Everyone’s new favorite Cleveland Indian Ryan Merritt was called upon to start game five of the ALCS in just his second major league starting pitching appearance.
All the 24-year old did was toss 4.1 scoreless innings of two-hit ball while striking out three and walking none, perplexing the vaunted Blue Jays lineup with his impressive array of fastballs, cutters, change ups and curveballs en route to the Tribe clinching a World Series birth.
Tribe fans were so thankful, they began filling out the youngster’s wedding registry on pottery barn.
Prior to his game five heroics, Merritt had some success with the 2016 Indians in limited appearances. He threw six innings in three outings from the bullpen, giving up one run on three hits, and he tossed a gem of a start on September 30th, earning a win after five innings of one-run ball on three hits and four strikeouts.
All in all, if you include his post-season performance, here was Merritt’s 2016 line with the Indians:
15.1 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 9 K which rounded out to a 1.17 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 0.52 WHIP
I know it’s a small sample size, but that’s pretty damn impressive.
So if Merritt was this good against big leaguers, how did he fare against minor league opposition this year during the rest of his starts?
Merritt began and ended the minor league season in Triple-A Columbus. He was the workhorse of the staff, only missing time to make spot appearances for the Indians in May and August. All in all, he had 25 starts on the year, showcasing his impeccable control over 147 innings of work where he walked just 24 batters.
The 16th round draft pick by the Indians in 2011 was the only pitcher in the Tribe farm system to toss a complete game shutout this past year, manhandling the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs on May 9th in a 2-0 victory.
All in all, Merritt carried a respectable 3.74 ERA and 5.9 K/9 and a 3.83 FIP for Columbus this year.
Okay, we’ve talked plenty about the good, now what about the bad?
While Merritt’s ALCS start was fantastic, he wasn’t nearly as good in his postseason start for Columbus, lasting just 3.2 innings, giving up two runs on eight hits, although the Clippers would rally to win the game.
The biggest difference between 2016 minor league Ryan Merritt and 2016 major league Ryan Merritt was the fact that he was significantly more hittable.
Merritt only gave up eight hits in 15.1 innings for the Indians, but he gave up a whopping 164 hits in his 147 innings of work for Columbus. My best guess is minor league players are a bit more accustomed to facing pitchers who top out in the upper 80s with their fastball.
The southpaw also wasn’t afraid to challenge hitters this year both inside and up in the zone, and that led to 15 home runs, which was the most allowed by any Indians minor league pitcher at one level in 2016.
So this brings us to the conclusion. Is Ryan Merritt’s current run of success sustainable?
Could he still perplex some hitters the rest of the way in the postseason due to unfamiliarity?
Don’t be shocked to see Merritt start in the World Series. He’s more than earned another look.