JUPITER, Fl. (KMOV.com) -- For a moment in October of 2016, Andrew Miller seemed invincible. To begin the playoffs, he made eight astonishing appearances; 15 innings of scoreless baseball, four walks, 27 strikeouts, and an opposing OPS of .380.
Pete Kozma has a career OPS of .581. Andrew Miller was a lefthanded demigod, one so powerful it took the fates of baseball themselves to fell.
But a solitary man can’t sustain such dominance. Over his last 4.1 innings in resistance of the Cubs’ historic march to a title, Miller allowed five hits, three earned runs and an OPS of .980. It was just too much to ask of one pitcher.
But what about two?
Heading into 2017, the Cardinals have a pair of lefties in their bullpen capable of bearing the load hefted upon Miller’s 6’7 frame. Kevin Siegrist and Brett Cecil, both multi-inning relievers with versatile repertoires, offer the Cardinals something they haven’t seen before.
“He’s more similar to me as a lefty than other guys we’ve had in the past,” Siegrist set of Cecil. “It takes a little more pressure off me. It’s not going to change anything I do but he’s definitely going to make our bullpen better.”
Consider for a moment what Miller did for the Indians and has done for teams in the AL East for the last few seasons. Righties hit .153 in 2016 and lefties managed .181. Hitters of either hand only hit better than .200 once in the last three seasons (.228 by LH in 2015).
His value, as one of the game’s top relievers, has been versatility. He can work multiple innings, against multiple hitters, regardless of situation. He’s pinch hitter proof.
Now consider Cecil and Siegrist. The latter has turned wood bats into pool noodles his entire career. Over 206 innings, Siegrist has held right handed hitters to a .179 average, lefties to .224. He’s worked multiple innings and appeared in every situation from seventh-inning savior to ninth-inning door-slammer.
His splits against lefties have been less dominant, but the recent addition of a curveball to his toolkit has thus far stumped his southpaw brethren.
Cecil has found new life in relief. His injury-plagued 2016 was less-than-enthralling, but a year prior he was untouchable; holding righties and lefties below the Mendoza Line in 54.1 innings. In 2013 righties managed to creep up to a gentlemanly .212, but he posted an 8.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties as the floundered to a .191 mark.
What’s more, both men have worked multiple innings multiple times in their career.
So far in St. Louis, Siegrist has always worked as the more versatile counterpart to a LOOGY, a lefty specialist used for one out. For three seasons Randy Choate was used as ta one-batter tactical deployment. Last year it was Zach Duke. Siegrist, with his reverse splits, was tabbed for more thorough assignments. It worked well for the Cardinals, but it took a toll on the lefty. After an NL-leading 81 appearances in 2015, Siegrist battled arm problems last season. Like Miller, there was only so much he could bear.
That’s where Cecil, with a skill set similar to Siegrist, comes in.
“I guess there’s maybe more rest if I need more rest or he needs more rest. We can go after the same hitters kind of the same way,” Siegrist said.
Andrew Miller still plays for the Indians. He’s still the benchmark bullpen name, the guy synonymous with the new “super reliever” subset. But St. Louis has their own monster, one with two heads and no fear of either batter’s box. Siegrist and Cecil are a weapon few managers have to play with, a Voltron of lefthanded versatility the likes of which few teams have had a chance to utilize.
“I think it's going to come down to match ups. If it's more of a right-handed strong lineup and Kevin's still having success there, then try to save Cecil for more the lefties. That's just a little bit of flexibility,” Cardinal skipper Mike Matheny said. Then, after a pause, “But Brett's also had pretty good numbers against the righties, so I think that will play out in time how each guy's individual role works. But right now, just two really good options."