Archive for Indians

What On Earth Has Gone On at Progressive Field?

It is terribly unsexy to put together any kind of article about park factors. I know that; I’ve done it. But, here I am, for two reasons:

  1. at least two World Series games are about to be played at Progressive Field
  2. what in the hell?

The meat of this is the following horrible-looking plot. I’m sorry that it looks so horrible but, what are you going to do about it? This post is already published. I slapped some numbers together using the Baseball Reference Play Index. For each year since 1994, I gathered numbers for Indians games in Cleveland, and I gathered numbers for Indians games not in Cleveland. Then I calculated some single-year “park factors” by just calculating ratios. Here are some of those ratios:


Arguably the most important one is the one tracking runs per game. I’m not the first person to see this. Tony wrote a couple relevant park-factor articles in September. But look at how that dotted line moves, after the stadium first opened. For a few years, the ballpark was somewhat hitter-friendly. Then it took a turn. Between 2003 – 2014, Cleveland reduced run-scoring by about 6%, with one odd offensive spike in 2007. That spike is important — there’s danger in trying to make too much out of single-year park factors. But look at the last two years. The park last year boosted offense by 26%. This year, 21%. Now we’ve got an extreme two-year park factor, that seemingly came out of nowhere. For a long time, the park was kind to pitchers. Somehow, lately, it’s played like a nightmare.

Batting average? Way up, relative to numbers in games outside of Cleveland. OBP? Way up. Slugging percentage? Way up. Batting average on balls in play? Way up. Slugging percentage on balls in play? Way up. Interestingly, also, the walk-rate factor is up, and the strikeout-rate factor has dipped. This year, the home-run factor took off, although last year homers in Cleveland were actually slightly down. That was made up for by a bunch of doubles.

Frequently, on FanGraphs, you come across posts that try to get at the answer to something. I don’t have answers here. Instead, I’m just raising a question. What’s been happening at Progressive Field, to drive so much offense over the past two years? Is this really just a random, yet randomly-sustained spike of statistical noise? Does this somehow have to do with the installation of the newer scoreboard? Has there been a bunch of high-rise construction in the surrounding area? Have wind patterns changed? Why has Progressive been so hitter-friendly? Because, based on the last two years, Progressive has been very hitter-friendly. I don’t know how that could impact the World Series coming up, but you could see some baseballs absolutely take off.

Cleveland Might Not Have a Bullpen Advantage

I just wrote about Andrew Miller. Everyone’s written about Andrew Miller. Miller has been the story of the Cleveland bullpen, and the bullpen has been the story of Cleveland’s success. By this point, it’s all well-trod ground — the Indians have gotten this far because Terry Francona has been so aggressive to get to his relievers, and in particular to get to his best ones. It’s easy enough to take this and run with it, figuring that the bullpen must be the Indians’ relative World Series strength.

I have to be honest with you, though. I’m not entirely clear on just how much of an advantage the Indians really have there. Yes, Miller is one of the best. Maybe the very best! But let me just show you a table. This table is what causes me to hesitate.

World Series rosters haven’t been announced yet, but I went ahead and made some guesses about the upcoming bullpens. I gave Cleveland and Chicago seven relievers each, and then I plugged in their actual ERAs and FIPs, and their projected ERAs and FIPs. The last step was weighting the numbers, since the seventh reliever won’t pitch nearly as often as the first or second guy. Weighting requires its own guesses, but I assigned a number between 1 and 7 to each reliever. Zach McAllister, for example, got the 1, for Cleveland. Andrew Miller got the 7. I weighted the numbers by these designations.


2016 World Series Bullpens
Team Adj. ERA Adj. FIP Proj. ERA Proj. FIP
Cubs 2.77 2.99 2.99 3.14
Indians 2.53 3.20 3.15 3.18

“Adj.” just means “Adjusted,” which is a different way of saying “Weighted.” The first two stat columns reflect what the relievers did in 2016. The last two stat columns reflect the projections for the relievers. The Indians look better in the very first column, but that’s also arguably the least-important column of the four. If you put everything together, the Cubs bullpen looks like it’s basically as good as the Indians’ unit. That isn’t something you’d necessarily expect, given that conversations we’ve all been having, but it might just be because relieving has been *the* strength of the Indians. The Cubs have had plenty go right, so the bullpen gets less attention.

