Analyzing Andrew (Miller)

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This recent post by R.J. Anderson over at FanGraphs once again got me thinking about perennial enigma Andrew Miller. With Miller floundering in his last two Spring Training starts, his hold on the fifth spot in the rotation is dwindling fast. What can we see from his 2009 performance that may be of interest in understanding him?

As many of you may know, Andrew Miller started off his career basically in the majors. Due to a contract stipulation negotiated into the deal he signed when he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, he actually came up and pitched 10 innings in the big leagues after only three games in High-A ball. Since then, he’s only pitched 126 innings in the minors and 251 1/3 innings in the majors. While you might have liked to see some developmental time in the minors for Miller (essentially, he’s been a major leaguer since he began his professional career), this sort of “rushing” isn’t all that surprising or uncommon. Players coming out of four years of college are expected to be close to major-league ready; often these guys receive maybe a full season in the minors before coming up to the big leagues.

The problem is that Miller did not appear to be a fleshed-out pitcher coming out of college. We all know that one of his biggest problems is his high walk rate. It turns out that this is not something that was new to his major league experience. Here’s a chart of Miller’s performance from college into his professional year (chart originally from The Baseball Cube).

Year Team Lg Age Org Lvl IP HR9 BB9 K9
2004 North Carolina ACC 19 - NCAA 89.0 0.5 4.9 8.9
2005 North Carolina ACC 20 - NCAA 96.2 0.4 4.8 9.7
2006 North Carolina ACC 21 - NCAA 123.1 0.3 2.9 9.7
Lakeland FSL 21 DET A+ 5.0 0.0 1.8 16.2
Detroit AL 21 DET MLB 10.1 0.0 8.7 5.2
2007 Lakeland FSL 22 DET A+ 43.1 0.2 3.3 6.0
Erie East 22 DET AA 30.2 0.6 1.5 7.0
Toledo IL 22 DET AAA 6.0 0.0 7.5 13.5
Detroit AL 22 DET MLB 64.0 1.1 5.5 7.9
2008 GCL Marlins GCL 23 FLA Rk 1.0 0.0 9.0 0.0
Jupiter FSL 23 FLA A+ 12.2 0.7 0.7 7.8
Carolina Sou 23 FLA AA 5.2 0.0 6.4 9.5
Florida NL 23 FLA MLB 107.1 0.6 4.7 7.5
2009 GCL Marlins GCL 24 FLA Rk 7.0 0.0 5.1 12.9
Jupiter FSL 24 FLA A+ 4.0 0.0 2.3 11.3
Jacksonville Sou 24 FLA AA 6.0 0.0 3.0 7.5
New Orleans PCL 24 FLA AAA 11.2 0.0 10.0 12.3
Florida NL 24 FLA MLB 80.0 0.8 4.8 6.6
Major League Totals – 4 Season(s) 261.2 0.8 5.1 7.2
Minor League Totals – 4 Season(s) 133.0 0.3 3.6 8.4

I highlighted the problem columns. Basically, Miller has had high walk rates all of his career, and moving up to the majors early in his professional career probably did not help.

Why does Miller walk so many people? FanGraphs’ Plate Discipline stats may clue us in on the reason. In his career, hitters have swung at 20.6% of pitches outside of the strike zone according to the BIS data FanGraphs uses. In his last two seasons with the Fish, hitters have swung at 19.3% (2008) and 18.8% (2009). Essentially, Miller’s offerings outside the zone have been passable.

I figured taking a look at Pitch f/x would be of some use to us. I broke down Miller’s pitches into categories against lefties and righties and checked out his basic numbers. Here’s what I got.

Selection

Pitch Type vs. LHB vs. RHB
FF 65.0% 69.3%
FC 11.0% 8.3%
BP 17.4% 11.5%
CH 6.6% 10.9%

I’m fairly certain Miller is throwing two types of fastballs, just from scouring scouting reports. I called it a cutter based on Pitch f/x classifications, but I don’t think it’s a “true” cutter. Pitch f/x also has Miller throwing both a curve and a slider, but I lumped them together because I don’t think there’s a difference. I’ve always heard of Miller throwing a slider, but I won’t bother to break up between them. I just called it BP for “breaking pitch.”

Lots of basic stuff here. The breaking pitch gets thrown more often versus same-handed hitters than opposite-handed hitters, implying some sort of platoon split (like a slider). He primarily throws the fastball, with the “cutter” in much lower frequencies. The changeup is his pitch against righties.

How has that affected his numbers? I’ll be getting to that shortly, provided I can find out how to run SQL queries on my SPSS stats program. Once I get a chance to, I’ll be getting to the project of Andrew Miller.

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