We have been chronicling the Indians’ bullpen issues all year long. There were numerous games where Cleveland led or were tied after six innings, only to lose the game late.
There were also several times where the offense came back to tie the contest, only to lose in the end.
It’s why we kept insisting that the relief corps was the top priority to address heading into the trade deadline on August 1st.
Of course, the front office did just that, getting perhaps the game’s best fireman, Andrew Miller from the Yankees.
It is the southpaw’s versatility that is the reason we call him the best reliever in the sport. He’s not just a closer, a guy to get the last three outs of a game, sometimes with a three run lead. He is open to be used anytime, and Terry Francona has obliged him in that regard.
The big lefty has struck out 93 hitters in 56 innings, and the skipper has used him to close, as well as in the sixth inning of one game.
When the situation is there and the opposition’s best hitters are in the way, it seems that Miller is the guy Francona is relying on, and that is perfectly fine.
That’s why it was curious to see Tito use Cody Allen in the ninth Sunday against the Blue Jays in a one run game.
Another reason Miller is so effective is his control. He throws strikes. In addition to the 90 strikeouts, he has walked just eight batters. He has faced 206 batters this season, and has been behind in the count 17 times.
Cody Allen still seems to get most of the closing opportunities, and he has been very good. The blown save last week vs. Chicago was only his third in 27 chances. That’s very good.
But where Allen can be frustrating is in his nibbling. That, or perhaps his stuff moves so much, it’s difficult to throw strikes.
This was issue Sunday, when he appeared to not want to be aggressive with Josh Donaldson. If Donaldson hits one out, it’s a tie game. If he walks the reigning AL MVP, he brings Edwin Encarnacion, who has belted 34 homers, to the plate with a chance to give Toronto the lead.
Allen has an excellent strikeout to innings pitched ratio too, fanning 68 in 52-1/3 innings. But he was walked 23 batters.
He has been behind in the count 39 times in the 209 hitters he has faced. For some reason, that seems like it should be higher.
The point here isn’t that Allen isn’t a very good reliever, it’s just that he’s not the best one currently on the staff.
And if Francona has to use Allen in the ninth inning because he used Miller against the opponent’s best hitters in the 7th or 8th, that should be a comforting feeling. Allen is that good.
However, if it’s the ninth inning and Miller is rested and hasn’t been used, he should be the guy on the mound. Because he’s the best bullpen guy on the squad.
Also, add in a more rested Bryan Shaw to the mix and you have the type of ‘pen that makes it imperative for opponents in the playoffs (assuming the Tribe is there) to have a lead after six frames.
With Shaw, Miller, and Allen waiting, their chances to score won’t be very good.