Saves vs. Holds

Zach here,

Every off-season, Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman), who plays a huge role in organizing the Tout Wars drafts and overseeing the leagues throughout the year, opens the floor for rule change suggestions. The Tout Wars LLC has final say in whether or not to implement a rule change, but most of the time, proposals do not even reach that stage, as the majority of owners tend to favor the status quo. The most recent exceptions have been the switch from AVG to OBP and the change from a modified Vickrey FAAB system to a straight Vickrey format.

Anyway, here’s one category-related suggestion that Ray Flowers of SiriusXM shared with the group (in his own words):

“Replace saves with Solds (saves + holds). Chasing saves on draft day or on waivers gets tiring. Why not try to set it up to reward the talent of the relievers versus the role the manager puts them in?”

Cory was quick to second this idea, but I had to chime in with this:

“The only time I want to hear the word ‘Sold’ is at the auction. I hate holds as a category as all you need is one out. There are enough instances where a save is not deserved (1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER etc.) Holds are even worse. They are simply too easy to get.”

After a few more owners added their input, Cory answered:

“Zach’s original reply, and subsequent replies from others, got me to thinking about the relative value of Saves vs. Holds. My initial reaction was in favor of Ray’s suggestion to use SV+HLD, because I don’t think chasing saves demonstrates any meaningful skill as a fantasy player. But, I’m a numbers guy, so what do the numbers say?

Well, it’s a mixed bag. In looking at 2014 MLB regular season stats, pitchers who earned Saves did in fact pitch longer and better than those who earned Holds, so there is definitely some higher level of skill reflected there.”

CAT      NO.        OUT/G   ERA       WHIP     K/9

SV        1264       3.03       1.02       0.80       10.33

HLD      2309       2.56       1.34       0.90       8.94

(OUT/G is outs per game, or IP*3.)

“This fairly well dispels the notion that adding Holds would allow us to reward skills more than roles. On the whole, those earning the Saves were also the better pitchers, performance-wise.

Also, I divided up all Saves into three roughly equal groups, ranked by the Bill James game score (minus the bonus for complete innings after the fourth, and the 50-point base), then did the same for all Holds, then compared the bottom thirds in each category. These results clearly support the notion of a “cheap” Hold being much cheaper, and more damaging, than a cheap Save.”

CAT       NO.        OUT/G   ERA       WHIP     K/9

SV         422        2.84       3.23       1.76       6.95

HLD       771        2.03       5.02       2.13       5.26

“This seems to me to argue against another motivation for adding Holds, that doing so would dilute the value of lower-tier closers. Lower-tier relievers earning Holds are far more damaging.

(Admittedly not every save nor every hold would be “rostered”, but I think these numbers are still instructive.)

On the other hand, as noted above there were almost two Holds earned for every Save, so presumably the cost of acquiring relievers in general would be diminished as a result, allowing Tout owners to spend more of their draft and FAAB money elsewhere rather than in the bullpen. That may be a good thing.

This last point still carries my vote, but I’m not as firmly committed as I was a couple of hours ago. Take these results with the usual grains of salt and do with them what you will.”

Zach back with you:

Since Cory conducted his study, there have been plenty more e-mails regarding the issue, and it’s looking like we’re going to stand pat with the current 5×5 setup (with OBP again replacing AVG), but this is one of many examples of the Tout Wars off-season discussions.

The 411 welcomes your comments!


Love the topic, so glad you brought this up. I wish this would be the standard. Last season was my first FAAB league with OBP, SBN, QS and SVHD. My closers busted early having Johnson, Frieri, Axford and Henderson, super ouch, but I still managed 8 points in SVHD. Having SVHD gives you more flexibility, and allows teams to make up ground late in the season. I grabbed 7 pitchers in the last two months to pick up 3 points in SVHD. No way on saves alone can you make such maneuvers. Yes it devalues saves but that’s a good thing. It gives teams an abundance of choices to always compete. Much like having steals or homers always out on the wire, now the relief pitching role can be just as open.

feel free to check out the league:

I like the saves category as a stand alone. 1. I like the that managers are challenged on draft day to take closers early or use those picks on elite hitters. And where do you begin to consider a closer? Adding holds de-emphasizes such decisions. Rounding out your roster with closers – who to take, how many and when- is one of the most challenging parts of draft day in my opinion, because you are always starring down other managers when it comes to this position during the duration of the draft. The approach to closers is so varied from one manager to the next that you will see every approach possible on draft day. You have to adjust to these strategies on a round to round basis. And 2. I like the extra dimension it adds when trying to manage your bench spaces. Do you secure and hold on to “x” amount of back-up closers, or do you you use those bench spots on someone else. I think the decisions you make is a challenge in and of itself because it effects your team and others who are making the same considerations. There’s less of a challenge in acquiring, dumping and holding on to pitchers that can acquire holds and/or saves. There’s just so many of them- the pool is much more diverse.

Has the 2015 list of 12 been posted yet? I haven’t seen it.

Not yet. Figure sometime in January.


Agree with not making that change. One change I do LOVE though is one we made in my keeper league last year: replacing WINS with WINS+QS. I hated wins as much as anyone, years I would always seem to find the unlucky Hamels,Cain,Lee on my team who pitched like an ace but couldnt even muster double-digit wins. Now with this change it fixes everything, these unlucky guys still have great value due to all their quality starts. And it really balances out some lucky starters who get lots of wins but not a great ERA so less quality starts. Make the switch guys you won’t regret it. Not all league sites have the stat yet (more should be for 2015), but this is the future, no more pulling our hair out over blown wins! What do you use in all your leagues Zach?

Yeah, W+QS is definitely the best alternative I’ve heard so far, though I’m not a big fan of QS since it’s so arbitrary. I think a QS should really be EITHER 6+ innings and 2 ER or less OR 7+ innings and 3 ER or less. This way, you would need a sub-4.00 ERA to get a QS. I still use wins in all my leagues, but I am getting sick of it!


Hi well we start our draft next week in a 12 team head to head….I usually tend to chose outside of rankings…last year my 2 top were Votto and Harper but still finished 2nd,,,,,,I pick 11th this year than 3 picks later also(snake draft) Im looking at Donaldson\ harper\ Desmond\ Posey\ or Rizzo….too soon at 1st\2nd round? thanks


Just answered this question under the List of 12 post.


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