Andrew Miller’s Postseason Dominance in Context

This morning, I wrote about Andrew Miller’s postseason dominance, and compared his current usage to how Mariano Rivera was deployed by the Yankees during their World Series runs. I noted Miller’s postseason dominance, but because I didn’t have access to postseason splits, I couldn’t put those in context, showing how well Miller has done in the postseason relative to other relievers. Thankfully, David Appelman sent me the data today, and so now I can add some context to Miller’s playoff dominance.

We currently only have this kind of postseason data going back to 2002, so I can’t compare Miller directly to pitchers before then, but we can look at how well he’s done relative to other playoff relievers in the last 15 years. And, as you’d guess, he ranks pretty highly. Here are all the relievers (or pitchers pitching in relief, anyway) who have held hitters below a .200 wOBA during the last 15 years.

Postseason Relievers, <.200 wOBA, 2002-2016
Name Innings wOBA
Roberto Osuna 14.3 0.122
Tim Lincecum 15.0 0.126
Andrew Miller 16.0 0.128
Greg Holland 11.0 0.151
Luke Hochevar 10.7 0.157
Jason Grilli 10.3 0.160
Mariano Rivera 62.0 0.173
Manny Corpas 10.3 0.175
Jeremy Affeldt 31.3 0.176
Travis Wood 14.7 0.181
Matt Herges 11.3 0.183
Jonathan Papelbon 27.0 0.184
Jason Motte 21.7 0.187
Joe Kelly 11.3 0.187
Wade Davis 27.3 0.190
Jeurys Familia 15.7 0.191
Minimum 10 innings pitched

Miller isn’t quite at the top, but he’s in that top-three tier separated from everyone else. And yes, given what Tim Lincecum did out of the bullpen for the Giants in 2012, he probably deserved a mention in my piece this morning. He was doing what Miller is doing now before it was cool. It’s too bad he didn’t want to stay in that role; it would have been fun to see what Lincecum could have been as a relief ace before the stuff went away.

Also, if you’re surprised to see Roberto Osuna at the top of the list, join the club. I knew he was good for Toronto last year, but didn’t realize he’d been quite at this level. Of course, the primary reason we’re talking about Miller’s dominance more than Osuna’s is the way they’re doing it; Osuna has a career 25% strikeout rate in the postseason, and has mostly gotten to this list by holding hitters to an .091 BABIP during his playoff appearances. Miller has a 49% postseason strikeout rate, and is at 61% this year; he’s not relying on weak contact or quality defense for his outs, and it’s easier to remember a guy just making his opponents look foolish.

But also, yeah, look at Rivera in that table. 62 innings of a .173 wOBA allowed, and that’s just since 2002, so we’re not even including his earlier dominant years. What Miller has done for 16 innings has been remarkable; Rivera did something similar over a much larger sample. And that’s why he’s the best reliever of all time.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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7 years ago

That’s a bizarre mix of players: the all-time great Rivera; more recent outstanding pitchers like Miller and Papelbon; bullpen reclamation projects like Lincecum and Hochever; and then . . . Jason Grilli? Manny Corpas? Baseball indeed!

7 years ago
Reply to  Roger21

The bright lights of the postseason elevating the usual small-sample randomness to the legendary: playoff baseball indeed!

7 years ago
Reply to  Roger21

I don’t think Grilli is that surprising. He has put up some pretty great seasons, and has been to the playoffs 4 different times. In 2006 with the Tigers, he was effectively wild in low leverage spots, walking 4 and giving up a hit in 3 innings. By 2013 he had transformed into one of the best relievers in baseball, putting up a 1.97 FIP in the regular season. 2014 he pitched well with the Angels (2.15 FIP), and continued that in the postseason. This year, he started great with the Jays, then faded down the stretch due to overuse. After being able to get in a good rest before his appearances in the postseason, he pitched in 5 games and was back to his pre-September Blue Jay self (1.42 ERA, 2.67 FIP before August 30)