Pernicious Pzepczynski needed money. Well he didn’t need it but he wanted some. So he accosted the next person who walked passed him, a nerdy and polite gentleman with glasses (apparently all victims look like this) who was minding his own business when Pernicious shouted, "Give me your wallet or I’ll beat you up!"
The frightened gentleman handed over his wallet and Pernicious thought to himself, "Wow, that was easy. If I just threaten to do something you don’t want, you’ll give me stuff." He thought he would try it again, only with a mask on just in case it didn’t work and he needed to hide his identity.
Wearing a disguise, Pernicious knocked on the door to a neighbor’s house. "Give me some candy or I’ll egg your house." Pernicious walked away with candy. A devoted baseball fan, he was savvy to the pitfalls of small sample size, so he tried the same routine with all his neighbors and walked away with a bag full of candy, no arrests or restraining orders, and said to himself, "Wow, this is fantastic! America is really stupid and f***ed up!"
Meanwhile, in Chicago Andrew Miller and Jason Kipnis masks are selling like hot cakes, while hot cakes aren’t really selling very well because honestly, who eats hot cakes? What are hot cakes and why would someone want their cake heated anyway? It’s questions like this I tend to ponder for several minutes while Willson Contreras is having yet another conference on the mound with his pitcher.
Mind you, the Cubs still have a shot. For a 103-win team to have a 3-game winning streak is hardly ground-breaking and for starters tonight’s matchup of Jon Lester vs. Trevor Bauer-on-3-days-rest is, at least on paper, quite favorable to the goated ones. Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks are lined up for games 6 and 7 and Aroldis Chapman is as rested as can be. He could literally pitch 2 innings of games 5, 6, and 7 if needed and with desperate times calling for desperate measures, don’t rule it out.
This brings me to the use of "plus relievers" in this post-season. No you can’t ask Andrew Miller to throw 40+ pitches again and again during a 162-game season, but even though short series tend to bring out unusual strategies, in fact the way relievers are being used in this post-season is far closer to how they should always be utilized.
Let’s take a look at Terry Francona’s rather brilliant use of Miller. Generally he has waited for a jam that needs triaging and asked Miller to come in to strand runners in an important situation, regardless of whether it happens to be 8th or the 6th. Miller has then continued to pitch the next inning, getting the Indians one inning closer to the finish line and completing a 4 or 5 out appearance that blunted a rally and prevented another.
Where the post-season is different from the regular season is that a couple times Francona has let Miller continue into a third inning. However, the way he used Miller in game 3 is more typical of how Miller should be used during a season, picking a key inning for him to finish and one more.
"Come in to snuff a key rally and then pitch the next inning" is a great model for how to get the most out of a plus reliever. It leverages the reliever over two innings (even if only for 4 outs, maybe 5), one of which is an inning that is a known crossroads in the game — one in which the other team has a great chance to score but could be shut down by a great reliever. If you have two relievers of closer quality, this is how one of them should be used and you should not be afraid to choose the middle innings if the situation warrants.
If you have Zach Britton, of course, then you always hold him back for the 18th because you have Ubaldo Jimenez.
Happy Hallowe’en, everyone, and remember: threats of vandalism get you food that is really bad for you! Now go dress up as a goat and fly to Cleveland.