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Top 18 Prospects: Cleveland Indians

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Cleveland Indians farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on thes 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

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NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)

Indians Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Francisco Mejia 21 A+ C 2019 55
2 Brad Zimmer 23 AAA CF 2018 55
3 Triston McKenzie 19 A RHP 2020 55
4 Greg Allen 23 AA OF 2018 50
5 Bobby Bradley 20 A+ 1B 2019 45
6 Will Benson 18 R OF 2021 45
7 Nolan Jones 18 R 3B 2020 45
8 Erik Gonzalez 25 MLB UTIL 2017 45
9 Yu Chang 21 A+ INF 2019 45
10 Brady Aiken 20 A- LHP 2020 45
11 Juan Hillman 19 A- LHP 2020 45
12 Yandy Diaz 25 AAA 3B 2017 45
13 Anthony Santander 22 A+ 1B/OF 2019 40
14 Rob Kaminsky 22 AA LHP 2018 40
15 Gabriel Mejia 21 A- CF 2021 40
16 Shawn Armstrong 26 MLB RHP 2017 40
17 Willi Castro 19 A SS 2020 40
18 Mark Mathias 22 A+ 2B 2019 40

55 FV Prospects

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic
Age 21 Height 5’10 Weight 175 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/70 50/55 30/45 50/40 40/50 70/70

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .333/.379/.500 as a left-hander in 2016, .359/.390/.542 as right-hander.

Scouting Report
Arguably the best catching prospect in all of baseball, Mejia’s prodigious arm strength and bat-to-ball ability give him the raw physical material to impact the game in a variety of ways. A switch-hitter, Mejia has fantastic bat control from both sides of the plate and tracks pitches well. He has plus bat speed and, except for the occasional rash of overswinging, generates it with little effort. As a right-handed hitter, Mejia hits to all fields. He’s more pull-heavy as a left-handed hitter but is better at creating airborne contact from that side. Mejia’s strikeout rate has fallen as he’s risen up the minor-league ladder. I have a future 70 on the hit tool.

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The Perfectly Logical AL Cy Young Award Ballot

Mike Berardino of the the St. Paul Pioneer Press had an American League Cy Young Award vote this year. He filled out his ballot as follows:

  1. Verlander
  2. Britton
  3. Miller
  4. Kluber
  5. Porcello

I respect Berardino’s ballot. As a matter of fact, I applaud it — and not only because he placed the three starters in the same order I would have. That’s a secondary consideration. Far more meaningful is the fact that he included both Zach Britton and Andrew Miller, and not just one of the two.

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Why Do We Vote for Manager of the Year So Early?

The results are in. Terry Francona is your American League Manager of the Year. Congratulations to him! He’s probably an excellent manager. I actually had a vote for the AL version of the award, and, well, I probably screwed it up. One part of the screw up was on me, and I’ll eat my crow. But here’s my excuse: I didn’t have the most important part of the year at my disposal when I made my vote.

I voted for John Farrell, Buck Showalter, and Terry Francona in that order. I think all three are excellent managers, and so I relied on the numbers I produced to try and help me make the decision.

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Ty Van Burkleo on the Indians’ Offense

The Cleveland Indians finished the regular season with 777 runs scored. That qualified as fifth-most in the majors. Their lineup was more speed than power — they led the American League in steals — but they weren’t exactly the 1959 Go-Go Sox. The club logged over 500 extra-base hits, and they finished fourth in the junior circuit in both wOBA and wRC+.

Ty Van Burkleo deserves much of the credit. Cleveland’s hitting coach for each of the past four seasons, the 53-year-old Van Burkleo espouses an approach built on patience and controlled aggression. There’s an overall philosophy. At the same time, however, he recognizes that each hitter has strengths he needs to optimize.

Van Burkleo shared his views on hitting in two separate conversations. I spoke to him on the eve of the World Series, and again when the team was at Wrigley Field.


