The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.
Cody Allen, RP
Throws: Right -- Bats: Right -- Entering his age-28 season -- Contract: Second year of arbitration (Free agent in 2019)
2016 In Review: 2016 was a bit of an interesting season for Allen in comparison to 2015 in that his traditional numbers such as ERA improved from 2.99 to 2.51, but his FIP went up nearly a run and a half from 1.82 to 3.31. Still, it was another very productive season for the Tribe closer racking up over 30 saves for the second straight season and striking out batters at a healthy clip. He continues to be one of the more valuable and underrated closers in all of baseball, although his WAR was down to just one in 2016. Still, he proved once again to be a vital member of the Indians bullpen and team in general. In fact, his value was arguably expanded by the addition of Miller in that Terry Francona became more creative with his bullpen management and used Allen in ways aside from getting the final three outs of a game, which should be interesting to see if it continues in 2017.
Versus Right-handers: Another element of Allen's 2016 campaign that went against the grain of his career numbers were his splits against right-handed hitting as he was especially dominant against them (.139 BAA) whereas the Florida native has had an opposing batting average of .230 against righties over his career. Also his opposing OPS against right-handed batters was .501 in 2016 versus .652 for his career, plus his strikeout-to-walk ratio was higher. If this was an aberration, reverting back to the norm for his career probably won't cause any major issues for him given his track record for success, but obviously you'd like to see that kind of dominance continue.
Versus Left-handers: While his splits against right-handers vastly improved in 2016, the tables didn't turn entirely as his southpaw splits didn't vary all that much from his career numbers as they batted .218 against the Tribe closer in 2016 as compared to his .194 career mark. On the other hand, his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties (2.92) was down by nearly one from his career mark of 3.79. Still, his strikeout rate overall last year (3.22) was right in line with his overall track record (3.29), so it still evens out in the end.
Pitch Mix: Allen's arsenal is fairly simple and has been for most of his career. The right-hander throws a fastball that can touch the upper 90s and pairs it with a knuckle curve that has buckled the knees of many hitters in his five years in the majors up to this point. The 28-year-old has also dabbled with a slider from time to time, more so during the first couple years of his career, but it's been a two-pitch mix for the most part since 2014 with both rating well above average by PITCHf/x. In fact, 2016 may have brought the most value for his offerings of his career with his fastball rating at 9.3 runs above average, nearly three times that of his previous high in yearly value of that pitch, and his knuckle curve coming in at 7.1.
Fantasy Impact: The biggest thing to watch for in 2017 with Cody Allen is how Terry Francona will use him along with Andrew Miller, Bryan Shaw and others in the bullpen. If he maintains his newfound creativity in decision making, there's not a guarantee Allen will rack up as many saves as he normally does as he could see time outside the ninth inning. Fangraphs' Steamer has Allen putting up similar numbers to recent seasons as far as appearances, innings pitched and strikeouts, but they only have him with six saves in the upcoming season. The Tribe skipper will most assuredly use him in the role that best maximizes his value, but with the stacked bullpen that the Indians have and the growing trend of abandoning traditional bullpen roles, a 30-save season is not going to be a given this year.
Summary: The eyes of baseball will almost assuredly be on the Cleveland Indians in 2017 for, among other reasons, to see whether Terry Francona's new, unorthodox style of bullpen management that got his club to the World Series last year will continue to be effective over a full season and potentially into another October run. The bullpen concept has certainly been evolving over the last several years starting back with the innovations initially set in motion by the Kansas City Royals. Obviously Cody Allen, Andrew Miller and Bryan Shaw are going to be the signature players in this collective experiment of sorts. As mentioned before, Allen is probably not always going to get the call for a traditional three-out save as situational analysis will likely be more of a predominant factor in Francona's bullpen management from here on out. For Allen, though, being still well within his prime years and using his simple and effective arsenal, it's hardly unreasonable to expect more consistently effective pitching from him for another season.
Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here: