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Andrew Miller, MVP of the American League Championship Series, has had quite a postseason:

  • ALDS, Game 1: Replaced Trevor Bauer with two out and none on in the fifth. Pitched two innings, allowing a double, a walk, and no runs. Struck out four. Credited with a win.
  • ALDS, Game 3: Replaced Josh Tomlin with no outs and a runner on first in the sixth. Pitched two innings, allowing a double, a walk, and no runs (inherited runner scored). Struck out three. Credited with a hold.
  • ALCS, Game 1: Replaced Corey Kluber with one out and none on in the seventh. Pitched one-and-two-thirds innings, allowing a single, no walks, and no runs. Struck out five. Credited with a hold.
  • ALCS, Game 2: Replaced Bryan Shaw in the top of the seventh. Pitched two innings, allowing no hits, no walks, and no runs. Struck out five. Credited with a hold.
  • ALCS, Game 3: Replaced Cody Allen with two out and none on in the eighth. Pitched one-and-a-third innings, allowing a single, no walks, and no runs. Struck out three. Credited with a save.
  • ALCS, Game 5: Replaced Bryan Shaw with one out and one on in the sixth. Pitched two-and-two-thirds innings, allowing a single, no walks, and no runs. Struck out one. Credited with a hold.

His performance has been likened to multi-inning relievers who came in before the ninth inning in days past.

"Andrew Miller Showing Durability With Indians" by John Perrotto on Today’s Knuckleball, August 18:

“Manager Terry Francona has brought Miller into a game in the middle innings and also to get a six-out hold. It is reminiscent of bygone days when Hall of Fame closers Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter might pitch three innings in a game.”

Commenter DBA455, responding to "Andrew Miller Is the Perfect Relief Pitcher" by Dave Cameron on FanGraphs, October 17:

“The irony here is that the 'new trend' advocated by contemporary SABR types is really just a return to the 'old trend' of (notable anti-stat loudmouth) Goose Gossage and others of the early 80s and prior.”

Matt Meyers on MLB.com's Statcast Podcast, October 19:

“Andrew Miller … has been maybe the breakout star of the postseason, being used in this 1970s Goose Gossage kind of role where he’s coming in in the fifth, sixth seventh inning and facing seven or eight batters.”

The problem here is that while Miller’s usage has certainly been unusual, it hasn’t been Gossage-like. Grant Brisbee of SB Nation pointed out that Goose Gossage appeared before the sixth inning only five times in his peak years between 1977 and 1985. He recorded only 30 holds, mostly toward the end of his career: Seven in 1991 (his age-39 season), five in 1992, eight in 1993, and three in 1994.

He faced more than six batters in only four holds. He entered games in which he got holds in the ninth inning twice, the eighth inning nine times, the seventh inning 16 times, and the sixth inning three times. That’s it. Never in the fifth. (He did enter games with a save situation and pitch two or more innings 172 times, so there’s that.)

This isn’t to take anything away from Gossage. He was a great pitcher. He just wasn’t in the model of Andrew Miller in these playoffs. Gossage pitched 965 games in relief, and finished 681 of them, or 71 percent. So far this postseason, Miller has finished 17 percent of his games. It’s not really the same.

So the 2016 postseason Miller analog is a reliever who doesn’t finish games, who pitches more than an inning at a time, and who is dominant. Here are the best matches I could find, setting minimum criteria of 50 games relieved, no more than 25 games finished, and an average of 1.5 innings per appearance. An asterisk indicates that the pitcher also started a few games, so FIP, DRA, and WARP reflect his overall pitching statistics, not just as a reliever.

