Indians reliever Andrew Miller was one of the big reasons why the team made it all the way to the seventh game of the World Series last season before falling to the Cubs. And the lefty has been just as good this season, excepting a pair of rough outings against the Dodgers last week.
Manager Terry Francona, in fact, takes responsibility for those appearances, admitting, “I think I pitched him too much,” as Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reports. Referring to one particular outing in which Miller yielded four runs, Francona said, “I was talking about that the other day. You don’t ever see an ERA next to my name, but I should have got a couple of his runs.”
Francona added, “I was bothered by that last week. I shouldn’t have done that. We say it all the time. We want our guys to pitch as much as possible, but not too much. That one outing was too much.”
Francona’s ability to earnestly admit his mistakes is a rare and refreshing quality in a major league manager. Most managers would either deflect or pass the buck.
Miller is still carrying a terrific 1.51 ERA with a 51/8 K/BB ratio in 35 2/3 innings this season. For his last two appearances, Francona brought in Miller for the ninth inning, which is usually taken by closer Cody Allen. Miller earned his first save of the year on Sunday, wrapping up a 5-2 win against the Twins.
You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.
Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.
Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.
Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.