The Indians’ big flashy advantage is Miller. Obviously. He can come in in any inning, and he can go multiple innings, and we don’t yet know how hard is too hard to push him. Miller has already handled so much of the workload, but based on precedent, that’s unlikely to keep up to such a degree, unless the Indians somehow manage to sweep. Aroldis Chapman is the Cubs’ equivalent, and he’s barely worse than Miller is. He’s just less flexible, and seemingly less durable. But the Cubs have been prepared to use him in multi-inning stints.

There’s one place where this might break down. One place that, I guess, involves two players. The numbers like Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop. They were good overall in 2016, and they project to be good, too. But Rondon had a late-season stint on the DL, and Strop did, too, and if they’re not close to what they usually are, then the Cubs are in worse shape. The pitchers insist they’re okay, but, it’s the playoffs. Every pitcher insists he’s okay. Joe Maddon hasn’t leaned very heavily on these guys and maybe the Cubs know they’re compromised. That’s a big variable.

From here, however, I only have numbers to go off. The numbers say there’s not really a bullpen gap at all. Count this among the reasons why the Cubs are being viewed as fairly heavy favorites.

You Don’t Just Have to Beat Andrew Miller’s Slider

The media has presented a skewed perspective. The matchup we are going to see is the Chicago Cubs against the Cleveland Indians. The matchup we aren’t going to see is the Chicago Cubs against Andrew Miller. I mean, we’ll see that, but we won’t *only* see that, regardless of how the Indians are being discussed. And, look, I know we’re contributing to all this. We’ve been writing three Miller pieces a day. If we don’t stay above that threshold the whole website blows up.

The Cubs are going to have 25 players, and pretty much all of them are going to play. The Indians are going to have 25 of their own players, and pretty much all of them are going to play. It’s going to be fun! This is another Andrew Miller post.

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The 2016 World Series’ Nastiest Pitches, Almost Objectively

Even though run-scoring spiked to its highest total in seven years this season, these playoffs have been dominated by pitching like few others. With managers getting more out of their shutdown relievers than ever before and pitchers like Jon Lester, Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, Marco Estrada, and Kenley Jansen turning in dominant appearances while shouldering heavy workloads, perhaps it’s no surprise that these playoffs include the lowest-scoring ALCS in history. And with a World Series matchup that features one of the best run-prevention units the sport has ever seen and a pitching staff that just held the Blue Jays and Red Sox to a combined 15 runs in eight games, the World Series seems likely to continue as a low-scoring, pitcher-dominated affair.

With pitching potentially taking center stage for this year’s fall classic, so do the individual pitches themselves. And so, allow me to continue an exercise I’ve performed for each of the previous two World Series, in which I attempt to (somewhat) objectively identify the nastiest pitches we’ll see throughout this final seven-game series.

What makes a pitch nasty? Well, in part, the way it looks, which is informed by the combination of velocity and movement. So that’s half of our criteria right there. Dominant results also make a pitch nasty, and there’s no two better results for a pitcher than a swinging strike or a ground ball, so that makes up the other half of the process of these pitches being selected. Velocity, movement (horizontal + vertical), whiff/pitch, ground ball/ball in play, all relative to the individual pitch type and ranked based on the sum of four z-scores.

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Does Cleveland Even Need Danny Salazar?

When looking at postseason matchups, the quickest and most natural thing on which to focus is the relative strength of each club’s starting rotation. About a month ago, I wrote about this tendency to get caught up in starting-pitching matchups during postseason overanalysis — in part because it’s something that I myself tend to overanalyze. Which is why I looked at Cleveland at the start of the postseason and gave them little chance to advance to the Division Series or, certainly, the World Series. Lesson learned.

