Wade Miley was picked by the Rays in the 20th round of the 2005 draft. He didn’t sign, choosing to play at Southeastern Louisiana University. He was taken by the Diamondbacks in the supplemental first round of the 2008 draft. He debuted for Arizona late in the 2011 season, pitching 40 innings with a 4.50 ERA.
Miley was the National League Rookie of the Month in April 2012 and made the All-Star team. Bryce Harper barely beat him out for the NL Rookie of the Year. He had a 3.33 ERA, 3.18 FIP, and 4.26 DRA, going 16-11 for a .500 team.
Miley’s rookie year also represented his career-high in WARP, 2.1. In 2013, his ERA, FIP, and DRA were all higher than in 2012: 3.55, 3.95, and 4.27, respectively. In 2014, his ERA rose to 4.34, though his 3.94 FIP and 4.07 DRA suggested no real regression from 2013. Of the team’s top three starters—Josh Collmenter, Brandon McCarthy, and Miley—Miley was the youngest and logged the most innings.
Nonetheless, he was traded to the Red Sox in December 2014 for Raymel Flores, Rubby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster. Since the trade, Webster has pitched 34 major-league innings, Flores has 27 at-bats above A-ball, and De La Rosa has generated 1.3 WARP, compared to Miley’s 1.9 in 2014 alone.
He signed a three-year contract with Boston that would pay him $18.75 million through 2017, with a $12 million club option and $500,000 buyout for 2018. Still, in three years, Miley had gone from Rookie of the Year candidate to innings-eater (only 17 pitchers threw more innings than his 598 2/3 from 2012-2014), dogged by questions about his work ethic. He joined a Red Sox team that had gone from World Series champions in 2013 to last place in 2014.
In 2015 with Boston, he led the club in starts and innings. But he also led in hits and walks allowed. He had a 4.46 ERA and 4.48 DRA. The promise of his rookie year was fading fast. So was his career in Boston. The Red Sox traded him to the Mariners for Roenis Elias and Carson Smith after the 2015 season. At the 2016 trade deadline, Seattle sent him to Baltimore for Ariel Miranda.
The Orioles led the AL East by half a game on the day of the trade. They were only two games over .500 the rest of the season, though. They finished four games behind Boston and lost the Wild Card game to Toronto (the Game Zach Britton Didn’t Pitch). Miley played a part in the slump: In 11 starts for the Orioles, he had a 2-5 record, with a 6.17 ERA.
The lone lefty in the 2017 Orioles’ rotation, Miley spit the bit in 2017, with a 5.61 ERA, 5.24 FIP, and 7.02 DRA. At the end of the season, Baltimore declined his option, paying the $500,000 buyout. The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up was a free agent.
Without a contract, Miley was now fully at risk of becoming a forgotten player. He signed a minor-league deal with the Brewers during spring training. He started the 2018 season at Double-A Biloxi. In seven starts, he had a 3.55 ERA, 3.40 FIP, and 3.64 DRA, 23 percent better than the league average. He struck out 28 batters and walked only four, a sharp contrast to his career K/BB ratio of just 2.3. He was called up in May, but after a quality start against the Reds on May 2, he went on the 60-day disabled list with an oblique strain. A return to obscurity loomed.
But he came back from the injury on time and healthy. He had a 1.57 ERA in four July starts and a 2.86 ERA in five August starts. In September, he had a 3-0 record and a 3.52 ERA. He finished the year with a 2.57 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and 4.13 DRA. He led the team’s starters in all three metrics and was third in starter WARP despite starting only 16 games. He was the starting pitcher in the third game of the Division Series. Pitching in Coors Field, he allowed only a double, a walk, and two singles in 4 2/3 innings as the Brewers beat the Rockies 6-0 to sweep the series. He was forgotten no more.
The story of the second game of the NLCS will not be about Wade Miley, even though the Brewers were leading the game 2-0 when he left it in the sixth inning and they added a third run in the bottom of the inning. Rather, it will be a story of how the Brewers’ vaunted bullpen coughed up two runs to the Dodgers in the top of the seventh inning, on a walk to Max Muncy and consecutive singles to Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, and Joc Pederson. And the story of how they gave up another two runs, and the lead, in the top of the eighth inning, on a single to Chris Taylor and a home run to Justin Turner.
Or the story of how Milwaukee, with the best home record in the league, could only split two games despite leading both. Or of how Turner avenged his golden sombrero Friday with a game-winning homer Saturday. Of how Kenley Jansen, who’d seemed shaky at points this season, ended the game by retiring the two most dangerous Brewers, striking out Lorenzo Cain on three straight pitches and getting Christian Yelich to ground weakly to Turner. Of how the Brewers, who had the best bullpen DRA in the NL, almost blew a five-run lead on Friday and couldn’t hold a three-run lead on Saturday. Of how the bullpen gave up four runs for the second consecutive game and now have a 6.97 ERA and 1.74 WHIP through two games.
Those will be the stories of the game and the stories that will linger on through the series. Can the Brewers’ bullpen get back on track? Can the key Dodgers bats produce? Can Yelich continue to play out of his mind? Is Jansen right? For that matter, will Clayton Kershaw ever put the Clayton Kershaw postseason narrative to rest? Can the team that plays in MLB’s smallest market with the fifth-lowest payroll beat the team that plays in the second-largest market with the third-largest payroll?
It won’t be a story of the Brewers’ starting pitchers. Brewers starters combined to finish 11th in the NL in innings, seventh in ERA, and 13th in DRA and quality starts. (By contrast, the Dodgers ranked sixth, first, first, and fourth.) They’ll be forgotten.
They’ll be forgotten, just like some players are forgotten. Or even outstanding performances are forgotten if more dramatic subsequent events eclipse them.
Wade Miley starts prior to October 13, 2018: 213.
Wade Miley starts prior to October 13, 2018 in which he pitched at least five innings, allowing two or fewer hits, no walks, and no runs: 0.
Wade Miley, October 13, 2018: 5 2/3 innings, two hits, no walks, no runs allowed. (He also hit a double and a single.)
Wade Miley, October 13, 2018, pitching record: No decision.
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