Tribe Needs Bullpen Help To Ease Miller’s Workload

Terry Francona likes to say when you think you have too much pitching, you go out and get more.

That holds true today, because even though the Indians lead the American League in team ERA, team president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff are probably looking for more arms before tomorrow’s trading deadline.

The return of Danny Salazar to form should ease the need for another starting pitcher, and eventually, either Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, or Mike Clevinger will go to the bullpen, but another top notch bullpen arm would help the Indians going forward.

It is pretty obvious that when the Tribe has the lead, Francona has confidence in just three guys, closer Cody Allen, rubber armed Bryan Shaw, and the ultimate relief weapon, Andrew Miller.

Two games this week demonstrated this.

Thursday, with Miller and Shaw unavailable due to usage over the past few days, the skipper went with Trevor Bauer for eight innings and over 110 pitches rather than bring someone out of the group that includes Zack McAllister, Nick Goody, and Dan Otero.

And Bauer was pitching in a 2-1 game.

Bauer thrives on throwing so the pitch count wasn’t the issue it might be for others, but it is hard to imagine Tito staying with his starting into the 8th had Miller or Shaw been available.

The next night, Cleveland had a 9-2 lead after six when Salazar was removed from the game.  The Tribe won it, 9-3, but McAllister (7th), Goody (8th), and Shawn Armstrong (9th) all had difficulty recording outs, and the latter two ended the inning in bases loaded situations.

Look, the Indians have post-season aspirations, and they currently lead the AL Central by three games, the concern is keeping the primary relievers fresh for September and October, and that’s why they could use an extra arm in the ‘pen that Francona will trust.

Shaw leads the AL in games pitched with 49.  This isn’t a shock, as he routinely is in the top five in the league in appearances.  He is blessed with that kind of arm, and in spite of the social media critics when he fails, which isn’t often, he gets the job done.

Allen has made just 42 appearances and usually pitches one inning. He has the traditional closer role, and does it quite well.  He has only 19 saves, because the Indians win a lot of games in blowout fashion.

The concern is Miller, and Francona is always talking about reducing his work load, but then he can’t help himself.  The guy is that good.

He has been in 45 games, pitching 53-1/3 innings, ranking 5th in the AL in innings for relievers.

Last night, he threw almost 30 pitches, and our guess is he will tell Tito he can go today, but with a tough schedule coming up this week (at Boston for three, New York at home for four), he should get the day off.

That’s why the Indians needs another arm out there, to lessen Miller’s load.

With Boone Logan likely out for the year, the Indians need another southpaw.  They also need a reliever that can get right-handed and left-handed hitters out.

That would also allow Francona to shorten games even more, particularly in the post-season.

We believe getting another reliever is the primary goal of the front office before tomorrow afternoon at 4 PM.

It could make all the difference going forward for the Cleveland Indians.

MW

Tribe At Halfway Point…First Place To Stay?

The Major League Baseball All-Star is considered the midway point of the season, and that will occur a week from today in Miami, with five members of the Cleveland Indians participating.

However, the real halfway point of the campaign happened on Sunday, when the Tribe won the series against the Detroit Tigers with an 11-8 win, thus ended the first half at 44-37, a pace that would get them 88 wins in 2017.

The Indians seem to be getting it together though, as the last 27 games have produced a 16-11 mark, compared to the first 1/6th of the year in which the Indians were 15-12 and the second sixth of the season produced a 13-14 record.

The Tribe figured to half solid pitching this season, and that has come to fruition with Cleveland ranking second in the American League in ERA, trailing only Boston.

The starting pitching stabilized with the return of AL pitcher of the month Corey Kluber, who made his 2nd All-Star Game, and Carlos Carrasco could’ve been selected as well, with his 9-3 record and 3.50 ERA.

Trevor Bauer has started to be solid each time out and youngster Mike Clevinger has delivered more often than not.

The fifth spot is a concern right now, with Josh Tomlin struggling at 4-9 and the worst ERA in baseball, and Danny Salazar currently in the minor leagues rehabbing a shoulder problem.

