Shelby Miller was the best thing about the 2015 Atlanta Braves. His won-loss record (6-17) was bad, but in a weird way he was historically good.
His ERA was 3.02. He worked 21 quality starts in 33 outings. He came excruciatingly close to one no-hitter and within sight of another. His continuing excellence in trying times — the major leagues’ worst offense mustered 2.1 runs in support of Miller while he was in the game — rendered him a pillar of perseverance.
Today he pitches for Arizona. He’s scheduled to start against the Braves on Saturday night at Turner Field. A year ago, he was an All-Star. To date, he has been the least effective starting pitcher in the major leagues.
Miller’s stats: An ERA of 8.49, a WHIP of 1.971 and a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 7.23. He’s second in the majors with 19 walks. His WAR value is minus-0.8. Among MLB pitchers who have worked a minimum of 20 innings, his FIP and WAR numbers are the worst. His WHIP is the fourth-worst. His ERA is the sixth-worst.
The Diamondbacks have won two of Miller’s six starts. In the first, they rallied from a 6-3 deficit after he was removed; in the second, he was lifted in the third after walking four consecutive batters. He has worked beyond the fifth inning only twice. He has no quality starts.
According to Brooks Baseball, he has lost velocity on both his four-seam fastball and his sinker: From 95.11 mph last year to 93.60 on the former, from 94.55 to 92 on the latter.
According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic: “(The D-backs) believe his most recent issues are more rooted in mentality than mechanics … Miller’s velocity was down in his first two outings, when he struggled to either keep the ball in the park or elicit swings and misses from opposing hitters. In the next two, his mechanics went awry, as he repeatedly scraped his pitching hand on the mound during the follow-through to his delivery.”
As we know, the D-backs gave up way too much for Miller. In that massive trade, the Braves received Aaron Blair, a young pitcher who has looked very good in his first two big-league starts; Ender Inciarte, who was the opening-day center fielder before getting hurt two games later; and Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft who already has been promoted from Single-A to Double-A. From the Braves’ perspective, that deal was widely regarded as the absolute best of the offseason.
Arizona manager Dave Stewart said on MLB Radio: “I think the whole ordeal has just been different for (Miller) than it was leaving St. Louis going to Atlanta.”
D-backs manager Chip Hale has said the team has “not even discussed” removing Miller from the rotation. Hale also told reporters: “We are trying everything. We are working with him. We want him to stay positive. It’s tough. He’s not very happy about it.”
Let’s recall that Miller underwent an unbelievably protracted stretch — 25 starts, from his almost no-hitter in Miami on May 17 until the final day of the season — between wins, but he held up his end. (And remember: He was the guy who’d been traded for Jason Heyward.) The Braves always believed they’d sold high when they sent Miller to Arizona. Nobody among them, though, expected this.