Van Burkleo on why the Indians offense was productive: “As a group — as nine guys in the lineup — everybody competes together. It’s not relying on just one or two guys to carry the load. We’ve had 11 walk-offs and I think they’ve been by nine different guys. Somebody is doing their part every day.

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The Postseason’s Quieter Pitching Revolution

“More breaking balls!” That’s how Theo Epstein characterized the postseason for Brian Kenny on the latter’s lead-in show before Game Five of the World Series. It’s a notable observation insofar as it’s a little more actual content than you typically get publicly from a high-ranking front-office exec, but it’s also a matter of public record that his team was seeing a ton of breaking balls in the World Series. Dave Cameron, for example, took an excellent look at the subject earlier this week.

What’s interesting about Epstein’s comment, however, is how he was somehow able to remain vague about his point, even as he seemed to be offering something incredibly specific. He suggests there are more breaking balls in the playoffs, sure. But it’s not clear if he’s implying that there are more breaking balls every postseason for every team, or merely that there were more this postseason for his team, or something in between.

This postseason was defined by a transformation in bullpen usage; that’s not up for discussion, really. But it seems possible that pitching mixes themselves also changed this postseason. And while it would be impossible for Andrew Miller to throw 225 innings and strike out nearly 400 batters — the unfathomable numbers you get if you prorate his postseason work to a full season out of the pen — it might be possible for starting pitchers to throw more breaking balls all season. This postseason trend (if it actually exists) could inform the regular season in a real way.

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The Game Plan: How the Indians Almost Won It All

This is August Fagerstrom’s last piece here. As he announced on Tuesday, he has taken a position with a Major League team, and that organization will now benefit from the insights that we will miss. August wrote this piece before officially leaving, but we wanted to save it for after the World Series storm had calmed down, since it deserved not to get overshadowed by Chicago’s celebration.

What will be remembered about this year’s postseason, for the rest of history, is the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. It hadn’t happened in 108 years, if you didn’t hear. That’s the big takeaway here. Beyond that: Game Seven. Game Seven was crazy! We’ll be talking about Game Seven for years.

The other part of the equation is the Cleveland Indians, and the story that seems most likely to be remembered about them was how far they got with so relatively little. The team with the super-rotation at the beginning of the season that was left with scraps at the end. Despite missing two of their three best starters in Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, Cleveland held three of baseball’s most threatening lineups in Boston, Toronto, and Chicago to 42 runs in 15 games, good for a 2.69 ERA, while tossing a record-setting five shutouts. They rode Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen as far as they could, but even guys like Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt (?!) handed the ball off to the Millers and the Allens with a lead more often than not.

Throughout the postseason, every Indians pitcher was quick to mention the game plan, the approach, and the way catcher Roberto Perez attacked the hitters. Part of that is typical athlete speak, sure. Almost always, these guys are going to deflect and give credit to their teammates. But what does that really mean? What goes into a pre-series, or even pre-game scouting report? Who’s the brains behind that operation? How many brains are behind that operation? And what happens when it makes its way out onto the field?
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Cleveland’s Path to the 2017 Playoffs

Cleveland had a great year in 2016, capped by an incredible run to the World Series — a run that fell just a win short, ultimately, of the club’s first championship in nearly 70 years. While Chicago might bask in their glory for a bit — and it would certainly be appropriate for Cleveland to reflect on their fantastic season, as well — it might be a bit more uplifting for Cleveland fans to looks forward to 2017, as long as there’s reason for optimism next year. Rest assured, there’s plenty of reason for optimism next year.

First things first: Cleveland won 94 games in 2016, and there’s no reason to suspect that the season was a fluke fueled by one-run wins or multiple extraordinary performances unlikely to repeat themselves. Their Pythagorean and BaseRuns records both had them exceeding 90 wins. Cleveland absolutely deserved the success they had, and virtually every important piece is set to return for next season. Francisco Lindor, who has emerged as the team’s star and one of the very best players in baseball, will be back and making the major-league minimum. Jose Ramirez solidified himself as a starting third baseman, and even if he can’t replicate his production in 2016, he should still be an above-average contributor. The same is true both for Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. Those last three might have all played a little above their expected levels in 2016, but they should still be quite effective next season, as well.

