Blistering Bullpen: Between Innings

Four games. The Cleveland Indians (15-12) lost four games to the Detroit Tigers (14-13) the entire 2016 season as they won 14 of the 18 contests between the division rivals. The calendar flipped and so did the advantage as the Tribe entered Wednesday having lost four of the first five to those same Motor City Kitties. Wednesday’s game could have put Detroit ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central standings, but the Indians leaned on a feverish Carlos Carrasco to a victory, 3-2.1

The game was important to the Indians as indicated from their decision-making. Jason Kipnis had been resting against left-handed pitchers, yet manager Terry Francona did not dare start Michael Martinez in a game he sought to win even with southpaw Matt Boyd on the mound. Francona indicated after the game that Carrasco arrived at the ballpark with a fever, yet decided to go ahead with his start anyway. When Carrasco had a shorter than normal start (6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 SO), Andrew Miller was called upon to pitch two innings for the first time in 2017 with Cody Allen finishing off the game.

While the Indians offense continues to struggle to find a groove against left-handed pitching, Jose Ramirez drove in two runs and scored one himself all in the fourth inning to give the Tribe just enough offense to pull off the win.

Blistering bullpen better than your bullpen getting blitzed

Cody Allen has been as dominant as we have ever seen him or any other reliever to ever don an Indians uniform. He could not locate a fastball for anything against the Tigers. Allen walked more batters in the ninth inning (2) than he had the entire 2017 season combined (1). He still managed to strike out two, and he finished the inning without allowing a hit or run. For the season, Allen has allowed one run in 11 innings pitched, while striking out 22 and only walking three. His registered FIP is negative (-0.14), which means not only is the opposition helpless against him but they cede runs to him if it were a neutral environment. Allen’s value shows that he is the best reliever in the Americal League with a fWAR (0.8) only a fraction below MLB leading reliever Kenly Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The BABIP of .500 against indicates he has been UNLUCKY thus far with batted balls. Add in a strikeout rate near 50% (48.9%) and Allen might as well be the final boss in an unbeatable video game. You know, the closer. Given the Indians penchant for Mario Coins upon runs scored, Allen should strut out to the Bowser Castle music or have it played after each strikeout.

Even with the accolades and statistics for Allen, there is an argument Miller has been almost as dominant. Miller has not allowed a run in 2017 similar to how he did not allow a run during the Indians 2016 postseason run. He had no issues locating his pitches on Wednesday and struck out four Tigers with relative ease. On most teams a reliever with a 30% strikeout to walk rate ratio, 1.22 FIP (0.00 ERA), and 0.6 fWAR would be seen as the anchor of the bullpen. As it is, Miller being fourth in MLB in win probability added (1.14) for a relief pitcher is only good for second place because Allen is second on that list (1.20).2

Another crazy component of Miller’s start is there is more upside to be had. He is only striking out hitters at a 37% rate, which is great for most anyone else but down from the over 40% numbers he has regularly put up the past few seasons.

Miller did not only strike out four of the six batters he faced. He also showed off his speed and glove work when he hustled to first base to demonstrate impeccable defensive form when he used every inch of his lankiness to reel in a low throw for the out at first base.

Cleveland’s bullpen on a whole is fantastic with plenty of other good arms worthy of having time on the mound. The separation from the rest of MLB though is due to the tag team champions of relief pitching in Miller and Allen. Picking a favorite or better option between the two of them is almost silly as both are so amazingly good every time they see the mound. If you had to choose though, it appears Miller is tossing his support to Allen.

  1. In a similar arc, the Minnesota Twins were 14-34 by the end of May 2016. They are currently tied with the Indians in first place at 14-11. Hat-tip on that trivia to Baseball Prospectus editor-in-chief Aaron Gleeman. []
  2. Win probability added is basically adding up each plate appearance to see how much it helped or hurt the chances of a team winning that game. []

  • jpftribe

    Rain killed the drive to Detroit this morning. May not see Clevinger at all.

  • mgbode

    Game today already postponed, so you made the wise decision.

  • Garry_Owen

    Love the Bowser castle theme for Allen when he comes on. I hope the Indians read this.

    I may have misheard this, but I thought they said on the telecast last night that the Indians’ entire bullpen had not given up a run in something like 32+ innings. I think it has to be over 33 now. If true, that’s incredible (and frightening).

    Last, I will say this: I have definitely taken Allen for granted. I’ve never been overly impressed with him, and generally disdain the idea of the “closer,” but last night showed me something that I think I have been willfully ignoring. He could not pitch, period; but it never got to him. It seems that every other closer the Tribe has had would collapse in that situation, but he didn’t even appear to sweat it. He just got to work. I’m a believer now (very late arrival).

