Mains: How worn down are worn-down relievers after all?

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on June 22, 2017:

On June 13, Andrew Miller relieved Trevor Bauer with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning of the Indians’ game against the Dodgers, tied at 2-2. He struck out Yasiel Puig to end the inning and retired all three batters he faced in the seventh. In the top of the eighth, though, he allowed a home run to Cody Bellinger and a single to Yasmani Grandal. He was pulled in favor of Bryan Shaw. Miller took the loss.

The next day, again in a 2-2 game against the Dodgers, Miller entered in the top of the eighth inning. He got Puig on a fly ball but then allowed home run, a single, two walks, and an RBI grounder before getting pulled. He again was charged with the loss. His manager, Terry Francona, in a display of candor, later admitted, “I think I pitched him too much.”

Now, Andrew Miller has pitched 35 2/3 innings this year. (All 2017 figures are through Tuesday, June 20.) That’s not that many. He’s currently tied for 170th among major-league pitchers for innings. Among relievers, he’s tied for 16th. His workload, contrary to Francona’s mea culpa, doesn’t seem to be excessive, although certainly the manager worked his ace reliever very hard down the stretch and throughout October last year.

Of course, even focusing on this season alone, it’s not just the innings, or the pitches, we increasingly hear on broadcasts. It’s the high-leverage innings.

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Originally published: June 22, 2017. Last Updated: June 22, 2017.