The rotation, weakened in the postseason by injuries, should once again represent a strength. Corey Kluber will be back to anchor the rotation, while Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — who combined for just 283.2 innings in 2016 — will resume their position behind Kluber. Trevor Bauer will return to his role as a fourth starter, where his slightly above-average stats play well. In the fifth spot, Josh Tomlin is back with a salary under $3 million. While his numbers aren’t great, young pitchers like Ryan Merritt and Mike Clevinger tested the waters this year, got some time in the postseason, and provide necessary depth should pitchers get hurt or turn ineffective. Even Zach McAllister could pitch in, as well. The bullpen that was such a strength in the postseason is back, too: Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw are all under contract at reasonable prices, expected to earn around $20 million collectively.

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History with a Side of Calamity: The Cubs Are Champions

There are many who have waited their entire life for this moment. They are octogenarians and children, grandparents and great-grandparents and teenagers. For more than a century, the Chicago Cubs were the punchline to an eye-roll-inducing joke. They were haunted by the specters of goats and a man in headphones. The Cubs have seen the fall of the Ottoman Empire, two world wars and a cold one, the advent of television, the atomic bomb, the nuclear family, two passes of Halley’s Comet, and the turning of the century. It has been a long time coming for the North Side of Chicago. And now, the moment has arrived.

For the first time in 108 years, the Cubs won the World Series. The longest championship drought in all of sports was emphatically vanquished once and for all. Chicago came back from a 3-1 deficit to win three games in a row and claim the title, pulling one last rabbit out of their hats and stunning the Cleveland Indians in extra innings.

It was a game that was chaotic enough to exorcise any demons. Fifteen runs scored, one of them on just the fourth pitch of the game when Dexter Fowler sent a ball over the center-field wall for a leadoff home run. Another was on a Javier Baez home run that came after he made two critical fielding errors, and another still when David Ross, 39 years young, took Andrew Miller deep. Just the inning before, two Cleveland runs had scored on a wild pitch that bounced hard off his mask. There were 24 hits, four errors, and one brief extra-inning rain delay.

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Cubs-Indians: Game Seven Notes

Chris Coghlan embraced the challenge of a Game Seven. To the Cubs outfielder, a winner-takes-all affair against a formidable opponent is the ultimate for any athlete.

“You want it as tall as you can stack it,” Coghlan said after Game Six. “You look back at the road, and the adversity faced. You have to stay in the moment, but as a player, you don’t want anything else. Bring it.”


Were many of the players nervous? That’s hard to know, although I did observe a few different demeanors prior to the game. I saw some smiles, particularly from Francisco Lindor. There were some businesslike expressions and less-casual-than-usual postures. One Indians player struck me as being a little on edge when I encountered him in the dugout prior to batting practice.


One big story leading into the game concerned the prospect of Corey Kluber facing the same team for the third time in nine days. That meant a lot of familiarity — on both sides — and myriad questions about adjustments. In terms of pitch mix, the Cubs saw a different Kluber in Game Four than they did in Game One.

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The Moment Before the Moment

The thing about hype is it makes the expectations almost impossible to meet. Hype is what makes you excited for an event, but then it’s up to the event itself to live up to the billing, and the standards can be impossible. Game 7 of a playoff series? That’s a high bar. Game 7 of the World Series? Higher bar still. Game 7 of a World Series featuring the two teams with the longest active title droughts? The hype spirals out of control. The game couldn’t possibly be what you’d want it to be.