It would not be surprised to see president Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff look for another solid starter prior to the trade deadline at the end of this month.

The inability of the starters to provide innings has caused the bullpen to spring a couple of weeks over the last 27 games.  Andrew Miller was being overused and Francona recognized that and started using him just an inning at a time.

Cody Allen is also going through a period where he hasn’t been unhittable and leads the relief corps in allowing home runs.

Overall, when Tito goes to his ‘pen, the results have been outstanding.  As long as the usage is kept under control, that should be the team’s strength.

The offense had a bit of a surge because of the hot hitting for a trio of Tribe batters: Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Ramirez continues to show his 2016 season is no fluke, making his first All Star Game.  The switch hitter is at .325 with 15 homers and a 963 OPS. He has been scolding since the first of June.

Encarnacion showed why he is one of the best power hitters in the AL over the last five years, and is now on pace for 34 HR and 90 RBI.

Chisenhall has had hot streaks like this before, but he is tied for the team lead in RBIs (with Carlos Santana) at 46 despite being in a platoon role, and has a 963 OPS.

However, the offense still needs Santana, Jason Kipnis, and Francisco Lindor to get going.

Santana only has 10 home runs and a 732 OPS, Kipnis still hasn’t hit his stride after dealing with a shoulder issue in spring training, hitting only .229 with a .284 on base percentage, which makes you wonder why Francona leads him off.

Lindor is showing signs he is human, batting just .229 since May 1st.  He’s become pull happy, which he acknowledges, and we actually saw Detroit putting the shortstop basically behind second base when he was batting left-handed.

If those three get going, the Indians will have as formidable attack as any team in baseball.

Terry Francona feels his club reached a turning point on this recent stretch where Cleveland played 20 games in 20 days.  If this is true, the Indians are heading for a second straight division title.

MW

 

Tribe Seems Stuck In Mud Thus Far.

The Cleveland Indians reached the 1/3rd point of the season yesterday, and they continue to be spinning their wheels to this point.

The Tribe went 15-12 during the first 27 games (1/6th of the campaign), and slipped to 13-14 over the last 27.

That isn’t what anyone was thinking when the Indians broke spring training with a road sweep of the Texas Rangers.

You could blame the below .500 record on the absence of Corey Kluber who basically missed the entire month of May with a bad back.  Not having one of the game’s best pitchers doesn’t help any team.

However, Terry Francona’s team just hasn’t been able to put everything together.  The only consistent part of the ballclub is the back of the bullpen, which has been spectacular.

Other than the trio of Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw, there isn’t one thing for Tito to hang his hat on a regular basis.

The offense has been up and down more than an elevator in a high rise.  After winding up 2nd in the AL in runs scored last year, Cleveland ranks third from the bottom in 2017.

In 26 of the 54 games played to date, the Indians have scored three runs or less, and they are 7-19 in those games.  When you are scoring three or less in basically half the time you take the field, it is difficult to put together a sustained period of winning.

On the other hand, the Tribe has scored 8+ runs a dozen times.  So, as you can plainly see, it really is feast or famine for the Cleveland bats.

This team also doesn’t have a come from behind victory that fuels a winning streak from time to time.  The only walk-off win this year came in the home opener, way back in early April.

Last year, once the Indians got the first walk off, they followed it with a bunch of them, so there is hope in that regard.

The loss of Kluber hurt because of his reliability and high level of consistency.  Carlos Carrasco has been good, but he had issue with a chest muscle over the last month.

Danny Salazar has been moved to the bullpen for the time being, mostly because he’s has a problem giving Francona at least five innings.

Without Kluber, the most consistent starters have been the two youngest in the rotation–Mike Clevinger and the much maligned Trevor Bauer.

That can’t give Tito and the front office a warm and fuzzy feeling.

On the other hand, perhaps Kluber’s return will steady the rotation, and things will improve greatly over the next 27 contests.

The defense and baserunning also seem to have gone backwards to date.  We talked about improving on the bases last week, but the defense, particularly in the outfield has been a concern.

