The Cleveland Indians went all-in at the trade deadline, acquiring all-star left-hander Andrew Miller from the New York Yankees for a package that includes outfielder Clint Frazier, left-hander Justus Sheffield, and right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.
According to Fangraphs, the Indians were already the American League favorites to win the World Series and the third choice overall behind the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. Since the acquisition of Miller, Cleveland leapfrogged the Nationals in that forecast to become the second-most-likely championship team (12.8 percent).
The move also creates a 1-2 punch that projects to give Manager Terry Francona the best bullpen in baseball.
Miller appeared in 44 games for the Yankees this season, averaging 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings. His 1.39 ERA is actually higher than what ERA estimators like xFIP (1.28) and SIERA (1.16) would expect it to be given his performance to date. And that performance is elite, as he’s struck out 44.8 percent of batters while walking just 4.1 percent, both career bests, leading to an 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, the eighth-highest among relievers over this past decade.
Miller’s success is the by-product of two pitches: a four-seam fastball and a nearly unhittable slider. The former averages 95 mph and holds opposing batters to a .182 average with three extra-base hits in 55 at-bats ending on the pitch. The latter is just unfair, and is as effective against right-handed batters (.180 average against) as it is against lefties (.191).
Cody Allen, the Indians’ current closer, can now be used more against right-handed hitters, whom he has held to a .252 weighted on-base average, significantly lower than his .295 wOBA to lefties.
Like Miller, Allen is a two-pitch pitcher with a legit fastball, but compliments his heater with a curveball that has allowed eight hits — just two for extra bases — in 63 at-bats ending on the pitch this season.
Perhaps more importantly, it gives the Indians two pitchers who are interchangeable in the later innings, allowing Francona to fully leverage his starting rotation, which is averaging the second-most innings per start (6.1) in the American League.
“We’re going to try and win ballgames,” Mickey Callaway, Cleveland’s pitching coach, told reporters Sunday. “We’re not going to try and get guys saves and holds and things like that. We’re going to go out and try to win ballgames.”