This article is part of our The Z Files series.
Floating a middle reliever into your lineup in lieu of a lesser starting pitcher has been a popular ploy for the past few years. Heading into this season, the need to do so was amplified, as a study of the 2019 schedule revealed fewer two-start opportunities than usual. The reasoning was, the difference in innings between a weaker starter and a high-volume reliever on a weekly basis has dwindled to the point the potential strikeouts are nearly equal while the reliever should post superior ratios with a better chance of logging a win. Plus, in today's landscape, the reliever has a chance to fall into a handful of saves, if not fully take over ninth-inning duties.
With mounting evidence the ball is juiced, the necessity for ratio protection is even more paramount. As a result, fantasy teams released their back-end starters to pick up a dominant set up man, with a history of throwing a lot of innings.
Unfortunately, many of the targets didn't get the memo. That is, the early numbers of many of the perceived top middle relievers are downright ugly. By my count, there are at least 19 middle relievers doing more harm than good. In no particular order: Caleb Ferguson, Nate Jones, Robert Gsellman, Tony Watson, Chris Martin, Yoshihisa Hirano, Seth Lugo, Chris Devenski, Jonathan Holder, Richard Rodriguez, Seranthony Dominguez, Andrew Miller, Joakim Soria, Jeurys Familia, Josh James, Joe Kelly,