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Andrew Miller is being overworked, unless he’s not

Wednesday’s Say Hey, Baseball looks at Andrew Miller’s workload, the Indians’ Game 1 victory, and what to expect from Kyle Schwarber.

World Series - Chicago Cubs v Cleveland Indians - Game One Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

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Andrew Miller has thrown 218 pitches this postseason, and appeared in seven of the nine games that the Indians have played in. He threw 40 pitches in his first outing, over 30 in each of his next two, and 46 on Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series. Miller has entered the game as early as the fifth and as late as the eighth, and even closed out one of Cleveland’s playoff victories. Terry Francona has used him whenever and wherever he’s needed, and for more pitches than he usually does. Miller hasn’t looked anything but dominant during this entire stretch, except for when he looked occasionally human during Game 1 against the Cubs. Is he being overworked?

It’s not a simple question to answer. For one, every pitcher is different. Second, Miller hasn’t been appearing in many back-to-back games after heavy workloads. He’s stretched out those 218 pitches and seven appearances over the course of 20 days, as his first appearance was on Oct. 6, and the Indians earned him plenty of days off between clinching the ALCS on Oct. 19 and the start of the World Series on Tuesday night. Miller is averaging 16 pitches per inning — not a strenuous pace at all, and in fact, just one more pitch per inning than during the regular season — and even his state on Tuesday, when he seemed a little tired and with less control than usual, resulted in two scoreless innings.

Now, if Miller pitches in Game 2 and it’s for anything more than putting out a single fire, you could maybe be worried — if Francona has him throwing 90 pitches in two days, especially after Miller was slightly off, that’s something to wonder about. Right now, though, Francona is leaning heavily on an arm that appears to be, speaking from Miller’s mechanics and results, responding to this usage well. This isn’t Francona’s first time doing this. Keith Foulke threw 14 innings in 11 games for the Red Sox back in 2004, including a 50-pitch outing that kept the Sox alive in Game 4 of the ALCS. Contrary to what many remember, Foulke’s career ended due to a failure to get surgery in time on his knees, not because he was abused that postseason. Going to Foulke as often as Francona could, even on back-to-back nights, won Boston its first World Series in 86 years. Miller, similarly, is willing to pitch as often as he has to in order to earn Cleveland its first World Series in 68. Miller isn’t being abused — he’s helping how he can.