Take a look at the table below:
Which of those players are you worried about? The player with the lowest strikeout rate — Player C? The player with the worst K:BB rate — Player B?
If you’re the average fan as of late, you’re worried about Player A, Shelby Miller. The player who has a better strikeout and walk rate than Trevor Rosenthal, Player B, at a higher level of competition. The player with a better strikeout rate than Carlos Martinez, Player C.
That’s not to say it’s totally unjustified. As chuckb aptly pointed out the other day, there’s a home run component to the concern with Shelby Miller this year.
When you’re getting bombed out of the park as frequently as Shelby Miller is, it’s going to have an adverse effect on your overall performance. There are plenty of reasons why this could be happening. The PCL, though not necessarily Memphis in particular, has some nasty park factors. Parks out west — think Albuquerque and Las Vegas — are generally considered to be launching pads due to the dry air conditions. There’s been lots of talk about Miller’s command being off, which could lead to more home runs on mistake pitches. There’s been talk of decreased velocity, which could contribute as well.
Those are highly speculative unless someone spends the time to chart each home run pitch as a mistake/non-mistake or can offer some more concrete evidence as to what is actually causing the home runs. Because, in an arguably less speculative but also less interesting way, this could just be terrible luck. Miller is currently sporting a 15% HR/FB rate. Last year, that number was 3.8%. There’s little compelling evidence that the change in competition level is enough to constitute that kind of a jump all on it’s own.
Jeff will touch more tomorrow on Shelby Miller’s recent activity but the much lamented demise of Shelby Miller is mostly poppycock. Even if a scout provides anecdotal remarks regarding a single at bat or a single game, unless there’s a deeper — and critically — better researched explanation for Miller’s recent propensity to allow home runs, the default assumption should be that this is an aberration. The default assumption should be that this is, in large part, bad luck.
To be clear, that doesn’t make that assumption correct. But those individuals bemoaning Miller’s performance have the burden of proof as to why the general axiom about home run rates doesn’t hold true. The groundwork for the default position has already been laid and Miller’s past performance in 2010 and 2011 reinforces that default — specifically that Miller has never shown to be extremely prone to home runs. Moving up a level does not invalidate that argument and until someone makes a compelling case as to why that is wrong, the hand wringing about Shelby Miller is overwrought for the evidence at hand.
So don’t worry. Shelby Miller is fine. In some ways, he’s pitch as well or better than other well regarded prospects that no one seems the least bit worried about.
Be happy that Shelby Miller is still in the farm system. He’s still a top prospect.