Monday, November 21, 2016

Turning Trevor May Into Andrew Miller

Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski, USA Today Sports
Bullpen usage is one of the most scrutinized parts of a managers job. This scrutiny is only heightened the stress of the playoffs. With pitchers like Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Aroldis Chapman being used for multiple innings, a new era of bullpens has been thrust on the baseball world.

One of the most important pieces to Cleveland's playoff run was relief pitcher Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP. He was once a starting pitching prospect before finding his home as a bullpen arm. Now he might be one of the most valuable assets in baseball.

Miller was the sixth overall pick by the Detroit Tigers in 2006. He'd debut with the club later that same season after making only three minor league appearances. His stay in Detroit would be short as he was one of the key prospects sent to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera. He'd bounce around to the Red Sox and Orioles organizations before finding himself in Yankee pinstripes.

After arriving in the Big Apple, he posted a 1.90 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 61.2 IP during the 2015 season,. Opponents hit .151/.237/.239 against him. It was hard to build off that season but the 2016 campaign was even better. He lowered his ERA to 1.45 and increased his SO/9 from 14.6 to 14.9.

As Miller was dominating the American League, Minnesota's bullpen compiled the league's worst ERA while providing a -2.66 win probability added. Ryan Pressly pitched the most relief innings while Brandon Kintzler had the most saves. Trevor May (12.66 K/9) and Michael Tonkin (10.05 K/9) both posted K/9 totals over 10.0. These small positive signs overshadowed by a major injury to Glen Perkins and ineffective play from Kevin Jepsen.

May is an interesting figure in the Twins bullpen. Expectations were high for him heading into last year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a 5.27 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. Under the previous front office, there was talk of turning May back into a starter but another year in the bullpen could give him the chance to adjust to being a full-time reliever.

Miller's first full season as a reliever came in 2012, his age-27 season. May turned 27 in September and is just coming off his first year without making a start. One of May's biggest issues has always been his command. He walked 17 batters in 42.2 innings pitched (3.6 BB/9). Miller walks almost no one as he issued nine walks in 32 more innings than May.

Besides the control issues, May would need to continue to miss bats. Miller strikes out batters at a higher rate than May and he makes it tough for batters to reach base. The Twins are clearly in rebuilding mode so May won't likely be recording any big outs in the playoffs anytime soon. This type of environment can allow bullpen arms to develop as they start to figure out their craft in an environment with less pressure.

Can May be the next Miller? It's a lofty goal and 2017 will be a critical for whatever future role May will fill. What kind of role do you think May should fill? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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