Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Wade Miley


Now that the 2015 season is in the books, the BoSox Injection staff will hand out their final report cards, grading the performances of each member of the Boston Red Sox roster based on their expectations entering the season.

B-. . Starting Pitcher. . WADE MILEY

Wade Miley 11-11, 4.46 ERA, 3.81 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 193.2 IP, 147K, 2.5 WAR

Much like 2015, at the end of 2014, when the Red Sox were once again out of contention late in the season, the Red Sox took a look at starting pitchers Allen Webster (11 starts, 5.03 ERA, 4.35 FIP) and Rubby De La Rosa (18 starts, 4.43 ERA, 4.30 WHIP) neither of whom particularly impressed over simultaneous long stretches in the Red Sox starting rotation. Both were considered to have great potential but were not able to put it all together yet. The Red Sox showed what they thought of them, when the they tried an ace-less approach to their starting rotation in 2015, by trading them (and a prospect) to the Arizona Diamondbacks for the durable and financially controllable Miley.

Before Miley even threw a pitch in Boston, the Red Sox bought out his last year of arbitration and two free agent years by signing the lefty to a three year, $19.25 million deal. He was paid $3.67 million this year. In 2016, he is due $6.17 million, followed by $8.92 million in 2017. There is an option on the contract for $12 million in 2018. This deal was a little puzzling for fans, as Miley was coming off the worst of his three years in the major leagues posting a 4.33 ERA (ERA+ of 86, 100 being the average for a National League pitcher) and at 1.40 WHIP, the highest of his career. This seemed like a particularly generous contract especially considering the Red Sox were giving up two pitchers under more financial control for one seemingly average one under less control.

In Spring Training, veteran Clay Buchholz (who the Red Sox would dearly love to take the ace job) came up with an idea to give each pitcher two shirts, one that says “He’s The Ace” if someone else was starting that day and “I’m the Ace” for days when each particular starter took the mound. Once the regular season started, though, it was clear that no one was the ace on this struggling pitching staff, perhaps most clearly illustrated by Miley’s ineffectiveness. The April ERA by the Louisiana native was 8.62, worsened by a 1.79 WHIP. This might have been even worse, but Miley allowed just one homer in April.  He was knocked out in the third inning twice in the season’s opening month and didn’t make it through the sixth inning until his fifth start of the season.

May was a bounceback month for Miley as he pitched to a 3.49 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, while compiling a 3-3 record. The team, however, was bottoming out, limping to a 10-19 record that month, from which they would not be able to recover. Miley managed to lower his ERA for five straight starts until a four inning, five earned run allowed effort in Texas on May 30. The ship seemed to be righted again by a strong 7.1, two earned run effort against Oakland but perhaps that was just the quality of the competition as Oakland was one of the worst teams in the league all season.

On June 11 a start in Baltimore brought the Red Sox’ and Miley’s frustrations, with their spotty play into heated focus. The Orioles had jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings, part of which was spurred by two homers allowed by Miley. The Red Sox rallied for three runs in the top of the fourth to cut the lead to 4-3. In the bottom of the inning, after retiring the first two batters, Orioles third baseman Manny Machado launched a Miley pitch far over the left-center field wall to push the score back to 5-3. After Miley returned to the dugout, manager John Farrell informed Miley he was done for the day, though he had thrown only 69 pitches. For Farrell, who gives the starting pitcher extended time to solve that day’s problems, or at least throw 90 to 100 pitches,  it was a surprising move after only four innings. For Miley, it was an affront that he did not take well, screaming at Farrell in the dugout in clear view of cameras.

This tirade, while not the kind of rancor you want to see in the dugout, seemed to help Miley.  Over his next eight starts, totaling 48.2 innings, he allowed 18 earned runs for an ERA over 3.30.  Good stretches and bad stretches alternate for Miley.  Sometimes, he would walk a lot of guys, (19 in 35.2 July innings) and sometimes he wouldn’t (seven in 39.2 August innings).  This is about what you are going to get from Miley.  League average.  A guy who is going to take the ball every fifth day and give you a chance to win.  The team was 15-17 in his starts, and 78-84 for the season.  So, he was about as good as the team was.

When I started this article I thought I am going to give him a B- grade, but while thinking about it, I concluded that a B+ grade was a more appropriate one.  He started poorly and had to dig himself out from that poor start all season, ERA-wise, never getting below 4.33 for the rest of the season.  After April, he pitched to a 4.10 ERA.  In the second half of the season, his ERA was 4.09.  In all categories, Miley pitched to his career norms.  Miley was the only starting pitcher to make all his starts for the year.  The others were brought down by injury or ineffectiveness or both.

For at least the next two seasons, the Red Sox will have a back end of the rotation starter at reasonable money.  Miley is not a guy that will lead your staff, but he is one you need to give you six innings most of the time (22 times in 32 starts) to save your bullpen.  Nothing says average like Miley’s career ERA+ of 101.  The Red Sox knew what they were getting going in and Miley (to quote a famous Dennis Green tirade) was what the Red Sox thought he was. For that reason he gets the B+ for delivering that expected average guy over nearly 200 innings, the benchmark for any major league starting pitcher.