Behind the Box Score: Miller stays perfect

CLEVELAND – Andrew Miller on the mound in 2017 is the equivalent of pitching in a video game on “rookie mode.”

Whether it is real life or on a television screen, both scenarios yield countless strikeouts, embarrassing swings, minimal hits and zero runs scored.

The 2016 ALCS MVP now has a 0.29 ERA after he set down all five hitters he faced in a 4-2 Indians victory on Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field…

Miller features a 0.64 WHIP and .137 opposing batting average to give him 31.1 innings of one-run ball this season, a set of mind-blowing numbers that nearly guarantee a favorable outcome in every high leverage situation.

When the game is on the line, Francona can freely employ Miller with confidence.

“You know what, he’s just really good,” said manager Terry Francona. “And to boot, he’s really competitive.”

Aside from the traditional stats, the lanky lefty currently features a career-high 43.7% O-Swing, a percentage that measures how many times a hitter chases out of the zone against Miller. While the vast majority of these half-hearted hacks come on the slider – a pitch Miller uses 59.8% of the time – the 94.3-mph average velocity on his four-seam fastball is just as nasty and compliments his two-pitch arsenal to perfection.

“He’s not the loudest guy,” Francona said. “But when he’s on, everyone sees when it’s not perfect he has that ability to really compete. That’s a nice combination.”

A former sixth overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, Miller has blossomed in his transition from starter to reliever, finding a knack in the ‘pen with better command and increased velocity. He also became the first player in major league history to strike out 75 or more batters in his first 50 innings with a new team.

“With a guy like Andrew, it’s the same with Cody [Allen], you let them pitch and rarely do you kind of go get them,” said Francona of leaving his relievers in the game with maximum confidence in their abilities to escape jams. “You don’t have the bullpen working and guys throwing and that’s valuable.”

If Miller to continues to keep every one-run lead intact while mixing blazing fastballs and unhittable sliders with ease, his league-low earned run average could drop to an unprecedented level of brilliance.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.

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