Lindbergh: The Indians and Andrew Miller are reshaping how we think about elite reliever usage

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on September 1, 2016:

In the last week of July, the teams on top of baseball’s Central divisions tore two late-inning relievers from the Yankees’ seemingly decomposing carcass. The Cubs acquired Aroldis Chapman, who’d handled New York’s ninth-inning duties; the Indians added Andrew Miller, who’d been the Yankees’ backup closer and had pitched primarily in the eighth after Chapman’s return from a season-starting suspension. Since moving to the Midwest, both pitchers have been as brilliant as their new employers envisioned: In August, each allowed two earned runs while whiffing more than 40 percent of the batters he faced.

Those similar stats disguised one significant difference, though: The elite lefties’ usage with their new teams looked nothing alike. The table below lists each outing Chapman and Miller made last month, with three data points per appearance: inning entered, number of outs recorded, and whether it was a save situation.

Chapman didn’t enter a game before the ninth inning or stay in any game for more than three outs. Miller, meanwhile, saw action as early as the sixth. He jogged in as often in the eighth as the ninth, and he entered in the seventh most often of all. He also turned in longer outings, throwing more innings than Chapman despite appearing in three fewer games. Chapman pitched in save situations all but three times; Miller pitched in non-save situations all but three times. He’s a closer-quality pitcher abnormally unbound by saves, which frees Indians manager Terry Francona to deploy him as a more flexible stopper.

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Originally published: September 1, 2016. Last Updated: September 1, 2016.