That piece focused on the string of starting pitcher-injuries at the end of the season and their impact on playoff rotations — including, of course, Cleveland. The loss of the No. 2 and No. 3 in their rotation — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — represented a devastating blow, and it was natural to wonder how it would impact their October chances. However, it was (and is) undeniable that the team had a tremendous bullpen, which is why this was my conclusion at the time:

“If the rotation can keep them competitive through five or six innings and the offense plays its part, there’s absolutely still a path to October success for Cleveland. Cling to that while all of the pregame overanalyses look unfavorably upon the majority of Cleveland’s starting-pitcher matchups this October.”

As expected, Cleveland’s bullpen has been simply tremendous. With just six earned runs allowed in 32.1 innings pitched, they’re sporting a 1.67 ERA. The significantly less expected development, though, is that the rotation has done a heckuva lot more than just keep the team competitive. The rotation as a whole has allowed a similarly impressive eight earned runs through 38.2 IP, giving that unit a tremendous 1.86 ERA. Obviously Corey Kluber has been a significant part of that success, but so too has Josh Tomlin’s three earned runs in 10.2 IP and Ryan Merritt’s delightfully shocking 4.1 shutout innings. The only starting pitcher for whom the bullpen has really been compelled to clean up is Trevor Bauer and his drone-afflicted pinky.

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So You Want to Beat Andrew Miller: A Walkthrough

Congratulations, [National League champion], on winning the National League pennant and advancing to the World Series! By this point, no matter what happens, you’ve had a hell of a year. You fought through [early-to-midseason adversity], [previously unheralded player] stepped up and made a name for himself, [star player] cemented his status as one of the true greats in the world, and [famous front-office executive or manager] really has a group to be proud of here. This has truly been a run to remember.

And now you’ve got one more task before you can put a bow on this season once and for all: the Cleveland Indians. The Indians didn’t have as rocky a road as you did to get here; they swept the Red Sox in the ALDS, nearly swept the Blue Jays in the ALCS, and have won 10 of their last 11 games dating back to September 30. And, while there’s a lot of praise to go around for those victories, you and I both know you biggest individual challenge that awaits you in the World Series: the 6-foot-7 swamp monster that comes out of their bullpen the moment they get a lead by the name of Andrew Miller.

He just won the ALCS MVP. In this postseason, he’s thrown 20 scoreless innings, striking out 31 with just three walks. The last time he gave up a run was more than a month ago, on September 7. He’s recorded more than three outs in every one of his postseason appearances. In every game he’s pitched, the Indians have won. If you want this World Series, that might mean conquering Miller at least once, so, since you asked, I put together that comprehensive walkthrough you wanted. This wasn’t easy.

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This Was the Lowest-Scoring ALCS in History

You might have heard offense has been down this postseason. I think one or two articles have been written about it. After the Blue Jays were shut out for the second time in the American League Championship Series, I wanted to see how much it’s been down. What I found: this ALCS was one of the lowest-scoring in history.

First, a little refresher. The ALCS has existed since 1969. From ’69 until 1984, it was a best-of-five series. Since, it’s been a best of seven. You probably already knew that, but just in case, now you definitely know. And knowing

Anyway, there were 20 runs scored in this series — 12 by Cleveland, eight by the Blue Jays. This makes it the lowest of any ALCS since it moved to a best-of-seven format. The only series that comes close is the 1990 ALCS, when the A’s scored 20 runs to the Red Sox’ measly four. It’s also easily the lowest of any series in terms of runs per game.

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Did a Closed Roof Hurt the Blue Jays in Game 5?

Before the Indians clinched the American League Championship Series behind their improbable youngster, there was a mini controversy. Because it was 66 degrees with no chance of rain, there was a movement to keep the roof open at the Rogers Centre. It can get a little stuffy in that park; if the weather was good, why not?

It turns out the why not is in the hands of Major League Baseball in the postseason. The club is consulted, but the final decision goes to MLB. They decided the roof would be shut. It’s natural to wonder, though, after seeing a few long drives fall short of the wall, if those same batted balls would have cleared the outfield fence if the roof were open.

