Shutting Down Shelby Miller is the Best Option for the Arizona Diamondbacks
When Shelby Miller took the mound against the Dodgers last Saturday night at Chase Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks hoped the right-hander would be able to put together a complete outing for the first time this season,
The game plan was clear. Pitching coach Mike Butcher wanted Miller to mix in his breaking and off-speed pitches early in the game. This approach would allow Miller and catcher, Welington Castillo to keep opposing hitters off balance, and carry through to the second and third time through the lineup.
In his previous start against the Colorado Rockies on September 12, Miller cruised through the first three innings. He blew Colorado hitters away with an electric mid-90’s four-seam fastball and a well-located cutter.
Then, he hit a wall in the fourth inning. The Rockies touched Miller for six runs in the fourth and fifth frames, and Miller failed to adjust.
All About Fastball Command
In his bullpen sessions last week, Miller worked on fine tuning his curveball and change-up. On Saturday, Miller utilized those pitches in the first inning, each pitch selection never had a chance to be effective.
Any pitcher, whether they’re a reliever or a starter, will say a great pitching performance starts with fastball command. Miller did not have that on Saturday. He consistently got behind in the count and fell into predictable fastball counts.
in the fourth, Dodgers’ centerfielder Joc Pederson took full advantage. With a runner on third, the Pederson blasted a 3-2 heater an estimated 463 feet into the right field stands. The home run, the longest by a Dodger this year, traveled 109.9 mph off the bat, per Statcast.
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As majestic as this long ball was, the result all came down to location. Scouting report indicates that Pederson loves fastballs middle-in. That is exactly where miller threw that pitch.
To a minor consolation, Miller’s velocity was there. He was consistently hitting 95 mph, but an apparent lack of confidence in his secondary pitches affected his fastball.
Miller did look effective at times, but another losing effort is not going to get the job done. Miller is now 0-8 at Chase Field in 2016. In 18 starts, Miller is 2-12. His 7.10 ERA is on pace to be the highest since 1930 for a starting pitcher with at least 20 starts.
Last season, Miller recorded a 3.06 ERA in 33 starts.
Where are the answers?
A question which has not been answered remains, what essentially happened to Shelby Miller this season.
Having a mound presence is critical to a pitcher’s success, but Miller never lack a high degree of confidence this season. Instead of attacking hitters, Miller tried to nibble his way through each hitter.
Miller came to the Diamondbacks in a highly controversial trade. As a result, a lot of his struggles are mental.
As reported earlier this season here, , Miller abandoned his sinker. That pitch was part of an effective four-seam, cutter, sinker combination that worked well in Atlanta and St. Louis.
Instead, Miller went to his four-seamer 57.15 percent of the time this season. This is compared to 43.90 percent of the time in 2015.
When he is commanding his fastball, Miller becomes too predictable. When Miller is not commanding his fastball, confidence seems to lack in his curve and change.
Moving Miller to the bullpen is pointless this late in the season. The Diamondbacks should have tried this earlier. After all, it worked for Patrick Corbin and Rubby De La Rosa. Unfortunately, this point is mute.
The Diamondbacks have other potentials to consider for the 2017 in a starting role. Trotting out Miller every fifth day only adds fuel to the fire at this point.
The right-hander’s mechanical flaws might be fixed , but Miller never a lacked a heightened confidence at any time this season.
Around the Foghorn
Instead of going through a possible final two starts of the season, Miller should be confined to bullpen sessions with special pitching assistant Dave Duncan and Randy Johnson. This could be the best environment to finally figure out what became an unfortunate season for all concerned.