What to watch for with Andrew Miller

Originally posted on

Andrew Miller is being called up by the Red Sox to start Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres, one of the worst scoring teams in baseball. But who is Miller? We have all heard about him, but where does he come from, and what will he bring?

Miller played his college ball at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill with current Red Sox fireballer Daniel Bard. There, he set the career and single season strikeout records in Tar Heels history and he was the 2004 Baseball America Player of the year. After his college years were through, he was selected 6th overall by the Detroit Tigers in 2006.

His talent was already shining through during his short stint with the A ball Lakeland Flying Tigers. After only three outings he was promoted to AA Erie Seawolves and he was called up to the bigs just ten days later.

This is where the concerns of if he was rushed started to show. In 10.1 innings of relief he was shaky and he did not make the Tigers opening day roster in 2007. He was called up in May to be a spot starter against  the Cardinals, his first MLB start. Miller was sent back down to the minors but was recalled again, where he showed all of his potential.

In that off season Miller was part of a huge blockbuster trade with the Florida Marlins. Along with Cameron Maybin and a lot of other prospects, he was sent to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.

Now Miller was on a Marlins team that is constantly in rebuilding mode due to lack of financial certainty. His play slipped, and his potential seemed to be slipping as well. His walks per nine innings in 2010 was 7.16, but his strike out rate was also 7.71. He has always had command and control problems, but he was always able to strike batters out. Pretty soon, however, the Marlins got sick of waiting for the command to come, and he was traded to Boston for lefty Dustin Richardson.

Miller has been fantastic with Pawtucket this season, posting a 2.47 ERA but the walks have still been an issue. They have gone down of late, with just one and then zero in his last two outings. He will pitch Monday night, and here is what to watch for then and in the future.

Miller can strike a lot of guys out. He also walks a lot of guys. I looked at an old scouting report from the Marlins to analyze what we can expect. He has always had a high ground ball rate, but it has actually gone down since his MLB debut. When he broke in with the Tigers, it was around 60%. In his last year with Florida, it was around 40%. Over his career, Miller’s win probability is -4.96. Win probability is exactly what it sounds like, probability that the pitcher will lead his team to a victory.

Miller is mostly a fastball pitcher, throwing it 74% of the time. He likes to use his slider but his out pitch is his cutter. He does not use it a whole lot like Jon Lester, but when he gets into two strike counts he is nasty against lefties with that pitch. He also has a curveball and changeup, but he does not use those pitches as much.

He is a tall pitcher, and if you look at tall pitchers over history they tend to struggle early on. Randy Johnson took a while to get settled into the bigs, and he turned out to be a hall of famer. I am not saying Miller will be that, but it is tough for lefties to have good control because with such height it is tough to repeat the motion. When pitchers struggle it is because they cannot repeat their delivery, and this has been a problem for Miller for a while. As he gets older and matures as a pitcher, this issue will go away.

Another stat that I see as a concern is that batters hit the ball 88% of the time when they swing at pitches inside the strike zone. When it is outside, it is still 66%. Miller is allowing a bit too much contact for my liking. I would like to see him use his cutter low and in to right handed batters. Best they can do is swing on top of it to drill it into the ground and at worst they miss it. It is a deceiving pitch that could work for Miller.

We will see how he does Monday night and in the future. The Red Sox are calling him up to the 40 man roster so he does not opt out (he had an opt out on June 15th) and they obviously did not want to see the former first rounder leave

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