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Ryan Merritt Pitched the Indians into the World Series

Because of course he did. This morning, I wrote all there was to know about Ryan Merritt, the 24-year-old, soft-tossing, non-prospect, left-handed pitcher who was set to start Game 5 of the ALCS for the Cleveland Indians with all of 11 innings of major league experience under his belt and the opportunity to end the Toronto Blue Jays’ season and clinch the American League pennant for Cleveland. The conclusion, based on all available data, film, and reports? “Probably, this isn’t going to go well for Cleveland.” The actual results? Shutout ball for 4.1 innings, perfect for 3.1, and a whole lot of champagne and cigar smoke in the visiting clubhouse at the Rogers Centre.

Because, baseball. Because, 2016 Cleveland Indians. When Michael Brantley‘s season was over before it began, Jose Ramirez simply stepped up and turned himself into Michael Brantley. When Marlon Byrd got hit with a season-ending PED suspension at the end of May, spreading an already-thin outfield even thinner, Tyler Naquin emerged as a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. When Yan Gomes separated his shoulder and the Indians failed to land Jonathan Lucroy at the trade deadline, Roberto Perez stepped in and handled the pitching staff so well that most Indians pitchers, when asked about the rotation’s dominant run in the postseason, haven’t been able to wait for reporters to finish their questions before his name falls off their lips. And so, of course, when Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar each suffered season-ending injuries in the final month of the season and Trevor Bauer went all Victor Frankenstein and was betrayed by his own creation, Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt made it seem like no one was missing. Like this was how they drew it all up from the start.

And of course, saying Merritt pitched the Indians into the World Series makes it sound like an isolated effort, when in fact the bullpen threw as many innings in Wednesday’s 3-0 pennant-clinching victory as he did. If anyone, on their own, truly “pitched the Indians into the World Series,” it was ALCS MVP Andrew Miller, who threw another 2.2 scoreless innings, bringing his postseason total to 20, with 31 strikeouts and three walks. Miller, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen did as much of the work as the starter, as they have for much of the postseason, but there was no work to be done if Merritt didn’t keep the game in check and hand the ball off to the bullpen with a lead. Cleveland’s lineup did its part, and Merritt did more than his own.

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The Indians Did It Again

Officially, now, the Indians are going to the World Series, representing the American League. When they get there, they’re going to be fully rested. Some will speculate that they might be too rested. That’s for then. For now, it’s another celebration in Cleveland, which is a weird thing to write.

So how did the Indians manage to pull this off, doing away with the Blue Jays in five games? Let’s be honest. You already know the answer.

The Indians aren’t going to the World Series because of Michael Brantley. The star outfielder has been of just about zero use this year, owing to a messed-up shoulder. They’re not going to the World Series because of Carlos Carrasco. He helped them plenty during the year, but then he got knocked out. They’re not going to the World Series because of Danny Salazar. Like Carrasco, he also helped plenty during the year, but he hasn’t pitched in over a month.

And this is important, in the little picture: They’re not going to the World Series because of the offense. The offense has been underrated this season, and in the playoffs it’s been fairly timely. But in the ALCS, in which the Indians outscored the Blue Jays just 12 to 8, the Indians had a .544 OPS, to the Blue Jays’ .534. By wOBA, the Blue Jays were actually better, by a margin of .237 to .231. The hitting in the whole series sucked. The Indians’ lineup was the offensive equivalent of Ryan Goins. The Blue Jays’ lineup was the offensive equivalent of J.B. Shuck. The teams didn’t hit. The Indians just hit at a few more of the good moments.

The pitching has carried the Indians. The bullpen has carried the Indians. We’ve already been over this, but it worked perfectly again on Wednesday.

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Projecting Indians Game 5 Starter Ryan Merritt

In a few hours, Ryan Merritt will take the mound for the Indians in Game 5 of the ALCS. Statistically, Merritt doesn’t look like much. He’s posted exceptionally low strikeout numbers at every stop, and although he’s coupled them with minuscule walk rates, KATOH isn’t sold. KATOH likes tall pitchers who strike guys out. As a 6-foot hurler who pitches to contact, Merritt is the exact opposite of that.

