Analyzing Andrew Again

I promised I’d get another piece on Andrew Miller as soon as I could run SQL queries on my Pitch f/x database. Well, as of yesterday, my computer magically became capable of doing so, and so I’m back to talk about Miller. Let’s see how his 2009 numbers fared against the league average and see if we can find a reason for his problems.


Pitch vs. RHB # Zone% Watch% Chase% Whiff% BIP GB%
FF 675 57.0% 39.0% 19.0% 11.0% 143 43.4%
CH 106 48.1% 45.1% 21.8% 32.5% 10 50.0%
FC 81 44.4% 38.9% 13.3% 21.4% 17 29.4%
BP 102 36.6% 80.1% 31.0% 41.9% 10 90.0%
Total vs. RHB 974 52.7% 42.9% 20.6% 17.3% 186 45.2%
Pitch vs. LHB # Zone% Watch% Chase% Whiff% BIP GB%
FF 265 54.7% 45.5% 17.5% 13.0% 51 39.2%
CH 27 48.1% 30.8% 14.3% 0.0% 5 80.0%
FC 45 40.0% 38.9% 7.4% 7.7% 7 14.3%
BP 71 32.4% 34.8% 18.8% 50.0% 8 62.5%
Total vs. LHB 408 48.8% 42.7% 16.3% 17.1% 71 42.3%
Total 1382 51.5% 42.8% 19.3% 17.2% 257 44.3%

The splits between pitches against lefties and righties were surprisingly similar. Given the small sample of pitches in 2009 against lefties, I would not put much stock into those pitch splits, outside of perhaps the fastball. Miller’s fastball acts accordingly, not getting a lot of whiffs and succeeding primarily in getting ground balls. The breaking pitch induces the most whiffs (38.7% total) and chases (26.0%). Miller’s changeup seems nondescript, but was decently effective versus righties this season.

So what was the issue here? If you compare this to the league average numbers we saw here, Miller seems above average in watch%, close to average in zone% (though I used the same zone for both lefties and righties, and lefty batter zones are pretty different, so I’d take that with a grain of salt) and whiff%, and well below average in chase%, as mentioned earlier. We do see a trend in which hitters aren’t generally holding their bats on their shoulders a little more, evidenced by the high watch% and low chase%. This could signal that hitters are waiting out Miller, expecting him to go out of the zone. If they see a fastball, they go after it (the fastball was put into play 20.6% of the time, most of any other pitch), but otherwise they seem to holding back on their swings. For Miller to drop his walks, he’ll have to be around the strike zone more, but it seems his other pitches aren’t effective at entering the strike zone. His breaking pitch barely gets into the zone (out 183 of those pitches thrown, only 35.0% of them were in the strike zone), but that’s to be expected. In order to improve, perhaps a better changeup or secondary fastball with more movement is in order.

I’ll perhaps look at revising those numbers to match strike zones more realistic to lefty hitters, but I think the problem is apparent. Miller pitches on the outside are not appealing enough to swing at, and hitters are holding off. Next time, I’ll take a look at his progression through the count and see if he is struggling to set up hitters or if it is a matter of control.

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  • David C.

    Well, he got off to a good start in his start today… Let’s see…

    1) At least in the beginning, he repeatedly fell behind hitters, but managed to get away with it until they stopped swinging at everything that wasn’t dead center.

    2) An interesting observation I had was that his pace seemed very rushed. This is something I’ve seen before with him, and while he might be going for the Mark Buerhle effect, it doesn’t help when you have problems throwing strikes when you don’t take the time to aim properly.

    3) Of course, the defense left him completely there in the third inning, but he seemed to fall apart/ overthrow pitches following that. This may point to an issue with nerves/confidence, or only preparing himself to throw a certain amount of pitches and having to exceed that number.

    Granted, I’m not a professional scout; these are just casual observations.

    • Michael Jong

      David C,

      Thanks for the observations from camp! To be honest, I think Miller’s hold on the rotation spot may be on its edge. Today’s outing might have let him hold on barely, but I think either VandenHurk or Hensley might open up as the fifth starter this season based on how everyone’s pitched. Hurk had good reviews before his last outing, when he got lit up by the Nats. Hensley just pitched 4 1/3 strong innings and hasn’t walked a batter, something I think the coaching staff really appreciates.