I hated the trade, but I understood it. I can’t say I hate it today.
Shelby Miller for Jason Heyward wasn’t just a sound investment; it has turned into a windfall. Miller entered Sunday’s game tied for second in the big leagues in ERA, and his latest effort saw that 1.60 ERA dip to 1.33. Working a two-hitter can have that effect.
Only on Miller’s 89th pitch did the Marlins break through against Miller, not for an actual run but for an actual hit. Justin Bour lined a fat fastball — Miller’s fastball had been overpowering — up the middle. (Catcher A.J. Pierzynski told reporters afterward the pitch was designed to be inside.) It was one of those things that happen in baseball: What coulda/shoulda been a no-hitter falls one out short. More’s the pity.
In nine starts as an Atlanta Brave, Miller has reminded us why, in the not-so-distant year of 2013, he was regarded as one of the best pitching prospects, alongside Matt Harvey and Jose Fernandez and Matt Moore. Miller’s stature had dipped a bit, but only a bit. He wasn’t part of the Cardinals’ rotation in the 2013 postseason; he started two playoff Game 4s in 2014.
Over those nine starts, Miller has leaped ahead of Julio Teheran and Alex Wood — who are themselves excellent — as the pitcher the Braves most want taking the ball and toeing the slab. In his worst start with his new team, Miller has yielded two earned runs. (Three times.) In the other five, he has been even better. The past three have been dominant: Over 25 May innings, opponents have managed one earned run and seven hits.
Great stuff, great location, great poise: What’s not to like about this 24-year-old? Answer: Nothing. The Braves’ offseason sell-off was designed to save money — hence the shedding of the free-agent-to-be Heyward — and rebuild around young pitching. Mike Foltynewicz looks promising, and there’s hope for Matt Wisler and Williams Perez and Max Fried. But today no young pitcher in this organization looks better than Shelby Miller.