It has improved since Bradley Zimmer was called up, but one thing to keep an eye on is Michael Brantley’s defense, which seems to have declined greatly over the past three seasons.

Francona spoke about a lack of veteran leadership with this group, that they missed a Jason Giambi or Mike Napoli in the clubhouse.

If true, then it’s time for Jason Kipnis and Brantley to be assertive with this group.  There is too much talent to be just two games over .500 at this time of the year.

It isn’t panic, but it is fine to be a little concerned with the 2017 Cleveland Indians.  It’s time to start establishing that they are the team to beat in the AL Central Division.

MW

 

 

Opening Day Means Welcoming Old And New Friends.

Today is the day baseball fans in northeast Ohio have been looking forward to since the World Series ended in early November.

The Cleveland Indians are back home at Progressive Field today to take on the Chicago White Sox in the first of 81 dates at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

It is also the beginning of six division games as the Tigers come in for three games over the Easter weekend, and it is important for the Tribe to again play well within the AL Central as almost half the schedule is divisional contests.

And that schedule is top heavy in terms of road games early for the Indians, as 23 of the first 35 games are away from downtown Cleveland.  While that’s a difficult early slate, it does mean a decided advantage after that stretch is done.

No doubt it will be a party atmosphere at the ballpark tomorrow, it always is for the home opener in this area, but the encouraging thing is it doesn’t appear the park will be a ghost town after tomorrow’s game.

Last year’s post-season run to the World Series sold a lot of tickets, and a good start will get even more people to visit Progressive Field.  The Tribe could have its highest attendance figures in many, many years.

It will be the fans first look at Edwin Encarnacion, their high profile free agent 1B/DH, and one of the game’s premier sluggers.

On the other side, age wise, it will also be the first time they get to see Yandy Diaz, who although he is just 5 for 23 to start the year, has shown an ability to hit the ball extremely hard.

Diaz isn’t likely to be here for long, he will probably go back to Columbus once Jason Kipnis returns from his sore shoulder, but he is a guy who is very much part of the Indians’ not to distant future.

It is time to resume our love for the mainstays of last year’s American League Champions, to celebrate how lucky we are to get to watch Francisco Lindor, now firmly established as one of baseball’s best young players, on an everyday basis.

It’s also a great feeling to have a lead late in the game knowing the Indians have likely the best one-two bullpen combination in the sport in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.  That duo can be interchangeable if Terry Francona so desires.

We will say hello to last year’s breakout star in Jose Ramirez, who filled in at several spots in 2016, and is doing the same now at second base, until Kipnis returns, and he moves back to the hot corner.

And we say welcome back to Michael Brantley, remembering it was just three short years ago that he finished 3rd in the MVP voting. It’s easy to forget Brantley has been here since 2009, and he and Kipnis were the first building blocks for a World Series squad.

It’s a day of celebration, remembering what the 2016 edition of the Indians did, and looking forward to what could be another great season at Progressive Field.

The boys of summer have returned to Cleveland.

MW

 

Tribe Wins Opener, And More Thoughts On AL Champs

For some reason, many people, including baseball fans put a lot of importance on the results of the Opening Day of baseball.

In reality, it is just one game of 162, but because the non-baseball sports media actually watch the season lidlifter, there is more analysis on game one, compared to a contest in May between the Tribe and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Indians did get off to a winning start, overcoming a 5-1 deficit after three innings to outlast the Texas Rangers 8-5 to go to 1-0 on the season.

Corey Kluber gutted out six innings on a day where he didn’t have his best stuff, Edwin Encarnacion debuted with a home run, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen struck out five of the last seven Texas hitters to wrap this one up.

Remember though that baseball is a series sport, you want to win series, and the Indians have a leg up on that by winning last night.

So, while we celebrate a win in the first game, there are still some issues for this baseball team, although none of them are based on a lack of talent, which is very refreshing.

Over the weekend, the front office signed another player to a multi-year contract, Roberto Perez.  Perez inked a four year deal with two club options that could take him through 2022.