That game was what you’d want it to be. Even if you weren’t rooting for the Cubs, you might never see a better baseball game. Maybe you’ve seen games that were as good, but you couldn’t top that, not for the drama, and not for how very Baseball it was. It was a one-run game that went to extra innings. The winning pitcher was the world-class reliever who blew a three-run lead. The losing pitcher wasn’t even supposed to have to pitch. The Cubs jumped out against the Indians’ unhittable ace, who for the first time was left in too long. The Indians clawed back with a two-run wild pitch that got by a catcher inserted specifically to help the pitcher on the mound. That same catcher, who’s now retired, then hit a home run off one of the only relievers who might be better than the Cubs reliever who later blew the save. Both teams used starters in relief. There was a rain delay and a bunt for a strikeout. The last out of the game was made by Michael Martinez. The final go-ahead run was scored by Albert Almora.

Almora scored on Ben Zobrist‘s double. That made it 7-6, and Cubs fans were once again able to breathe. In a game packed full of moments, that might have wound up the moment, the moment that set the Cubs on their course. Before that moment, there was a different one. Almora scored on the double. He first had to get himself into position to do so.

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The Good News About Corey Kluber on Short Rest

By the time a pitcher gets to October, his body and his mind are headed in different directions. The head can’t stop racing, but the body is battered by six months’ worth of battle. That probably seems intuitive, but it’s actually relevant tonight in a very concrete way: Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber is once again going to climb the mound on short rest, with body and mind at odds. Here’s the good news for Indians fans, though: while the results of postseason short-rest starts isn’t great, the process — which is to say, the movement and velocity recorded on pitches — suggests that adrenaline trumps all when it comes to postseason ball.

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The Many Adventures of Tyler Naquin

It was an ugly night for Cleveland for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, they lost Game Six of the World Series. Second, they allowed nine runs. Nine.

Third, Tyler Naquin happened. In a variety of ways. What does that mean, exactly? First, there was this Bull Durham-esque snafu in the first inning.

Kris Bryant had already gone yard with two outs in the first inning. Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist had followed with singles. Addison Russell, as shown above, then poked a very catchable fly ball out to right-center field. We may never know what temporary madness possessed Naquin at this moment. We do know that he didn’t grade out as a very good center fielder this year, nor did possess the most sterling defensive reputation before his ascension to the big leagues.

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Cleveland’s Center Field Decision

You never want to overreact too strongly to what happened the night before. You never want to overreact too strongly to what’s happened in a postseason series, or even an entire postseason. A hallmark of a great manager is often knowing when to ride their guys out and when to take action, and players are so much more than one- or seven- or 20-game samples that it’s rare to see enough in such a short time to reasonably warrant a change.

It’s easy to forget that, per plate appearance, Tyler Naquin was actually Cleveland’s best hitter this year. That’s a real thing that happened, and that occurred over 116 games and 365 plate appearances. We know, for a fact, that Naquin possesses the ability to do great things at the plate, because he is literally the same person that just did great things at the plate. Naquin was a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate, even favorite, for much of the year, though it’s easy to forget that now, after a rough postseason was punctuated by an even worse Game Six of the World Series.

For the postseason, Naquin’s hitting .190/.227/.286. He’s struck out in over half his plate appearances, and he’s walked once. Again, that’s a nine-game, 23-plate appearance sample. It’s important to always compare that to the 365-plate appearance, 135 wRC+ sample, for context. That doesn’t change the fact that Naquin, most recently, has struggled. Less recently, but still recently, he’s struggled, too. Over the final two months of the regular season, he ran an 83 wRC+, the power he showed in the first half having almost completely disappeared. He hasn’t hit a home run since his infamous pinch-hit, walkoff, inside-the-park homer against the Blue Jays all the way back on August 19. That’s two-and-a-half months without a dinger, and even that one didn’t leave the yard.

And so after last night, a game in which Naquin struck out in both his plate appearances, including Cleveland’s highest-leverage plate appearance of the game, and perhaps more notably was involved in, and possibly was the culprit of the first-inning fly ball mishap that kept the inning alive for the Cubs and led to two runs, plenty of Cleveland fans have called for Naquin to sit Game Seven in favor of Rajai Davis, despite right-hander Kyle Hendricks being on the mound for the Cubs.

