The Arizona Diamondbacks have had the injury bug finally begin to wear off in recent weeks, with three key players rejoining the team. One of those players, however, has yet to experience the type of success that fans in the desert covet.
Robbie Ray and A.J. Pollock have returned, both to much fanfare. Ray had an extremely strong year last season, while Pollock was on an absolute tear before an injury suffered during a diving play in centerfield sidelined him. The same type of reception cannot be said of Shelby Miller. An Arizona Diamondbacks in dire need of consistent starting pitching has yet to see that from Miller.
Now, it’s important to note that he isn’t coming off of an in-season injury. Miller had Tommy John Surgery at the beginning of last April. That’s a fairly quick recovery, considering. The results, however, have not yielded the sort of promise you’d hope for.
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Miller has an ERA of 9.00 through his first trio of starts. His WHIP is at 1.79. He’s given up 16 earned runs, with 20 hits across the three. He’s surrendered four homers in the three starts, with a HR/FB ratio over 28%. Each of the three starts featuring a Diamondbacks loss. Not exactly encouraging stuff. Interestingly enough, however, he’s actually looked far better than the numbers would indicate.
We mentioned before that the velocity was there for Shelby Miller in that first start. He’s averaging 94.4 MPH on the fastball, according to FanGraphs. That, and his other pitches, are right in line with what he was turning in before undergoing surgery. So he’s certainly healthy. And his strikeout and walk numbers actually look pretty solid, to boot. He’s struck out 18 hitters through the three starts, with only five walks.
The issue with Miller is the command. Mind you, that’s not control. He’s throwing strikes. They’re just getting hit. And getting hit hard. Miller is giving up hard contact 61% of the time. That’s somewhat alarming. The good news there is that he’s getting groundball contact over 51% of the time. So it’s a matter of when he misses, he’s missing right in opposing hitters’ wheelhouse.
If it was a matter of Miller walking guys, lacking velocity, and other things of the like, then we can be worried. This is going to be a process. It can take as long as 16-18 months before we see Miller return to full strength. It would be nice to get him going deeper into ballgames, but three starts out from TJS doesn’t leave us a ton of room to panic. The fact that his velocity is there and he’s striking some guys out is especially encouraging. Mechanically, he’s fine. And the walks are down. So while the results haven’t been terribly favorable, it’s important to note that they’re far more encouraging that the standard numbers would lead you to believe.
Again, it would be ideal if he could get some more longevity in these starts. And with Miller back, you’d like to see these starts end up in the win column, given Miller’s upside. But there are a lot of positive signs there, and if he can regain the command that is a main issue right now, he’s going to be a major factor in the division race as we head into the second half of the season.