Welcome back to guest columnist Noah Woodward. You can reach him at nowoodward(AT)davidson.edu. Note: All statistics do not include the weekend.
There are a few things that we have always known about Andrew Miller. He’s 6’7”. He’s left-handed. He throws gas. He won awards for being the nation’s top collegiate pitcher and was the top prospect to play in the Cape Cod League in 2006. Theseare some of the qualities and accomplishments that led to him being drafted by the Tigers with the sixth overall pick.
The results, though, haven’t panned out like anyone would have predicted. Since making his debut months after he was drafted, Miller has struggled at the highest levels and has been ineffectively wild with a career ERA over five. Despite his lack of big league success, Miller remained a commodity as scouts were perpetually convinced that things were due to turn around for the big lefty.
There was something there, though, that the scouts couldn’t see. While they couldn’t take their eyes off his frame and the readings on their radar guns, there remained a subtlety to be picked out that explains why he has failed to meet expectations. His fastball has been flat. Stale, dry, dead, whatever you want to call it. It’s a pitch that sits around 95 MPH, yet has moved very little throughout his career. Big league hitters have taken advantage of this below-average offering.
Fast-forward to 2012. This year, Miller’s fastball has been anything but flat. He has dropped his release down to more of a three-quarters delivery, and added almost 5” of horizontal break on his fastball as a result. The graph above shows how much of a shift we have seen in this pitch. While this new movement could characterize Miller’s fastball as a two-seamer, the amount of break we are seeing could merit it being labeled as a sinker. Can you name another pitcher that throws a 95 MPH sinker? I didn’t think so.
The table below shows how Miller’s 2012 boost in movement has translated into good things for him and Red Sox. It’s impressive that he has been able to improve his control on his fastball while giving it life at the same time. His 2012 fastball whiff rate is almost unbelievable. It’s definitely a sign that, while his strikeout numbers this year may fall some, they are for real.
Andrew Miller Pitch Breakdown: Fastballs
|Called Strikes per Ball||.55||.7|
|Balls per 100 pitches||37.03||0.3|
It looks like Andrew Miller has finally made the transformation that the Red Sox had hoped he would make when he was acquired from the Marlins. It is clear that his performance thus far has earned him a sure spot in the bullpen, and I think that he has the stuff to pitch in high-leverage situations right now.