Thursday, October 29, 2015

Yankees’ choice of Miller leads to top reliever award

The New York Yankees chose to let David Robertson walk last offseason, instead opening their wallets for Andrew Miller. The tall, left-handed Miller did a fantastic job for the Yanks and was named the 2015 Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Wednesday (

Andrew Miller
Photo credit: Arturo Pardavilla III via Flickr
The MLB-sanctioned award is voted on by a panel of eight former MLB relievers including Rivera. The National League award (named for former San Diego Padres great Trevor Hoffman) went to former Yankee Mark Melancon, now the closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kansas City Royals’ reliever Wade Davis, who arguably had a better statistical season than Miller, was second in the voting with the Baltimore Orioles’ Zach Britton placing third.

Miller put up great numbers in his inaugural season with the Yanks. In 61.2 innings across 60 games, Miller converted 36 of 38 save chances. Miller racked up 100 strikeouts (14.6 K/9 ratio) with a 1.90 ERA (2.16 FIP) and batters hit just .149 against him.

At the onset of the signing, the Yankees were not certain as to Miller’s role, other than he would be an option for manager Joe Girardi at the end of games. Even as the Yankees headed north from spring training, Girardi had yet to anoint a closer. There was speculation that Girardi might go so far as to mix and match based on the scenario in front of him on a game to game basis.

The first several save opportunities landed in Miller’s lap and he flat-out dominated the opposition in the process. Finally, after over a month avoiding the question, Girardi said that Miller was the man, preferring to have Dellin Betances available for more outs. The strategy paid off for much of the season, though the extra work seemed to bog down Betances this season as opposed to last. Miller seemed at ease in his new role, and never looked back. Miller was by far the most consistent reliever on the squad, finishing the season extremely strong.

Miller’s workload was more controlled than Betances’ and the southpaw missed one month of the season with a muscle strain in his forearm. After a couple of rusty appearances upon his return from the disabled list, Miller got back into a groove and didn’t slow down. Miller’s first blown save came Aug. 11.

Miller, who will turn 31 next May, more than returned the value in the first season of his four-year, $36 million contract according to FanGraphs’ performance value metric which indicates he was worth $15.9 million in 2015, based off his 2.0 fWAR. Nothing in Miller's body of work suggests an immediate downturn. The Yankees saved $10 million by turning to Miller over Robertson, and he has already rewarded them on the field. At this point, the signing looks to be a sound one for the Yankees.

In my opinion, in order to make Miller’s contract hold up, the Yankees will have to scrutinize his workload going forward. For next season, I would suspect Miller might be further restricted than 2015; only working the ninth inning, with a very occasional four-out save. Miller's use pattern and rest during his injury might have contributed to the high quality of his effectiveness at the end of the season when other relievers on the club seemed to hit a wall.

Let's see if Girardi agrees.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.