The Cleveland Indians wouldn’t have made it to Game 7 of the World Series, if it weren’t for their superb bullpen. Heading into the 2017 season, the club will be able to lean on that same unit — plus an addition or two — in order to get back to the Fall Classic, hopefully with a different outcome this time around.
In a series of rankings ahead of the first pitch of the 2017 regular season, MLB.com has selected the Indians’ bullpen as the best in the MLB.
When people jumped on board the “Andrew Miller is changing bullpens forever!” train during the postseason last year, a lot of them missed the point: You can’t do what Terry Francona did with his Miller usage if you don’t have a weapon as effective as Cody Allen in the ninth. Miller is in the conversation for best reliever in baseball, but Allen, who has a 1.08 WHIP, 90 saves and 277 strikeouts in 207 innings over the past three years, is also in the top 10, at least.
The Indians also have workhorse Bryan Shaw, who has led the AL in appearances in two of the past three years, and Dan Otero, who posted a 1.53 ERA in 70 2/3 innings in 2016. The Tribe paired Miller with another lefty to fill the more traditional situational role with the offseason signing of Boone Logan.
Whether it’s Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, or Dan Otero, among others, the bullpen proved that they can carry the team no matter how far into the game the starting pitcher pitches. Need to get threw the middle of the order? They have a guy for that. Need someone to pitch multiple innings? They have a guy for that. Need to get a left-handed batter out? They have a guy for that. Need to close out a game? They have a guy for that.
Although Miller and Allen won’t be counted on to be on the mound as early on and as much as they did in the 2016 postseason, Cleveland has the depth and versatility to still succeed out of the bullpen as much if not more than they did last season. Luckily for a guy like Miller, he won’t be forced to come into the game every time a left-handed batter is up due to the Indians signing left-handed specialist Boone Logan joining the team over the offseason.
The Top 5:
For those interested, the Indians were ranked second-best rotation in the league (trailing only the Mets) and the fifth-best lineup in the league. In case you’re keeping track at home, having all three of your units ranked among the best in the league… well, that’s definitely a good thing.
While it seems as though the 2016 season just ended, the 2017 begins on Sunday, with the Indians starting their season Monday night in Arlington, Texas against the Rangers.