If you told the New York Yankees at the beginning of the 2016 MLB season that both Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller would be dominating during the playoffs, they along with their fans would have been ecstatic. Then if you told them both men would be poised to have a major impact on the 2016 World Series, that excitement would have grown exponentially. But in reality, the appearance of these two men was not because of the success of the Yankees.
On July 25th, the Yankees traded Chapman to the National League favorites, the Chicago Cubs in exchange for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, pitcher Adam Warren, and outfield prospects Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford. A few days later, the Yankees would land a handful of other big prospects. On July 31st, Miller was sent to the Cleveland Indians, with the Yankees receiving the Indians’ top prospect, outfielder Clint Frazier, along with pitching prospects Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.
Both men had dominant seasons while with the Yankees, leading to the large hauls the Yankees received for both relievers. Both Chapman and Miller had WHIPs under 1.00, more than a strikeout an inning and ERAs of 2.01 and 1.39 respectively while in New York.
That dominance only continued upon the two trades. For the rest of the season in the Windy City, Chapman pitched just under 27 innings in 28 games. In those 28 appearances, Chapman saved 16 ballgames, struck out 46, had an ERA of 1.01 and a WHIP of 0.825. For Miller, his time in Cleveland resulted in 26 games and 29 innings. Over those 29 innings, the big lefty saved three games, struck out 46, had an ERA of 1.55 and a WHIP of 0.552.
After dominant regular seasons. Both men have been leaned on heavily in the playoffs through the opening rounds. Chapman has appeared in the most games of any pitcher throughout the playoffs thus far, with eight appearances. Meanwhile, Miller has the most strikeouts of all relievers in the playoffs to this points, with 21 over the course of 11 and two-thirds innings. So needless to say, both pitchers have been integral parts of their new teams making the World Series.
Which brings us to the question, which of these former Yankees will impact the World Series more. Both men are dominant and have shown they can make a difference. All eyes will be on them as we prepare to finish off the 2016 MLB season.
For Chapman, he is hands down the Cubs closer. And manager Joe Maddon has shown he is not afraid to use his flamethrower for multiple innings when need be. Anytime the Cubs have a lead late. He is going to come into the game. This could be the last time the Cubs could use the big lefty who can throw over 100 mph, as he is going to be a free agent this offseason. So Maddon is going to make sure he gets everything out of him that he can. One interesting note is Chapman did not face the Indians at all in the 2016 season, even when he was in Yankee pinstripes.
And while Miller is not technically the Indians’ closer, he is their go to high leverage reliever. Manager Terry Francona could go to Miller at any time during the game if he feels the game is on the line. Whether that is the sixth inning or the ninth, Miller is ready at all times. Cody Allen tends to get the save opportunities, but that does not make Miller any less valuable. Francona likes to turn to Miller when the heart of the lineup comes up, or when the opposing team is threatening to a crucial point in time.
It is this difference in roles that differentiate the two big name relief pitchers. The Indians’ use of Miller has been highly successful, and one that is drawing some interest across the league. It could certainly spark ideas for managers when the 2017 season rolls around. The traditional closer role is getting the three outs in the ninth, but those are not always the three most stressful in the game. So at the end of the day, I think Miller will be given more big time spots to impact this series.
He has yet to fail, and he is certainly a very prime reason the Indians have made it this far. Assuming Miller can continue his dominance, I would expect him to have a slightly larger impact on the series compared to Chapman. As I mentioned earlier, Miller has been striking out left and right in route to the most by a reliever this postseason. This is partially because he is tied with Kenley Jansen for the most innings by a reliever this postseason as well. His 11 and two-thirds are three and two-thirds more than Chapman thus far. And for a reliever, the more innings you face, the more you will impact the series.
Miller’s flexible role means he could easily be in a game for multiple innings several times. While Chapman could be used for several innings per game, it will not be as frequent. So both former Bronx Bombers are going to impact the World Series. But when all is said and done, Miller is going to be a bit more involved, and as a result, will have a slightly bigger impact on the outcome.