Perez was a star in last year’s post-season, and it says here that he will be the regular catcher by the All-Star break.  It is a well kept secret that Perez is better defensively than Yan Gomes (who is very good behind the plate), and better with a bat in his hand too.

Gomes doesn’t control the strike zone which in our opinion is why he has struggled at the plate since 2014.  Pitchers know they don’t have to throw him a strike to get him out.

Perez is also one of the best pitch framers in the business, and draws a ton of walks too.

By the way, we know Terry Francona is protecting rookie Yandy Diaz, but hitting Gomes sixth seems like it will come back to bite the Tribe.

The other situation worth looking at is in the outfield, particularly when Lonnie Chisenhall is eligible to come off the disabled list.

Austin Jackson was told a week before spring training ended, leading to speculation that Abraham Almonte would be sent to the minors.  But Chisenhall’s shoulder issue allowed the switch-hitter to make the team.

We still feel that Almonte is a better choice than Jackson for the roster because of his ability to hit from both sides of the plate, and because Jackson has had issues making contact at times.

We know it is one game, but Almonte had a day, didn’t he?  Two walks and the go ahead single in the ninth.  You have to wonder what happens when Chisenhall is back.

Does Almonte still go to Columbus, or does Jackson agree to go down.  Or will the team send out Tyler Naquin.  Just another problem teams have when they are good.

As for people disappointed that the Indians didn’t open at home?  Relax, worry about something else.  Hopefully, the Tribe wins both series on the road and they come home to a party after a successful trip.

MW

 

Tribe Front Office Keeps Improving Team.

The Cleveland Indians aren’t kidding around this winter.

Fresh off an American League championship and a trip to the World Series, the ownership and front office of the team have thrown any caution they have had in the past to the wind, and are hell bent on improving the ballclub

All fans were giddy with the addition of one of the game’s most prolific and consistent sluggers in Edwin Encarnacion.  He fits perfectly into the middle of Terry Francona’s lineup.

Yesterday, Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff bolstered the already strong bullpen by adding lefty specialist Boone Logan on a one year contract.

Logan is a prototypical LOOGY (left handed one out guy), holding left-handed hitters to a .142 batting average in 2016.  In his career, lefties are hitting .233 against him (670 OPS) and he has struck out 34% of them.

His addition should eliminate any need for Francona to use Andrew Miller early in a game, like the 5th or 6th inning, to get a key left-handed hitter.  That means Miller and Cody Allen can be used in the last three frames to get the toughest hitters opponents can bring up to the plate.

The Tribe bullpen is deep and they are good.  Besides late inning guys Allen, Miller, and Bryan Shaw, Francona has Dan Otero, Logan, and Zack McAllister to work earlier if needed.

And in reserve, he has young arms like Shawn Armstrong, Kyle Crockett, Perci Garner, Nick Goody, Joe Colon, and rule five draftee Hoby Milner that could contribute during the season.

They say statistically a big league team needs ten starting pitchers to complete a season, and the Tribe has depth there as well.

Besides the five current starters (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, and Josh Tomlin), the team has Mike Clevinger, Cody Anderson, and Ryan Merritt who will start the season in Columbus.

Since the end of the season, the front office has also added lefty Tim Cooney from St. Louis, who had made six starts for the Cardinals in 2015 before missing last year with calcium deposits in his shoulder.  He will provide depth.

And last week, the Indians traded for Carlos Frias from the Dodgers who has made 15 major league starts in his career.

There is no question pitching can be volatile, and as Francona is wont to say, when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get more.

The front office heeded his advice.

With an offense led by Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana, the Tribe should score enough runs too.  Don’t forget they also have Jose Ramirez, and solid role players in Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer as well.

And if Michael Brantley can stay healthy and return to being one of the league’s best hitters?  The Tribe might just be the team to beat in the AL.

It’s been a long time, probably since 2001, that Cleveland baseball fans could say that.

But in baseball, there are no for sures.  There are always injuries, and that’s why you need depth in the organization, which the front office recognized.

