Two things are true about Cleveland Indians closer Cody Allen. He is one of the finest relievers in baseball. He also has a knack for creating situations that are heart unhealthy. He is the baseball equivalent of five pounds of pulled pork, bought from an old man who runs a smoker on a dirt road in rural Carolina. Both the best and worst thing and room for debate over his merits. Yes, I like vinegar sauce.
But Allen keeps getting it done, and has for four years and change at the back end of the Tribe bullpen. It could be that he's just a very good reliever. But no, there's something more to Allen that he keeps dancing in and out of trouble so routinely. I've got some theories. Good ones.
He is a thrillseeker who is scared of heights
The key to this theory is that he's not going to do it all the time. We're under the assumption in here that Allen creates trouble on purpose, of course. He wants fun, excitement. Like Lt. Ray Tango with police work, he’s in it for the action. Right or wrong (probably wrong) it is imperative for my theorizing.
What do we want out of a reliever? A clean inning. That's why Andrew Miller is so magical. People seem to try to get out when they face him, and he obliges, but Allen isn't like that. He wants to have a little fun, and he buys into the fact the game is, in fact, a game. It's entertainment. That's why he does things like Monday night, and fiddles with Miguel Sano by throwing him anything but curveballs, eventually walking him. Maybe he’ll get an out, but things aren’t ramped up enough. Who doesn't want to see Joe Mauer, even a faded Mauer, with the bases loaded and two out in the ninth inning? It's not like he's made a career out of killing Cleveland.
Allen has a career OPS against with the bases empty of .589. When the bases are loaded, that number actually drops to .556. It's barely higher with a man on third and less than two out (.590). It's inhumanly low with the bases loaded and no out (.458)! He's absurd. The man is an adrenaline junkie, he's just scared of heights, otherwise he'd just base jump or whatever. What an incredible nutbag. If this is true. Of course, if he gets too addicted, he may just start letting runs cross until it’s a one run game, or NEED the rush of blowing the game. It’s a slippery slope.
He is a wizard, or otherwise twisting reality
It could simply be that Allen isn't really that good a pitcher, but uses mesmers and sorcery to get by. But he's just only okay at it. Like Harry Potter, without the fame. SO when we see 94, it's actually like 64. After all, he does have a higher than league average line drive rate for his career, 27 percent versus the 24 percent average. And the higher than average walk rate, 9.4 percent compared to 7.6 percent over his career. Sometimes the magic just fades. It gets hot out there, and the noise of the crowd, you know?
If I've learned anything from Dungeons and Dragons, it's that many spells take concentration to keep flowing. The type of stuff he's doing isn't just some bolt of lightning, he's using mind control magic to cause confusion, to muddle hitters. Maybe it’s more like the Shadow, the hit movie starring Alec Baldwin, or most of the wizards in any Conan the Barbarian story. They aren’t actually magic, they just use mirrors and trickery to fool people into seeing the supernatural. What if Allen’s entire success is merely a construct of the Indians organization, like how the New York Yankees make robots and clone Mickey Mantle?
It’s hard to explain, but what if they’re using some sort of Peter Jackson-y twisting of frame of reference to make him seem like he’s throwing 96 instead of batting practice fastballs? Perhaps through some sort of pneumatic pitcher’s mound that raises or lowers surreptitiously, or extremely high or low frequency blasts directed at the batters’ box that mess with a hitter’s perception. HAARP does it to the clouds to make storms, allegedly. On a smaller scale it’d be cheaper than paying Aroldis Chapman. I feel like I’ve fallen too far down a rabbit hole of madness on this theory. Let’s move on.
He is the luckiest man on Earth
If I were graced with the Luck of the Irish, had a horseshoe crammed up my butt and born on, I don't know, the 7th of July or something, baseball would be a prime career path. Whether seeing eye singles for a hitter or an easy fly ball for a pitcher, luck can make a man a star.
Somehow thus far, Allen has in fact been unlucky, at least by the “traditional” standards of baseball. His BABIP is .636, which normally means he's being unlucky. But he creates bad situations for himself, and bounces out of it with a grin and a fireball.
Sure, one could call that just being a good reliever, but I'd rather be lucky than good. Is it luck that makes him miss elite sluggers' bats? Is it luck that made Chris Perez become terrible, handing the closer job to Allen? Is it luck that made Andrew Miller just the nicest guy, who doesn't care about saves but just wants to pitch whenever? Who's to say. That's the magic of luck though. It's literally unquantifiable, or possibly even not real.
For the record, I do recognize the third one in particular is foolish. Everyone knows Eric Hosmer is the luckiest man on Earth. He is a league average hitter at a position where that can't fly, yet people somehow consider him to be some sort of star. He also has impeccable timing, and helped the USA win the World Baseball Classic with it as well as the Kansas City Royals and their championship. Someone is going to give that guy like $180 million because nothing makes sense. Somehow Dayton Moore scouting him personally has led to Moore being a genius for winning a title, and Hosmer a star for being Moore's golden boy. It's like some sort of weird mediocre recursive loop.
So this is probably all absurd. The first one is most likely, the second a bit more interesting. Who knows how teams spend money behind the scenes, exploiting new market inefficiencies and twisting rules to suit them.
But there’s something about Allen, he’s such a rock of positivity. At this point it’s nearly impossible to not trust him even as the world caves down around his ears. He’s the least imposing closer in Major League Baseball, but until something is proven otherwise, there’s no one a Tribe fan would rather have out there holding the ninth. Especially since Miller is the tactical nuke in Francona’s arsenal.
That makes it a little easier.