Is Something Wrong with Cody Allen?

Cody Allen began 2017 with a sterling April, and the instigation of a conversation about how he compared to one Andrew Miller; slayer of dragons. Yet, just a few months later with awful xFIPs in May and July, there is a growing concern about the once dominant closer.1 Of course, it must be noted that I am optimistic about Allen long term and also, appreciate the immense value he has provided to date for this ballclub which was the basis of my article discussing the pros and cons of a possible extension back at the All-Star break. However, over the past 30 days, Allen is rocking a FIP over 5.0 and has run both high walk and home run to fly ball rates.

With a home run to fly ball rate of 25%, Allen’s recently flair ups may be nothing more than variance in a small sample. Indeed, Allen has induced tons of soft contact over the past month. Still, Allen has appeared to lack command of late by a) grooving too many pitches and b) posting an elevated walk rate.  Lack of command can point to mechanical issues or potentially an arm injury.2  On the arm injury front, declining velocity is generally deemed to be a strong indicator of injury and Allen has seen velocity drop-off in July. On Monday night, Allen never touched 94 miles per hour.3

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Allen has experienced the loss of about a single mile per hour in terms of average velocity but it is also worth noting that in his last outing before Monday, Allen reached 94 only a couple times out of roughly 20 pitches.

A substantive down-tick in velocity is certainly concern but the next place one would look to consider mechanics and arm health would be release points. There are some potential concerns here as well with Allen’s horizontal release point appearing relatively different from 2016.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Allen’s horizontal release point appears to be constantly devolving which is definitely a poor sign regarding mechanics, use, and arm health.  Between velocity decline, command issues, and a shifting horizontal release point, Allen has all the surface level signs of arm soreness. This could relate to heavy usage with Allen having pitched the fourth most innings among all relievers in Major League Baseball since the start of 2013; not counting postseason innings. Allen has been a horse since arriving in Cleveland and with 81 innings combined between the 2016 regular season and postseason run, Allen might simply running a bit low on fuel. Perhaps, the Indians could allow him to rest rather than put him on the mound with four run leads in the future.4

Of course, this is could all be noise, a fluky intersection of concerning indicators that merit only further consideration not overreaction. However, with Miller having “hot spot” issues on his pitching hand and Allen struggling during the dog days of summer, the Indians should strongly pursue additional bullpen help. Whether Allen is currently hurt is unclear but the risk factors have increased significantly to the point that considering a short rest appears to be an optimal approach. For a lengthy disquisition on the potential bullpen talent available as well as the nature of the marketplace read a portion of Jim Pete’s most recent piece.

Alas, as for Cody Allen, one must hope the arm is righted quickly.

  1. All data used in this article is as of Monday afternoon. []
  2. Allen’s zone% is down 3.5% in 2017 []
  3. Allen normally sits at 95 miles per hour. []
  4. Manager Terry Francona had him warming up before Carlos Santana added an insurance run, but there is still no reason to have pushed Allen when not needed. []