This isn’t 2008 or 2014, the last two times the Cleveland Indians made the playoffs.  This winter, the organization didn’t rest on its laurels.  They added on to the American League Champions.

MW

Tribe Simply Ran Out Of Gas

Going into the playoffs, we felt it would be very difficult for the Cleveland Indians to succeed because of the loss of Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.

However, Terry Francona did a masterful job of post-season managing, relying heavily on his excellent bullpen headed by Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, and ably backed up by Bryan Shaw.

That trio, along with ace starter Corey Kluber soaked up the majority of the innings in the playoffs, and they performed magnificently…until last night.

They will deny it, but it appears those four arms simply ran out of gas, and the Chicago Cubs big hitters got hot in the last two games, while the Indians’ big bats could never get it going.

We should never forget the performance of Kluber, Miller, and Allen in particular during this run.  Miller, in particular, showed every baseball fan that he might just be the best reliever in the game, and that Allen is damn good.

Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo wore Cleveland pitchers out in games six and seven, while Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli hit some balls hard, but with no result.

As a result, the longest championship drought in major league baseball is over, and it has been replaced by the Tribe, who will enter next year having it be 69 years since the last time the franchise has won the World Series.

It didn’t help that the weather kind of conspired against the Indians too.  The unseasonably warm evening caused the jet stream going out to centerfield and right center which aided balls hit by the Cubs.

The Indians didn’t hit any fly balls in that direction.

To our eye, the home runs hit by Fowler (to lead off the game) and David Ross didn’t appear to be dingers off the bat, and Wilson Contreras’ double off the wall fooled Rajai Davis as well.

And the fly ball Davis caught in the tenth off the bat of Bryant looked like a routine fly ball at the time and that ball carried to the wall.

Perhaps, the result would have been different if the temperature was 20 degrees cooler.

The Tribe had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth against an obviously tired Aroldis Chapman, but they couldn’t even get a man on base.

That doesn’t temper the tremendous comeback to tie the game after trailing 5-1 in the fifth.  Two runs scoring on a wild pitch by Jon Lester.

And then the epic 8th inning, with a big double by Brandon Guyer, and the tremendous two run homer by Rajai Davis, which rocked Progressive Field to its core.

While the Indians are a young team, and should be contenders for the next few years, you can’t count on a repeat berth in the World Series next year because of the three tiered playoff system.

There’s no guarantee they will be back, and all the organization can do is put the Tribe in a position to win the AL Central again in 2017.  That gets you back in the post-season tournament.

We will analyze what the Indians should do with the roster going forward at another time, when yesterday’s loss doesn’t sting so much.  We will say that post-season performance shouldn’t figure into those decisions.

There was no goat for the Cleveland Indians in this series.  The pitchers that they leaned on so much in October simply ran out of gas.  The injuries finally took their toll.

MW

 

 

 

Francona’s Post-Season Experience Is Huge For Tribe

Is it possible for a manager to be named the MVP of the American League Championship Series?

There is no question Terry Francona has pushed the right button pretty much the entire month of October, and it was never more evident than last night when the Indians took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series with their bullpen pitching 8-1/3 innings.

As a result, the Tribe can clinch their sixth American League this evening in Toronto with a victory.

The Cleveland skipper is also a visionary in how to use your bullpen and your best relief pitcher the way he has utilized Andrew Miller throughout the playoffs.

We’ve seen the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and the Cubs’ Joe Maddon try similar things with their closers in the past two weeks, though without the same success as the Francona/Miller combination.

Of course, Francona is able to do this because of the deep Tribe bullpen.  It’s easy to use Miller in this way when you can bring in someone the quality of Cody Allen to pitch the ninth inning.

Imagine if Tito needed Miller to get the final three outs.

It would be a whole different situation.

Because Francona has managed two World Series winners, and been part of so many post-seasons over the years, he has a wealth of situations he can call on in handling things.

When the Yankees had their dominant run from 1996-2001, Joe Torre realized the importance of every playoff game.  At the time, that made him different than most managers who continued to pilot each contest like it was one out of 162.