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The Argument for Starting David Ross in Game Seven

Unofficially, Game 6 was over in the blink of an eye. Officially, it wasn’t complete for three and a half hours, but from close to the start, most fans were thinking ahead to Wednesday. Even while Game 6 was going, Game 7 was on everyone’s mind, as we prepared for the most anticipated showdown in, what, at least 15 years? You’re on this site right now to read about baseball, but you’re not looking to read about the game in the books. You want to read about the finale. Nothing is ever as important as it is in the finale.

Game 7 presents a funny situation. It’s one game, so it could turn on almost literally anything. In Game 6, after all, the biggest point according to win expectancy was Addison Russell‘s routine fly ball that somehow dropped between two outfielders. Who would’ve guessed? You can’t predict any one-game scenario. At the same time, it’s never more critical to maximize the odds. Strategic calls are at their most important. Bullpen usage is at its most important. Lineup construction is at its most important. There’s nothing after Game 7 but gray clouds and winter. Half of the players will have a happier winter than the others.

As that lineup construction goes for the Cubs — look, I don’t want to deceive you. This isn’t that critical. What I’m writing about probably won’t make the biggest difference. But I see a case for starting David Ross over Willson Contreras. It has a lot to do with a guy supposedly available out of the bullpen.

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The World Series Strike Zone’s Been Almost Perfectly Even

Yesterday I slapped together an InstaGraphs post about a Jon Lester strikeout of Brandon Guyer. It was a called strikeout on a pitch off the plate, but it was also a strikeout Lester has recorded several dozen times before. That part, I found interesting. But the call was also important in the moment. It changed the Indians’ odds of winning Game 5 by 10 percentage points, and during the game I tweeted that out with a screenshot. I didn’t expect the tweet to blow up like it did.

This isn’t supposed to be boastful. Wow, retweets, all right. Nobody cares. What happened as a consequence of that tweet going around was that countless different people started showing up in my mentions. And wouldn’t you know it, but those people had opinions about the strike zone! Some people were convinced the umpires were in the tank for the Cubs. Other people were convinced the Indians didn’t have any right to complain after calls they’d gotten earlier. More people still accused me of whining for some reason, as if a screenshot and a fact are opinions. The overall response was emotionally charged. Maybe not a surprise, in a World Series elimination game, but people were stirred the hell up.

Guess what! The zone’s been even. The Indians have gotten calls in their favor. The Cubs have also gotten calls in their favor. The World Series isn’t over yet, of course, but through the five games we’ve watched, neither team has really gotten a more favorable zone to pitch around.

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2016 World Series Netting Historic TV Ratings

This past Sunday night, one of the most important baseball games of the year went head-to-head with a primetime regular-season NFL broadcast on NBC. Millions more opted to watch the Chicago Cubs host their final home game of the year and stave off elimination in a close game. That Major League Baseball went head-to-head with the NFL and won isn’t that big of a deal. That MLB has garnered ratings not seen in a decade, however — and bested the top-rated program in all of television over the past few years — represents a big win for a sport receiving near-constant criticism for sagging ratings.

The broadcast of Game Five on Sunday night was one of the highest-rated broadcasts for the World Series in years. Since Boston ended their 86-year championship drought back in 2004, only one game has drawn more than the 23.6 million viewers Cleveland and Chicago netted on Sunday night: Game Seven of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers. If you remove clinching games, it was one of the most viewed games of the century. The table below shows the most-viewed non-clinching games since 2000, the year FOX exclusively began broadcasting the World Series.