KATOH pegs Merritt for just 1.4 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 1.5 WAR by KATOH+, which integrates Baseball America’s rankings. To help you visualize what his KATOH projection entails, here is a probability density function showing KATOH+’s projected distribution of outcomes for Merritt’s first six seasons in the major leagues.


To put some faces to Merritt’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the command-oriented lefty. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis distance between Merritt’s performance this year and every Triple-A season since 1991 in which a pitcher faced at least 350 batters. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

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Everything You Need to Know About Ryan Merritt

Listen, we can all be adults here. We all understand what’s going on, in that none of us understand what’s going on. The Cleveland Indians are a few hours away from playing Game 5 of the ALCS, a game that could advance them to the World Series, and they’ll be handing the ball to Ryan Merritt in the first inning. Ryan Merritt, a 24-year-old who’s faced all of 37 batters in his major-league career, which began with a mop-up relief appearance against the Texas Rangers back in May of this year. Ryan Merritt, a lefty whose fastball sits at 87 mph and tops out at 90. Ryan Merritt, who has never appeared within the top 10 of an Indians prospects list.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m some Ryan Merritt expert. Who is? About 48 hours ago, I knew as much about Ryan Merritt as the rest of you. What follows is simply a collection of more or less public information compiled from data, film, and scouting reports. Let’s get to know Ryan Merritt.

The biographical information is always a good place to start. The Indians selected Merritt in the 16th round of the 2011 draft. That’s not a very high round! He was picked 488th overall. He doesn’t have a particularly imposing frame, at 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, though BaseballAmerica’s 2015 scouting report calls it an “athletic frame.” He cracked Double-A last year, and pitched well, to the tune of a 3.51 ERA and 3.25 FIP in 141 innings. In 143 Triple-A innings this year, he ran a 3.70 ERA and 3.82 FIP.

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Blue Jays-Indians, Game 4 Notes

Much has been made of Cleveland’s bullpen usage during the postseason. The attention has been focused primarily on two things: Terry Francona’s willingness to deviate from traditional relief roles, and the lights-out performances of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller.

Not much has been said about the limited looks hitters have been getting against Indians pitchers.

Through seven games, an Indians starter has yet to face an opposing hitter four times in the same game. They’ve faced a hitter three times on just 25 occasions, and 19 of those belong to Corey Kluber. Third-time-through-the-order penalties haven’t been injurious. Red Sox and Blue Jays batters are a combined 3-for-22 with a pair of walks and a hit-by-pitch in their third look. Francona has been masterful at pulling his starters at the right time.

He’s applied a similar approach with his management of Cleveland’s relievers. In Monday’s bullpen game, Francona flip-flopped what has been his postseason convention by using Cody Allen in the seventh, followed by Andrew Miller in a closing role. He had a reason. Read the rest of this entry »

The Legal Case for Challenging Chief Wahoo

If Canadian indigenous-rights activist Douglas Cardinal had had his way, the Cleveland Indians would have been legally prohibited from playing Games 3 through 5 of the American League Championship Series in their standard road uniforms. According to a lawsuit filed by Cardinal on Friday in Ontario Superior Court, both Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo mascot as well as the “Indians” team name itself are racially offensive and discriminatory, in violation of Canada’s Human Rights Act (which generally prohibits businesses from “differentiat[ing] adversely” between citizens on the basis of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation).

Although Judge Thomas McEwen announced on Monday afternoon that he would not be issuing an injunction blocking Cleveland from wearing its normal uniforms during the ALCS, the legal proceedings have nevertheless brought renewed attention to Cleveland’s use of what are, in the minds of many, racially insensitive team insignias.

This raises the question of whether Cleveland’s — or, for that matter, the Atlanta Braves’ — team name or logos are at risk of being successfully contested in the United States. Indeed, considering that a U.S. federal court ruled last year that several trademarks belonging to the National Football League’s Washington Redskins must be cancelled due to their disparaging nature, it is entirely possible — and perhaps even probable — that Cleveland or Atlanta could soon face a trademark challenge of its own in U.S. federal court.