Torre would use Mariano Rivera to get one or two extra outs per night, and would ask the same of set up men like Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton.

Sound familiar?

Tito is doing the same thing.  Maybe he’s doing it because Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar can’t start games.  But Josh Tomlin is giving him five good frames to date, and that’s all the skipper needs.

He knows his best pitchers are in the bullpen and Miller has morphed into the post-season’s best bullpen weapon since Rivera.

Watching him gives Indians’ fans the same feeling Yankee fans must have had knowing when Rivera, the best closer ever, entered the game, it was basically over.

And even though the relievers had to throw 8-1/3 innings last night, Francona still has Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson tonight if he needs length, and none of the pitchers used last night threw enough pitches to make them not be able to used in Game 4.

That said, we still wouldn’t use Corey Kluber on short rest today with a 3-0 lead, but we understand Tito wants him available in case he’s needed in a seventh game, should the series get that far.

We would use Ryan Merritt today, and then have a fully rested Kluber to go in Game 5.

Should Kluber lose today, the Blue Jays have to be salivating with a chance to go against a rookie tomorrow, and coming back to Cleveland down 3-2.

However, every button Francona has pushed this month has turned up a winner.  If we were going to Las Vegas this weekend, we would want to rub his head before we left.

No wonder the played believe in Terry Francona, he has put them in the right position in these two series and has them one game away from the American League Pennant.

MW

 

Tribe, Tito Exact Revenge

It was a tough series for sure, and last night’s game was a nail biter, but the Cleveland Indians swept the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series with a 4-3 victory and advanced to the AL Championship Series starting Friday night.

The Red Sox came into the series with all the hype and the whole David Ortiz is retiring thing, but it was the largely unknown Tribe that won the series.

That three of the principal heroes in the clincher were Josh Tomlin, Tyler Naquin, and Coco Crisp tells you a lot about this group of Indians, led by their manager Terry Francona.

Certainly, Cleveland got incredible pitching mostly from Corey Kluber in game two, and Andrew Miller and Cody Allen (despite last night’s nervous performance) out of the bullpen, as they held down the highest scoring team in the American League to just seven runs in the three games.

But you can’t overlook the performances of Trevor Bauer and Tomlin, who put the bullpen in a situation to win the first and last games.

But look at the offensive heroes in each of the games.  Roberto Perez, the back up catcher going into the season, and a guy who missed two and a half months with a thumb injury was a star in the first game.

In game two, Lonnie Chisenhall, who normally wouldn’t have played against Red Sox lefty David Price because of the platoon advantage, had the game’s biggest hit, a three run homer in the second.

And don’t forget Brandon Guyer, acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline because of his ability to hit southpaws, chipped in with three hits in the middle game.

Last night, it was Naquin, who has struggled since September 1st, putting Cleveland in front with a two run single, and Crisp, picked up at the end of August, belting a two run homer over the Green Monster.

Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez made major impacts, but the Tribe overcame pedestrian performances from Carlos Santana, Frankie Lindor, and Mike Napoli to advance.

We hate to talk about perfection, because there were subtle things that could have been changed, but Francona pushed seemingly all of the right buttons in the series.  When his team got the lead, he managed as if it were the seventh game of the series.

And that’s the way it should be in the post-season.

Francona has to be secretly be smiling today, and that grin would be directed at the Red Sox’ ownership who dumped him in 2011 after a late season collapse.

If you listened to the press conferences for the ALDS, when Tito was asked about the good, young Boston players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, he mentioned it was a tribute to former Sox GM Ben Cherington, also fired by the ownership.

That was Francona getting a little dig in.

The skipper showed he can still motivate a team and push the correct buttons in a post-season series.

We also found it funny that the Boston media questioned the Cleveland manager at times like he was still managing the team that plays at Fenway Park.

So, in a day or two, there will be four teams remaining in Major League Baseball, and the Cleveland Indians are one of them.

To paraphrase Tom Hamilton, Cleveland’s “October to Remember” will continue.

MW

Tribe’s New Bullpen Order

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.

KM