Most-Viewed Non-Clinching World Series Games Since 2000
Series Year Game Viewers
BOS-STL 2004 2 25.46 M
BOS-STL 2004 3 24.42 M
ARI-NYY 2001 4 23.69 M
CHC-CLE 2016 5 23.60 M
ARI-NYY 2001 2 23.55 M
ARI-NYY 2001 3 23.41 M
BOS-STL 2004 1 23.17 M
NYY-PHI 2009 4 22.76 M
ARI-NYY 2001 6 22.67 M
ARI-NYY 2001 5 21.32 M
STL-TEX 2011 6 21.07 M
FLA-NYY 2003 4 20.88 M
FLA-NYY 2003 2 20.55 M
SOURCE: Sports Media Watch

More people tuned into to see Sunday night’s World Series game than watched Game One in 2004 when the Red Sox began their attempt to end the curse. The game drew more viewers than the epic extra-inning Game Six between the Cardinals and Rangers in 2011. Indeed, only one non-2004 World Series game exceeded Sunday night’s in terms of viewership: the Diamondbacks-Yankees contest from 2001, best remembered for Derek Jeter‘s 10th-inning walk-off homer against Byung-Hyun Kim.

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The Cubs Will Be Made or Broken by Their Bullpen

Oh, how quickly the tables were turned.

The Cubs, they of the 103 regular-season wins, entered the World Series as the presumptive favorites in the minds of nearly all who chose to be foolish enough to actually forecast the madness that is postseason baseball. The Cubs have the star power and the narrative and the Kris Bryant. That didn’t matter, because the Indians have the pitching. They have Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw. Chicago now teeters at the precipice of elimination, a hair’s breadth from breaking the hearts of Cubs fans everywhere. Joe Maddon will need to play his hand tonight perfectly, because if they don’t succeed tonight, there will be no Game Seven over which to agonize. He’ll need to save the season, and he’ll need his bullpen to do it.

Given that the Cubs have almost no margin for error at this point, they will need to maximize run prevention above all else. Cleveland will be deploying Josh Tomlin and Kluber in games Six and Seven, respectively, along with a likely heavy dosage of Miller. Runs will be at a premium. Kyle Schwarber will be back in the Chicago lineup, which will help, but there’s only so much he can do when Willson Contreras and Javy Baez are swinging at pitches thrown into the next state and Jason Heyward‘s bat is on the side of a milk carton. These games will be about preventing runs, not scoring them.

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Cody Allen’s Postseason Dominance Cannot Go Overlooked

The dominant storyline of this postseason is reliever usage — well, the dominant storyline aside from the length of championship droughts, at least. Cleveland manager Terry Francona has freed himself to use elite reliever Andrew Miller when necessary rather than constrain himself to such trivial guidelines as save opportunities. Miller’s success (and Francona’s resultant success) has led people to ask whether this is a watershed moment for standard relief pitcher usage. Has Francona made it acceptable to more closely align optimal reliever usage with leverage rather than inning?

There are a few big reasons to think Miller’s 2016 postseason isn’t going to change bullpens as we know them. First of all, Miller’s contract status makes him immune from the reality that relief pitcher’s earnings are intimately tied to save totals. Like it or not, save totals are of real consequence to relief pitchers who aren’t already receiving hefty salaries. Secondly, managers can do things in the postseason that simply aren’t practical during the 162-game regular-season grind. As an example, consider: even though Francona has utilized Miller in a notably flexible relief-ace role ever since Cleveland acquired him from the Yankees at the end of July, Miller also entered a game in the sixth inning or earlier just once in his 26 regular-season appearances. In the postseason, however, he’s entered in the sixth or early in four of his nine outings.

Perhaps the biggest reason, though, that Miller’s case is unlikely to cause any immediate radical changes in bullpen management, is one discussed by an aptly titled article at by Sam Miller: “Cody Allen makes the Andrew Miller experiment possible”. To avoid confusion (and the resultant mass hysteria) likely to be caused by their shared surname, we’ll refer to the illustrious writer as Sam, and continue referring to the pitcher as Miller. Sam rightfully points out that the mere existence of another elite reliever is what frees up Francona to utilize Miller in such unconventional ways.