  • tigersbrowns2

    good game last night … after Verlander & Zimmerman , the Tigers have Fulmer , Boyd & Norris … the Tigers had to pitch the 3 youngsters last year out of necessity. i’m glad they stuck with them … Boyd & Norris are coming around & it looks like they’ll be in the rotation for a while.

    looks to me like the best 2 bullpens in baseball reside in the AL Central … and the Tigers aren’t one of them.

  • mgbode

    We’ll see if Chicago can maintain.

    And, what y’all did last year was reminiscent of when Verlander first came up. Think he lost 20 games his rookie year if I remember correctly and generally struggled. But, you gave him leash and faith that he’d be sticking around (and obviously he had the talent so that he could be given as much).

  • scripty

    Allen’s been FEARLESS in attacking the top fraction of the strike zone with his fastball, which seems to be more up in the 95 range, which has made his sick offspeed pitch even more deadly. From what I’ve seen, his stuff is just absurd this year.

    He had absolutely no control on that walk last night to put runners on 1st & 2nd, then he got it under control and the final batter got the real deal. That movement for the strikeout was nasty.

  • mgbode

    The bullpen has been on an amazing run. Allen is special. He’s like the crazy guy in the movies who has no feeling, only intensity. Now I wish I had written the narrative around Allen being Bryan Mills (Liam Neesom in Taken).

  • tigersbrowns2

    everyone knows Robertson & Nate Jones … but Tommy Kahnle is pretty impressive … of the games i’ve watched , his fastball is consistently about 100 mph.

    i wouldn’t be surprised if the White Sox end-up trading Robertson & Kahnle takes over the closing duties.

  • Garry_Owen

    You’ll have plenty of opportunities.

  • mgbode

    Kahnle has the highest strikeout rate among relievers in baseball and low walk rate. Yeah, he’s quite excellent.

  • mgbode
  • JNeids
  • Natedawg86

    I was kind of clammouring to get Allen out. He didn’t have his stuff last night. 2 walks, only threw 10 strikes total (out of 25 pitches) to 5 batters, but in the end he somehow still struck out two of them and got the 1 run save. Big game much needed there for the tribe.

  • Garry_Owen

    All of this now makes me think there’s an A-Team connection to be made to the bullpen. At least I want there to be one.

  • Natedawg86

    I love that he only really smiles after the save.

  • Natedawg86

    The last batter was just standing there like WTF after the last pitch of the game lmao

  • mgbode

    Crazy, right?

  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    But how is J-Ram not Mr. T in any Indians A-Team configuration?

  • Garry_Owen

    Just re the Bullpen:

    Hannibal = Tito; crazy plan that always comes together
    Face =Miller; the wonderboy and obvious face of the bullpen
    Murdoch = Shaw; always brings the crazy, and everyone thinks they’re going to die, but he somehow figures out a way to fly the plane/helicopter/tank out of danger
    B.A. = Allen; I pity the fool that faces him

  • Garry_Owen

    Looks like he’s pondering his life, the meaning thereof, and why he’s doing this at all. Love the little spit at the end.

  • Anyone else get nervous watching Miller make that play at first?

  • mgbode

    Hannibal has to be Mickey (technically Bere is the bullpen coach but I think we can all agree on Mickey)

  • mgbode

    I just assume he is invincible at this point.

  • Garry_Owen

    I considered that, but in-game, and overall, the call is still Tito’s.

  • mgbode


  • Natedawg86

    Yeah honestly I was hoping they we didn’t lose the game there. I thought a tie was inevitable. Have been so tired based on staying up for grad school, just had final presentation for a class that ended right around 8th inning. Was ready for some sleep and wanted to go to bed knowing they won

  • jpftribe

    Saw Fulmer pitch in AZ against the Rangers and he was dominant. I think he gave up a long ball on a mistake, but was an SO machine.

    Norris looks pretty good to me. 93-94 pretty consistently. Wouldn’t call him a lefty soft tosser.

    Haven’t seen Boyd yet.

  • jpftribe

    DiBiasio interviewed Sonny Seibert who pitched a no hitter 2 months before I was born. He said he didn’t have good stuff that day and it really made him focus on making good pitches.

  • jpftribe

    Didn’t see the game yesterday, but his 84 mph curve looks a lot like his 95 mph FB, until it doesn’t.

  • Harv

    Really seems last year’s playoff run and seven World Series games has made Allen feel invincible. As in: this isn’t pressure, THAT was pressure. Or maybe it’s my own perception that only now does he carry himself like a fearless badass out there.

    And only rarely do I peek at minor league reports to see how Frazier and Sheffield are doing. Doesn’t matter if one goes all star and the other Cy Young. Because of Miller, we were a rain delay from winning it all. That’s the position you dream your GM can put the team in.

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