
Blue Jays 42
If you want you can multiply them by 52% to get Expected Saves. These numbers are conservative. The underachieving teams are, as a group, very likely to exceed their projections as the luck evens out. I gave those teams an asterisk. Their closers are the guys you want. You can feel utterly confident trading Wade Davis or even Chapman for Jonathan Papelbon – not straight up of course, but in a multi-player deal in which you are getting the better players otherwise. You have a great chance to win both parts of the deal.
And if you’re in a CDM or Fantrax salary cap league, your ideal bullpen right now is Rondon, Papelbon, Oh and Cishek. Or, ahem, whoever winds up closing for those teams after the trade dust clears. For the moment, I’d make sure Seung-hwan Oh and Steve Cishek were on my team.