“If there were no Andrew Miller, [Cody] Allen might be the talk of this postseason… But Miller’s brilliance has ensured that Allen’s brilliance has gone overlooked. The irony is that Allen’s brilliance had ensured that Miller’s brilliance has been possible.”

Although the ship has long since sailed on making Allen “the talk of this postseason”, we still can (and should) spend some time talking about the other elite reliever who’s helped to situate Cleveland one win away from their first championship in 68 years. Allen has pitched 11.2 innings this postseason — or, to put it another way, has recorded 35 outs. Of those 35 outs, 22 have been via the strikeout — giving him a positively obscene 17.0 K/9 rate. To put that in perspective, uber-reliever Miller is sporting a 15.4 K/9 this postseason and the only reliever ever to top 17.0 K/9 in a regular season is some guy named Aroldis Chapman, who reached 17.7 K/9 in 2014.

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The Mismatch That Game Six Improbably Isn’t

Remember that Josh Tomlin isn’t even really supposed to be here. Not that there’s anything wrong with him, but the Indians like Corey Kluber, and they like Trevor Bauer. They liked Danny Salazar, and they liked Carlos Carrasco. If the Indians had their druthers, Tomlin, perhaps, would be a bullpen long guy right about now. Maybe he would’ve been left off the roster entirely. Not only will Tomlin now start a game that could deliver the Indians a World Series championship — he’s going on short rest. Don’t lose sight of how the Indians are a miracle.

Of course, by name value, the Game 6 starter matchup is frightfully uneven. The Cubs are happy to be going with Jake Arrieta, because a year ago, he was maybe the best pitcher on the planet. Tomlin, meanwhile, recovered from shoulder surgery before making 10 starts. This year, Arrieta took a step back, but Tomlin basically lost his rotation spot. Go off perception, and it feels like the Cubs have a great chance of extending this all to seven. Anyone who knows anything would rather have Arrieta on the mound.

Arrieta, see, is the more talented pitcher. He’s the tougher pitcher to hit. He has higher-quality stuff. The edge Arrieta doesn’t have is in recent results. In what amounts to the most recent history, Tomlin has done a better job of pitching.

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Terry Francona’s Fourth-Inning Dilemma

Much has been made of Terry Francona‘s bullpen use this postseason. His aggressive use of relievers, Andrew Miller in particular, has garnered him a considerable amount of praise from all corners. Phrases like “leverage index” have been evoked beyond just the confines of websites like this one. Francona has managed the postseason very differently from the regular season, and that approach has worked very well given the personnel with which he’s working. Francona has felt comfortable using Miller early in games to preserve leads and once even used him to maintain a tie. In the fourth inning of last night’s Game Five loss, however, Cleveland was presented with a high-leverage situation. Instead of turning to the bullpen, Francona chose to stick with his starter, Trevor Bauer. Bauer gave up three runs in what would ultimately be a 3-2 loss. Did Francona wait too long to make a move?

First, a bit of context. As noted, Bauer started the game for Cleveland — and, over the first three innings last night, was significantly better than he appeared in Game Two. In Bauer’s first World Series start, he recorded 71 pitches through three innings, labored to get outs, and struggled with the strike zone. After a walk, a double play, and a single, Bauer was out of the game, having thrown 87 pitches before completing four innings. Last night, Bauer completed his first three innings efficiently, requiring only 45 pitches against 10 batters, striking out five of them. When he headed out to pitch the fourth inning, Bauer had three very good innings under his belt.

The fourth inning didn’t go as well for Bauer, however. On the third pitch of the inning, he sent a sinker down the middle of the plate to Kris Bryant, and Bryant crushed it to tie the game. Nor was Bryant’s shot a wind-aided gift. Consider: of all batted balls this year which left the bat at 105 mph and with a 23-degree launch angle, 70% of them were home runs.

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