One of the St. Louis Cardinals’ free-agent signees has a ton of postseason experience. How important could he be when the playoffs start?
Andrew Miller would definitely fall into the “disappointment” column for 2019. After signing a two year/$25M deal this offseason, the St. Louis Cardinals set up man has not lived up to the hype expected.
Call it old age (he’s 34) or call it overuse over the past few years. On the stat sheet, Miller has been a disappointment. His 4.04 ERA and 106 ERA+ would be better than his 2018 performance but still nowhere near his completely dominant 2.01 ERA and 213 ERA+ from 2012 to 2017.
While Miller’s stat sheet numbers don’t look great, he has made some big plays in big situations, harkening back to the dominant reliever he used to be, but in the same sense, he has also given up some big hits in key spots as well. It’s not a bank-breaking deal and Miller has the chance to make the entire deal worth it if he can contribute in a spot where he has many times in the past. The postseason.
I hope it isn’t a stretch to say that the Cardinals make the postseason at this point, but assuming the team will, no Cardinals pitcher has thrown more postseason innings than Miller.
In fact, the only other player in the regular bullpen with any postseason pitching at all is Carlos Martinez and Martinez has half as many innings as Miller. If you make a jump and say that Michael Wacha is going to be in the postseason bullpen, then he would be the postseason innings champ by about one inning, but Miller has done it recently and he has been more dominant from the bullpen.
Since Wacha’s 2013 breakout year where he threw 30.2 innings and won the NLCS MVP, he has thrown just 4.2 innings and the results have been less than stellar (Travis Ishikawa anyone?).
For Martinez, his 16.2 postseason innings have come solely as a reliever and solely in 2013 and 2014. He’s been pretty good and he is going to have a big role as a postseason closer.
Back to Miller, he has pitched in the postseason each year since 2014 with his best year coming in 2016 when he won the ALCS MVP and was used early and often against the Toronto Blue Jays and then the Chicago Cubs in a narrowly lost World Series. In the ALDS and ALCS, Miller didn’t give up a single run over 11.2 innings while striking out 21 batters.
Miller was a firefighter in that postseason being used in a way that many good teams would pick up since where Miller came in during the toughest parts of the game, not just the 9th inning. This great managing job by Terry Francona put the most pressure possible on Miller and he stood tall.
While Miller may not be that guy anymore, the value of having a guy like him can not be underestimated and this had to be part of the reason the Cardinals were excited to sign Miller. He knows how to step it up when the lights are all on him. He knows what it feels like to pitch in the highest leverage situations.
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Why would you not be excited about a guy having done it on the biggest stage helping the other young pitchers the Cardinals have in the bullpen?
Postseason stalwart Adam Wainwright (89 career postseason innings) can help for sure, having thrown the last out of a World Series himself, but he doesn’t have the same relationship with the bullpen arms like what Miller does sitting out there with them all game. Wainwright’s help will be big in helping Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and Dakota Hudson in their first postseason.
Every year there are veterans on postseason teams that prove big when guiding young guys through the postseason, even if they don’t contribute a ton themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I expect Miller to contribute, I’m sure he is frustrated with the way the season has gone and now wants to step it up when it means most.
Miller stepped up and did it Monday night with a huge perfect 1.1 innings in a two-run game against the Nationals…
Leadership is a very hard thing to quantify, but when it comes to a grizzled postseason reliever like Miller, I would expect not only his on-field contributions to be huge but also his guidance to the young relievers in the bullpen who don’t have any experience in spots like the ones that are just two weeks away. As the best lefty in the bullpen, Miller will be a big cog in the Cardinals postseason run.