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Trevor Bauer’s Bleeding Finger Was a Blessing in Disguise

As Trevor Bauer walked off the pitching mound at the Rogers Centre and into the visiting dugout in the first inning of Monday’s ALCS Game 3, his right pinky finger bleeding and leaving a trail of blood behind him with each step — like a wounded Hansel in the forest — the home crowd in Toronto erupted into cheer and applause. Some were genuinely clapping out of the good nature of their heart, giving support to the wounded athlete who gave it his all. Some had perhaps more malicious intent, jeering at the outspoken pitcher whose jabs at the Blue Jays fanbase on Twitter have persisted for months. And some were likely just cheering as fans of the Blue Jays, believing their home team’s win expectancy had just risen now that Cleveland’s bullpen had been forced into action following just two outs and four batters.

What that last group of fans might not have realized is that, in a one-game scenario, the introduction of Cleveland’s bullpen into the game actually represented an advantage for the Indians. That the Blue Jays likely had a much better shot at putting up runs by facing Bauer two, or even three times, than enduring a barrage of well-rested Cleveland relievers in four-out spurts for the entire game. That, as far as Game 3 was concerned, Bauer’s bleeding finger was actually a blessing in disguise for the Indians.

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Andrew Miller on the Evolution of his Slider

If you didn’t already know that Andrew Miller has a great slider, you do now. The lanky left-hander has been dominating the postseason. He’s also been garnering plenty of media attention, including here at FanGraphs. Tony Blengino wrote about him last week. Dave Cameron wrote about him yesterday. So did Eno Sarris.

On the premise that you can’t get enough of a good thing, here’s one more on Miller, this time in his own words. The subject — surprise, surprise — is his signature pitch. Where did he learn it? How did it evolve? Why didn’t he throw more sliders when he was struggling earlier in his career? I asked Miller those questions, and more, late in the regular season.


Miller on learning to throw a slider: “I wish I knew when I first threw one. I know that’s a big thing with kids: when do you start throwing a breaking ball? I guess I was probably around 13 or so.

“It’s never really been a curveball. It’s always been a slider, because that’s kind of where my arm slot is. The best way I’ve described my breaking ball — and it still holds true — is that I basically throw a curveball from a lower arm slot.

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Andrew Miller’s New Harder Slider

Jose Bautista is a quote machine, good and bad. Earlier, Craig Edwards looked at what the Jays outfielder said about the strike zone, and here’s a more benign thing that Bautista said about Andrew Miller‘s great slider: “For some reason his slider seems like he’s playing with it a little more,” he told reporters Sunday. “I felt like I saw two different sliders. Sometimes it’s more of a short slider. Sometimes it’s like a little slurve, with a lot more break, a sharper turn on it. As opposed to last year when he was throwing only one type of slider, which was a slurvy one.”

Bautista is right — Miller’s slider is different now. What’s interesting beyond that fact is that, by adding a second slider, Miller may have changed the movement on all of the versions of the pitch.

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Jose Bautista Thinks the ALCS Is Rigged

Losing is generally not a fun, enjoyable experience. Winning is better, and when you don’t win, sometimes you look for reasons why that coveted win didn’t occur. In baseball, the margin between winning and losing is often very small, and that has certainly been the case in the American League Championship Series: both of the series’ first two games were close, low-scoring affairs won by a Cleveland team that scored a total of runs. While players generally control outcomes, for a high-scoring team like the Toronto Blue Jays to score just one run in two games, the results have been unusual, a little too unusual, per Mike Vorkunov’s twitter account.

I don’t know if I’m lumped in there with “you guys,” but I’m more than happy to discuss the “circumstances” of which Bautista speaks. Bautista’s addressing the strike zone, and he believes that Cleveland pitchers have been getting borderline calls that Toronto’s pitchers haven’t. Let’s work backwards and begin with Saturday’s game. Here’s the strike-zone plot against left-handers hitters for Cleveland and Toronto pitchers care of Brooks Baseball. (View from the catcher’s perspective.)


