How to Pay 3 Measly Bucks for Clayton Kershaw

Sergio Romo

These were Clayton Kershaw’s Cy Young winning numbers last year:

Clayton Kershaw 233.1 174 54 248 21 0 0 2.28 0.98 9.57


I look at those stats and it’s love. Real love. Like a unicorn loves rainbows or fairies love glitter love. Kershaw is obviously money, so let’s talk money for a little bit.

Depending upon who you ask his 2011 season was worth around $38 in fantasy baseball value. In the last auction I was in he went for $60. Granted, I play with crazy people, but the point is that he’s an absolutely dominant pitcher and if you want him on your team you’ll have to pony up the dough for him.

I’m going to tell you how you can get Clayton Kershaw for $3. You like where this is going? Me, too!

Below are the statistics for Mike Adams, Tyler Clippard, and Sergio Romo, three middle relievers who had incredible seasons and are projected to do it again, but were a part of a middle reliever pool that has 30+ members that fit the profile I’m going to share with you. They are a limited, but by no means rare commodity.

Mike Adams 73.2 44 14 74 5 2 32 1.47 .79 9.04
Tyler Clippard 88.1 48 26 104 3 0 38 1.83 .84 10.6
Sergio Romo 48.0 29 5 70 3 1 23 1.50 .71 13.13


Below are their totaled numbers compared with Clayton Kershaw:

Clayton Kershaw 233.1 174 54 248 21 0 0 2.28 0.98 9.57
Totaled 3 Relievers 210 121 45 248 11 3 93 1.63 .79 10.6


Others will tell you that you can pick up a middle reliever as a cheap source of Ks, so I purposely highlighted 3 guys who had the exact strikeout total as Kershaw’s Cy Young season. I’ve heard others talk about how a middle reliever can potential help with ratios, helping to bring down your overall ERA and WHIP. I’ve even heard folks talk about how they’ll occasionally vulture a win or two by temporarily carrying a middle reliever.

All good strategy advice, but each stops well short of saying that you can use middle relievers to actually replace an Ace starter.

I’ll telling you that you can absolutely use 3 middle relievers to replicate the stat line of any fantasy baseball Ace, and the benefits of this are huge.

First, let’s talk about the two downsides to this strategy:

    1. If you implement this strategy you have 2 less bench spots available to you because you are using 3 players to count as one. I think team depth is overrated, a topic that I plan to dive into in the future, but if you are the type that likes to have extra hitters on your bench slots then this strategy might not be for you.
    2. You can see that our 3 relievers have 10 less Wins than Kershaw. Yup, you’ll take a hit in the Wins column, but can I gently remind you that you’ve paid only $3 to get this stat line?

    Now let’s talk nuts and bolts:

      • You aren’t fighting over finite resources. There aren’t many Clayton Kershaw’s. When everyone wants a fantasy baseball rotation full of them it drives the price up. This strategy allows you to zip where everyone is zagging, picking up identical production at a fraction of the cost.
      • There isn’t a consensus on what a pitcher of Kershaw’s calibre costs, but everyone agrees the price is steep. Let’s use the low range – $38 – for sake of  argument. It won’t take you more than a FA pick-up or $1 each to nab three stellar middle relievers. You just saved $35 bucks. What can you get for $35? How about Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Upton, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Gonzales, Evan Longoria, Ian Kinsler, Dustin Pedroia? You like where that list is going? I do too.
      • Find three dependable starters to serve as your “2-4″ in your fantasy baseball rotation. You obviously can’t replace all starters with middle relievers because you couldn’t work them into your lineup. Think guys like Shawn Marcum, C.J. Wilson, Ian Kennedy, Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, etc. These guys can be had later and since they only pitch every five days they give you no stats 80% of the time. It’s in that 80% time that your middle relievers are filling your pitching slots. Boom. You just created your 4th starter for $3, while pulling down Ace numbers.

      I realize this flies against conventional wisdom and this won’t be the first time I’ve been accused of crazy talk, but this has worked for me time and time again. It seems unreasonable that you can get Ace value with 3 $1 middle relievers. Others will flirt with this type of strategy but can’t quite step over the line into the great abyss. This is a trust fall, I know, but I promise you that middle relief guys like Sean Marshall, Kenley Jansen, Jonny Venters, David Robertson, Koji Uehara, Ernesto Frieri, and Addison Reed will catch you.

      This is an all in, bold move. But make the leap. This is how you can get Clayton Kershaw production for $3.

      Am I crazy? Let me know in the comments.

      Tags: Bench ERA Middle Relief Middle Relievers MRI Pitching Saves Strategy WHIP

      • Nash

        I remember you sharing your discovery of the now famed MRI strategy and I often imagine the day you discovered it like from a movie: “you in your basement crunching numbers like a mad scientist…muahahahahaha”

      • Clave

        OK, Nash put out a challenge. If we get 10 unique commenters on this post then next season in the draft I can spend no more than $9 on pitching.

        I’m taking the challenge.

        • ERolfPleiss

          This is my unique comment. But I want you to do it with $8.

      • Dixon

        I don’t like the idea of you spending $251 on hitters.

      • Nash

        Good point Dixon lol

        • Nash

          For the record that’s just about what you did this year dixon…lol

          • Dixon

            I am very aware of that, and I kinda like the looks of my team.

      • birrrdy!

        Every year in my NL-only keeper league which has no minimum innings requirement, one or two teams take the bait and try this strategy (middle relievers in place of an ace). Every year they get annhilated. It happens even moreso now that cheap quality starting pitching is everywhere.

        Save your $1 for 5th starters that make quality rotations like the Cardinals (e.g. Jaime Garcia 2 years ago), or on dependable undervalued veterans with job security that play in pitchers parks (e.g. Harang and Capuano this year for the Dodgers), and you’ll get 30 more wins out of the 3 spots, 180 more Ks, and WHIP and ERA numbers that won’t sink the ship (now that the Roids era is done it seems).

        We love playing against the teams that stack up on the middle relievers. One or two with vulture save/win opportunities is okay (e.g. K. Jansen last year with his amazing K rate), but loading up on 3 and fooling yourself that it replaces Kershaw is downright foolish. You don’t need to spend $65 on Kersh, but your $3 can go a lot farther with starters that get you value (upside or dependability).

        Just my 2 cents!

      • James

        if you are still predraft, i will make it 9 comments (this was reposted from last year)