Out of the Box: Top middle men

Updated: July 26, 2007, 4:46 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com
I came to a sudden realization on one of my most important fantasy teams a couple days ago. With a substantial lead in ERA and WHIP, solid standings in wins and strikeouts, and only eight weeks (after this one) to go in the fantasy baseball season, preserving those stellar ratios became an instant, integral part of my strategy.

Faced with the prospect of shifting my pitching strategy to "preservation mode," I decided there's no better time than now to start loading up on useful, underappreciated middle relievers. They're not flashy, they're rarely All-Stars, they're often overlooked in the baseball world, but these ERA/WHIP helpers can be quite the boon down the stretch.

As an aside, the same might be true of those of you in leagues with a cap on starts. Once you go over -- it's 120 team starts in our standard game, for instance -- it's a relief-only strategy for you. Suffice to say, once multiple teams reach the point where they've either used up their starts or are preserving ratios, it's too late to do anything about it.

ALSO SEE