Wade Miley: Talented Middle Man
By picking up Wade Miley from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a trade, last December, the Boston Red Sox may have a young, key ingredient to stabilizing the middle of their starting rotation.
The lefty, Louisiana native is 28 years of age, and has only spent four seasons in the National League, but he has already left his mark. In 2012, he finished second in Rookie-of-the-Year honors and was an All-Star, with a 16-11 record and 144 strikeouts to only 37 walks. Last season, as the Diamondbacks struggled, so did Miley, as he posted a record of 8-12. Incredibly, his strikeout total increased from previous seasons, with 183 disappointed batters; however, his walks also increased to 75. Even still, Miley pitched over the 200-innings mark, keeping his team relatively in ballgames for the possibility to come back.
Miley’s toolbox includes six pitches, but he rarely throws the cutter. He throws it 87 mph, but only used it 0.3% in 2011, and has since banished it from his common arsenal. Miley mainly throws his fastball, launching a four-seamer and two-seamer an equal amount (31.5-32.2%), at around 91 mph. He also unleashes his slider at 85 mph and his changeup with relative frequency. The real story is the disappearance of his curveball. Miley used it 15% of the time in his breakout year, while not even attempting a slider, but has since switched tactics. With other young talent, like Toronto Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman, throwing a hybrid of a slider and curve, Miley could look into some serious breaking pitches come April.
Whatever the reason, Miley’s tactics have not translated to a power struggle at the plate. With so many types of pitches coming fairly straight to the plate, you would expect a pitcher relying on striking out big hitters or losing the battle completely over the outfield fences. This is not the case. While Miley’s home run total rose from 14 in 2012 to 23 last season, he has been getting more balls hit on the ground, and less balls hit into the air. These numbers would explain why he has thrown over 200 more pitches the last two seasons than in his rookie year.
If anything, Miley has improved in many areas and his weaknesses can be adjusted; however, anyone concerned about his record last season should look to his run support, instead of at his ability. The Diamondbacks scored only 77 runs for Miley in 2014, 33 runs less than in 2013 and 47 runs less than in 2012.
How do you expect a young pitcher to win as many games as he did two years ago when he does not have nearly the same offence behind him? A pitcher who changes tactics and gets more pitches put into play, on the ground, will need run support, as he tries to bleed runs slowly to stay in games.
With the Red Sox’ new offence projecting much more successful results than last season, Miley will likely have more success in his new uniform. The issue then becomes money, as he was paid $0.5 million last season and his contract status makes him eligible for arbitration this upcoming season. Free agency will not be until 2018, though. Boston should be able to settle reasonably with Miley, as his results display a talented pitcher, but one who still has to prove himself, especially in a new league. It will be interesting how well Miley pitches in the middle of the rotation, giving the Red Sox a chance to play defense with so many groundballs, while hopefully eating over 200 innings for a third straight season. The bullpen, for one, will be much happier if that happens.
*** all statistics via www.fangraphs.com