  • Mariano Rivera, 1996 Yankees: 61 games, 14 finished, 26 holds, 107 2/3 IP. 2.09 ERA, 1.96 FIP, 2.83 DRA, 3.1 PWARP, 31 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 35 times, 42 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Arthur Rhodes, 1997 Orioles: 53 games, 6 finished, 9 holds, 95 1/3 IP. 3.02 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 2.90 DRA, 2.5 PWARP, 67 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 42 times, 40 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Jay Howell*, 1984 Yankees: 60 games, 23 finished, 13 holds, 98 2/3 IP. 2.74 ERA, 2.26 FIP, 2.68 DRA, 2.7 PWARP, 66 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 33 times, 38 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Brian Fisher, 1985 Yankees: 55 games, 23 finished, 6 holds, 98 1/3 IP. 2.38 ERA, 2.43 FIP, 2.36 DRA, 2.9 PWARP, 57 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 31 times, 35 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Todd Frohwirth, 1991 Orioles: 51 games, 10 finished, 9 holds, 96 1/3 IP. 1.87 ERA, 2.52 FIP, 2.73 DRA, 2.4 PWARP, 50 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 33 times, 33 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Pedro Martinez*, 1993 Dodgers: 63 games, 20 finished, 14 holds, 99 2/3 IP. 2.26 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 3.84 DRA, 1.7 PWARP, 55 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 35 times, 43 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Ramiro Mendoza*, 2001 Yankees: 54 games, 11 finished, 13 holds, 91 IP. 3.26 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 3.59 DRA, 2.0 PWARP, 65 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 36 times, 34 multiple-inning appearances.
  • Al Holland*, 1982 Giants: 51 games, 10 finished, 8 holds, 91 1/3 IP. 3.15 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 3.60 DRA, 1.8 PWARP, 66 OPS+ allowed. Entered before the eighth inning 42 times, 39 multiple-inning appearances.

Note that the play-by-play data needed for a number of these figures aren’t available for pitchers in the fairly distant past, i.e. over 50 years ago. There aren’t many of them, given the propensity of starters to go deep into games back then anyway.

What can we learn from that eight-pitcher list? Probably, to be honest, nothing. Miller’s career arc is already well-established: Failed starter (5.70 ERA in 66 starts) to shutdown reliever. Rivera went the same route, though he had only 10 starts before becoming arguably the best relief pitcher ever. Pedro Martinez, of course, went the other way: Began as a reliever—he was ninth in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1993, behind Mike Piazza and seven guys who won’t join him and Piazza in Cooperstown—and became one of the most dominant starters in baseball history. Howell and Rhodes had long careers; nobody else on the list lasted a decade as even a semi-regular.

Given that Miller’s already been in the majors for 11 years, his spot on the Howell (15 years)/Rhodes (20 years) side of the spectrum seems secure.

Just don’t compare him to Gossage.

Thank you for reading

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bhalpern
10/24
While it doesn't change many of the flaws in the Gossage comparison it's notable that Francona's use of Miller in the playoffs is very different than it was in the regular season.
26 G, 24.1 IP, 0 > 2 IP, 8 > 1 IP
Entered inning: 6-1, 7-8, 8-11, 9-5, 10-1
mainsr
10/24
True, and it's more likely that he'll revert to that pattern during 2017 regular season.
anderson721
10/24
Pretty impressive 21 year old season for Pedro Martinez. Good thing the Dodgers held on to him and dominated baseball for a decade and a half.
oldbopper
10/24
That is my type of snark!!!
mainsr
10/25
The question is which trade was worse: Pedro for Delino DeShields (4.1 WARP for the Dodgers, left via free agency) or Pedro for Carl Pavano (6.3 WARP for the Expos, traded to Florida) and Tony Armas (2.9 WARP for the Expos/Nats). Yeah, I suppose the Dodgers deal. The 4.1 WARP DeShields gave the Dodgers in 1994-96--Pedro topped that EVERY SINGLE YEAR from 1995 to 2005.
oldbopper
10/24
I was fascinated when I researched Joe Page who was an outstanding Yankee reliever in the late 40's. He entered the game in high leverage situations and was used for multi-inning stints. The comment from Steven Goldman on 10-20-2008 is very interesting to read. He mentions that baseball would come back around to the bullpen usage that was in vogue then which was exemplified by Page, Jim Konstanty, Joe Black and Hoyt Wilhelm to just mention a few. Tito Francona's use of Andrew Miller has brought that idea back, at least for some discussion.
mainsr
10/25
The only guy from before 1960 who showed up in my analysis (criteria: at least 50 relief appearances, 25 or fewer games finished, minimum 1.5 IP/game, good ERA and OPS+) was a guy from 1939 named Clyde Shoun. The guys you mentioned finished a lot of games, and it was not common for pitchers to appear in 50+ games as a reliever. Play Index lists 99 pitcher-seasons with 50+ relief appearances prior to 1960. There were 139 in 2016 alone. Your point about leverage is a good one. J.P. Howell, e.g., pitched in 64 games last year but in low-leverage situations, not at all like Miller.
oldbopper
10/25
I do not disagree with your reply. Most of these pitchers, along with later ones, Gossage, McGraw and Fingers for example, were more like "super" closers, entering the game earlier but still expected to finish the game.
mainsr
10/26
Right. And that's what we're not really seeing much of this postseason.