Indians’ Heavy Reliance on Bullpen Probably Won’t Resume in Regular Season

by admin November 2, 2016 at 6:32 am

Including his last two regular-season appearances, Miller pitched 18 ⅔ innings in October, which translates to about 112 over a six-month regular season. No major leaguer has pitched 100 relief innings in a decade, since the Yankees’ Scott Proctor in 1996.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League West and took the Cubs to Game 6 of the N.L. Championship Series while leading the majors in relief innings and bullpen E.R.A. The Dodgers’ tactics during the season — like the Indians’ in October — stemmed partly from injuries to their starters, but their success could embolden other teams to ask for more work from their bullpens.

But Cleveland Manager Terry Francona, like his pitchers, seems to think it would be impractical to expect heavy bullpen usage to carry over.

“I think it’s a function of the personnel in the series, also a function of: It’s not the regular season,” Francona said. “You can’t treat the regular season like this, or your bullpen wouldn’t hold up.”

FAR-REACHING TRADES Bryan Shaw, incidentally, came to the Indians in the same three-team, eight-player trade in 2012 that also brought starter Trevor Bauer. Shaw and Bauer came to Cleveland from Arizona, and the Indians sent Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati.

Bauer and Shaw can actually trace their Cleveland roots further back, to the slugger Russell Branyan, the Indians’ seventh-round draft pick in 1994. The team traded Branyan to the Reds in 2002 for first baseman Ben Broussard, and flipped Broussard to Seattle four years later for Choo.

The lineage of another prominent Indians player, starter Corey Kluber, goes back even further, to a 1991 waiver claim. On April 4 of that season, the Indians selected catcher Ed Taubensee off waivers from Oakland. That December, they traded Taubensee to Houston for outfielder Kenny Lofton.

In 1997, the Indians sent Lofton to Atlanta for outfielder David Justice, who was traded to the Yankees three years later for pitcher Jake Westbrook. In 2010, the Indians traded Westbrook to St. Louis in a three-team deal that brought Kluber — then in Class AA — from the San Diego Padres.

RARE ROAD COMEBACK The last team to win the World Series by taking Games 6 and 7 on the road was the Pittsburgh Pirates — clad in pillbox caps and garish yellow and black uniforms — who won in Baltimore in 1979.

“I loved their hats,” said Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, a Hazleton, Pa., native, adding that he was friends with Dave Parker, a star from that team. “I wasn’t a Pirate fan, per se, but I was always in love with the Pirate uniform. I was never a Philly fan, but I liked Pittsburgh from a distance based on their uniform.”

Since then, seven teams have tried and failed to win Games 6 and 7 on the road, including the Indians in Atlanta in 1995 and Miami in 1997. All of those teams lost the World Series in six games except the 1997 Indians, who beat the Marlins in Game 6 before falling in Game 7.

MISSING STAR The only Cleveland player to finish in the top three in the American League Most Valuable Player voting this century was outfielder Michael Brantley, who placed third in 2014, when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 runs batted in. But a shoulder injury Brantley sustained diving for a fly ball last September led to off-season surgery, and he needed another procedure in August. He played just 11 games this season.

“It’s not the ideal situation for me,” Brantley said. “I’d love to be out there playing. But at the same time, I’ll do whatever I can to help this team win.”

Brantley has helped teammates on the bench and with scouting reports, and pitcher Corey Kluber used Brantley’s bat in Game 4 at Wrigley Field. Kluber broke it, but Brantley did not mind.

“I haven’t used enough of them this year, so I’ve got plenty of bats back there,” Brantley said. “He got a single out of it. I’m not worried at all.”

SELF-HELP This was the 14th consecutive season in which the league that won the All-Star Game was awarded home-field advantage for the World Series. Nine of the first 13 times, the team with the home-field edge won the championship.

Corey Kluber, who won Games 1 and 4 for Cleveland, was also the winner of the All-Star Game, working a 1-2-3 second inning in San Diego before the A.L. went ahead for good.

“I never connected those dots at that point in time,” said Kluber, who was lined up to pitch a potential Game 7. He dismissed the importance of the site. “If it were to be Game 7 of the World Series, I don’t think you’d need any extra motivation, whether it be home or away.”

MEMORABLE BET The sixth game of the World Series has often been the setting for indelible moments: Reggie Jackson’s three home runs in 1977; Joe Carter’s championship-winning homer in 1993; rollicking comebacks by the Mets in 1986, the Angels in 2002 and the Cardinals in 2011. Terry Francona remembered another one — the Carlton Fisk home run for Boston in 1975 — vividly.

“I was watching with my dad in the living room,” said Francona, who was 16. “And when the ball hit the foul pole I jumped up and went bananas, and I remember my dad was like, ‘I didn’t know you were a Red Sox fan.’ And I said, ‘I’m not — I had the square at school, I won $100!’ I was so happy.”

SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER You never know where a Joe Maddon news conference will wander, and on Tuesday — without prompting — Maddon shared his ideas for improving social media.

“There should be two forms of Twitter,” said Maddon, whose @CubsJoeMadd account has more than 340,000 followers. “There should be the positive form of Twitter and the negative form, and you have to choose one. And if you choose to be on Negative Twitter, then you’re not welcome on Positive Twitter ever. And there needs to be Twitter police.”

There is no doubt as to which Twitter version Maddon would choose, and how he would enforce his new social media universe.

“The negative dudes, you cannot infiltrate the positive people,” Maddon said, “because we are going to kick you out of there very quickly.”

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