Green is a called ball and red is a called strike, with Cleveland represented by squares and the Blue Jays represented by triangles. For our purposes here, let’s break things into categories. We can look at missed calls in and out of the strike zone and borderline calls. Based on the typical strike zone, we find two missed calls going against Blue Jays pitchers. For borderline calls, let’s say anything touching the line of the typical strike zone is borderline. By that definition, Cleveland threw three borderline pitches and got two strikes. Toronto threw two borderline pitches and got one strike.

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Andrew Miller’s Postseason Dominance in Context

This morning, I wrote about Andrew Miller‘s postseason dominance, and compared his current usage to how Mariano Rivera was deployed by the Yankees during their World Series runs. I noted Miller’s postseason dominance, but because I didn’t have access to postseason splits, I couldn’t put those in context, showing how well Miller has done in the postseason relative to other relievers. Thankfully, David Appelman sent me the data today, and so now I can add some context to Miller’s playoff dominance.

We currently only have this kind of postseason data going back to 2002, so I can’t compare Miller directly to pitchers before then, but we can look at how well he’s done relative to other playoff relievers in the last 15 years. And, as you’d guess, he ranks pretty highly. Here are all the relievers (or pitchers pitching in relief, anyway) who have held hitters below a .200 wOBA during the last 15 years.

Postseason Relievers, <.200 wOBA, 2002-2016
Name Innings wOBA
Roberto Osuna 14.3 0.122
Tim Lincecum 15.0 0.126
Andrew Miller 16.0 0.128
Greg Holland 11.0 0.151
Luke Hochevar 10.7 0.157
Jason Grilli 10.3 0.160
Mariano Rivera 62.0 0.173
Manny Corpas 10.3 0.175
Jeremy Affeldt 31.3 0.176
Travis Wood 14.7 0.181
Matt Herges 11.3 0.183
Jonathan Papelbon 27.0 0.184
Jason Motte 21.7 0.187
Joe Kelly 11.3 0.187
Wade Davis 27.3 0.190
Jeurys Familia 15.7 0.191
Minimum 10 innings pitched

Miller isn’t quite at the top, but he’s in that top-three tier separated from everyone else. And yes, given what Tim Lincecum did out of the bullpen for the Giants in 2012, he probably deserved a mention in my piece this morning. He was doing what Miller is doing now before it was cool. It’s too bad he didn’t want to stay in that role; it would have been fun to see what Lincecum could have been as a relief ace before the stuff went away.

Also, if you’re surprised to see Roberto Osuna at the top of the list, join the club. I knew he was good for Toronto last year, but didn’t realize he’d been quite at this level. Of course, the primary reason we’re talking about Miller’s dominance more than Osuna’s is the way they’re doing it; Osuna has a career 25% strikeout rate in the postseason, and has mostly gotten to this list by holding hitters to an .091 BABIP during his playoff appearances. Miller has a 49% postseason strikeout rate, and is at 61% this year; he’s not relying on weak contact or quality defense for his outs, and it’s easier to remember a guy just making his opponents look foolish.

But also, yeah, look at Rivera in that table. 62 innings of a .173 wOBA allowed, and that’s just since 2002, so we’re not even including his earlier dominant years. What Miller has done for 16 innings has been remarkable; Rivera did something similar over a much larger sample. And that’s why he’s the best reliever of all time.

Andrew Miller Is the Perfect Relief Pitcher

As the Blue Jays take the field in Toronto tonight, they’ll find themselves down two games to none in the ALCS, with Game 3 representing as close to a must-win game as you can get without actually facing elimination. Teams have come back from down 3-0 before, of course, so the Blue Jays aren’t definitively done if they can’t figure out how to win on Monday night, but having to win four straight games against any good team is a massive challenge. And the idea of winning four straight against Andrew Miller‘s team seems downright impossible, because right now, Andrew Miller is basically the walking embodiment of the perfect relief pitcher.

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