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July 25, 2014

Raising Aces

Shelby Miller's Fall From Grace

by Doug Thorburn


At this time last year, the National League was being steamrolled by a young Cardinal right-hander whose mid-90s gas and hard-breaking curveball led the way to a 2.79 ERA as the calendar flipped to August. The instant success of Shelby Miller put him on the short list of the game's future kings of the hill, but he faded down the stretch and the Cards kept him out of the rotation (and essentially off the mound) during their postseason run; his lone appearance was a one-inning stint in game two of the NLDS, coming in the eighth inning of a 7–1 ballgame.

It was widely presumed that Miller had simply run out of gas at the end of his longest season as a pro, succumbing to the physical demands of a career-high workload. Expectations were high entering 2014, with a full offseason of rest and a year of experience under his belt, but this season has been a continuous struggle. His woes reached rock bottom in the last couple of weeks, resulting in his being jettisoned to the bullpen; even his initial foray in relief work left much to be desired, with two hits and a walk allowed in his first frame out of the 'pen. In hindsight, Miller has been on a downward spiral since the end of 2013, tainting what had been a very promising introduction to the big leagues.

GS

IP

ERA

K %

BB %

H %

HR %

2013

31

173.3

3.06

23.4%

7.9%

21.1%

2.8%

2014

19

110.0

4.25

15.2%

11.5%

22.5%

2.5%

Miller's batted-ball profile from this season is in line with his performance from 2013. What stands out are strike-zone indicators, which are trending in the wrong direction. Miller is striking out hitters at just 65 percent the frequency of last season and issuing walks at a nearly 50 percent higher clip, causing his strikeout-to-walk ratio to tumble from a three-to-one pace last season to his four-to-three proportion of 2014. Controlling the strike zone has been an issue for Miller all season; even in a three-start stretch from April in which he allowed just one run across the trio of games, the Miller bequeathed 12 free passes across 17 frames.

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6 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

ClaytonThompson

Really good stuff, Doug. I will say - intuitively as a baseball layman - that having only two pitches seems like Shelby's most obvious shortcoming.

The mechanical analysis is terrific. Knowing more about that really makes Shelby's struggles make more sense.

Jul 25, 2014 05:58 AM
rating: 0
 
jhensley

If there are supposed to be videos they are currently not showing up for me (using Chrome.

Well written again Doug, always quality work.

Jul 25, 2014 06:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Sam Miller
BP staff

Chrome on a PC or a Mac? Anybody else having the problem? I'm not, on any of the browsers (on Mac) that I've tried.

Jul 25, 2014 10:22 AM
 
earpbartman

Didn't Shelby have similar issues during his disastrous start to 2012, before making a mechanical tweak mid-season that led to his ridiculous run to end the season (he had a stretch where he struck out something like 40 guys without walking anyone)?

Jul 25, 2014 07:19 AM
rating: 2
 
bob4k14

It seems like such a minor thing, but something that has been a problem all along. You suggest toning down the power. What specifically would this look like? What should he do differently? In your opinion, do they know this, and what is the likelihood that they would see this?

Jul 25, 2014 09:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BrianGunn
(439)

Great stuff, Doug, thanks. In a couple spots you suggest that Shelby's "fall from grace" occurred sometime between this year and last. But it seems to me that Shelby started trending downward sometime in the middle of last season. I first noticed some mechanical issues with him during a disastrous start against Oakland on 6/28/13. Before that game he had a 3.9:1 KK/BB ratio and walked only 2.4 guys per 9. Over the course of the rest of the season his KK/BB ratio dipped to 1.8:1, with 4.1 BB per 9. That would suggest to me that he went off the rails last summer.

There's another theory too (which has some PITCHf/x evidence to back it up), which says that Shelby ALWAYS had command issues, even in early 2013. The difference is that batters then would chase his four-seamers out of the zone. Once the opposition got 2nd and 3rd looks at him (and had even more tape to go on), they stopped chasing and forced Shelby to throw strikes. By and large he has not been able to.

Jul 25, 2014 09:52 AM
rating: 2
 
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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Call-Up: Chris Tay... (07/25)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Raising Aces: Outta No... (07/18)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Raising Aces: The Rabb... (08/01)
Next Article >>
Premium Article What You Need to Know:... (07/28)

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