We want to adore you. We gave you our hearts after a long streak of scoreless appearances. You tossed them into a KitchenAid mixer and splattered them all over the new granite countertops. Then, you tried to bake it into a nice pie, but you burned the house down, which collapsed into a sinkhole that breached the mantle of the Earth and formed a volcano.
The volcano melted the new granite countertops, Bryan.
Maybe to understand you better, we should set our emotions aside and take a look at the cold, hard facts
From 2012 to 2016, no pitcher has made more appearances than you. That kind of durability and resistance to injury is admirable. You continued to impress this season, although the arrival of Andrew Miller limited you to "only" 75 appearances. That's a top ten finish, Bryan.
You posted an xFIP of 3.58 in 2016, finishing 49th out of the 135 relievers who pitched at least 49 innings. That's a little bit above average. If you adjust for the league and the parks you played in, you jump to 44th place. The defense behind you helped out a little bit, too, as your ERA came in at 3.24. Reliever ERA can fluctuate wildly, and it's kind of a silly stat to begin with. The point is, these aren't bad numbers at all, Bryan.
You notched a hold in 25 games. You struck out more than nine batters per nine innings. You only hit one batter. These are all nice stats, Bryan. They're nice. They're the reason why you've thrown so many games in the last four seasons. You're dependable, Bryan. When we need someone to fall back on, there are you, trotting out of the bullpen, headed toward the bump in the center of the diamond.
But it's not all sunshine, puppies, and Pizza Bagels, Bryan
The perceived problem is that when it matters most, you melt down on us. if we needed you to add just one teaspoon of cumin to the chili, you would inexplicably add a bag of flour while our back is turned. If we asked you to hold our beer while we launch this sweet ramp, it would slip from your hands and spill all over the ramp, putting us on a collision course with the bougainvillea. If we handed you the wire cutters with ten seconds left to diffuse the bomb, you would panic and somehow duplicate the bomb, which is now nuclear.
The beginning of the year made us a little bit concerned. In just your second appearance, you allowed five runs in only two-thirds of an inning. The Indians had about a 65% chance of winning that game when you entered in the eighth; when you left, we were all very disappointed, Bryan.
Then, in June, you handed us losses in back-to-back appearances. First, at Los Angeles, then again at Kansas City. These weren't the same kind of in-our-face blow-up, but we put our trust in you, and once again we felt jilted.
There were those of us that came to your defense; there were others that took the metaphorical locket you gave us junior year and tossed it into the lake. Despite this, you allowed only seven runs the rest of the regular season, and four of those came in another single-inning blowup at Kansas City on July 18th.
But we made it, Bryan. We made it all the way to the World Series
And with Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen both on the bench after pitching earlier in the game, we turned to you. You retired two in the top of the 9th and turned it over to the heart of the Indians' order. You gave the team — and us — the ultimate gift: a chance to win the World Series with a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth.
It wasn't to be, so we asked you to come in when it mattered the most, one last time. You warmed up, got ready to throw another inning... and then it began to rain. We waited. Terry Francona sent you back out, and you warmed up again, and some of us wondered whether you would have your best stuff after that short delay, after the dual warm up. We felt that the rain delay was kind of like a kicker getting iced.
Except instead of kicking a field goal, you had to face the middle of the most dangerous lineup in all of baseball, including America's Sweetheart Kyle Schwarber. You couldn't quite hold it together, and gave up two runs in the top of the tenth.
You were in pain. We were in plain. Some of us said terrible things. Some suggested that they would never forgive you; that once again, Terry Francona stuck with his favorite reliever despite evidence that he couldn't handle a big situation. Others pointed out that the best reliever in the league this season, Andrew Miller, also gave up two runs, including a home run to an old man that must have crawled out of the stands and stole a bat without the umpire noticing.
But we have another chance together, Bryan
We, like you, dreamed of pitching in that situation. We stood in our backyards and threw the ball to our parents, our siblings, or even a brick wall when we were children. We muttered the counts to ourselves and imagined the announcers painting the scene for the audience at home. World Series, game seven. Tie game, extra innings. The home crowd on their feet for the reliever, working his way out of a jam, a championship on the line.
Some of us don't want you to have another chance. The trust is eroded, the bridges are burned, the duplicated atomic bomb eradicated our love. Others among us that think clutch pitching might be just like clutch hitting; maybe, from year to year, there's a bit of fluctuation, and a pitcher can have bad luck in high or medium leverage situations. Maybe next year, that .442 BABIP will regress to the mean. Maybe next year, you'll get another chance, and you'll shut them down. If you do, we'll forgive it all.
Except for the granite countertops. You know how much that meant to us, Bryan.