Things can change quick in the world of sports. Just ask Andrew Miller, former playoff hero for the Cleveland Indians who is now on the free agent market waiting for a job.
After six seasons of dominant baseball with the Boston Red Rox, New York Yankees, and the Indians, Miller suffered shoulder impingement issues last season, and saw his performance and reputation plummet as a result.
After all, Miller is a pitcher reborn. Here is a guy who made 66 starts over six seasons and never finished with an earned run average less than 5.00. Miller once had a WHIP (the average amount of walks and hits allowed per nine innings) of 6.23. That was in 2010 with the then-Florida Marlins.
After the 2011 season, Miller moved to the bullpen and saw his strikeouts-per-nine-innings take a jump, going from 6.9 K/9 to 11.4 K/9. A significant jump for a southpaw finding a refined role in his career.
At his best, Miller doesn't put runners on base. He simply doesn't allow it. Between 2014 and 2017, Miller didn't finish a WHIP greater than 1.0. Miller walked a total of 67 batters between the 2014 and 2017 season. Miller is also effective versus right-handed batters, holding them to a .370 slugging percentage over the course of his career.
He could help solve relief issues, period. He actually held righties to a lower OPS than lefties from 2013-2017
— mike butler (@mbutler04) December 7, 2018
The Florida native has a power arm. In 2016, he struck out 14 batters for every single walk allowed. Since moving to the bullpen seven years ago, Miller hasn't finished a season with less than ten strikeouts per nine innings. At his worst last season, Miller still averaged 10.6 strikeouts-per-nine-innings. That's something to consider and keep an eye on.
Shoulder impingement poisoned his 2018 season. He was never able to get right and missed a lot of time. In 37 appearances, Miller had the worst WHIP of his career (1.382) and walked 16 batters in just 34 innings with just 45 strikeouts. The velocity was done, and the results were nowhere near satisfying.
Let's just cool it on the career destruction talk, or that Miller has been trending down for years. The guy was unreal in Cleveland just two years ago. He was an All Star in 2017, making 67 appearances and striking out 95 batters in just 62.2 innings. If the guy was coming off two bad seasons, this article wouldn't be happening.
Here's the thing. The Cardinals need help on the left side of the bullpen, but don't want to go extremely long term on a guy like Zach Britton, who is younger than Miller, yet doesn't project as a power arm. Also, Britton is coming off an Achilles Heel injury, so beware there. If you want another season of Brett Cecil and Chasen Shreve trying to maneuver outs from lineups late in games, you should acquire a healthy dose of bourbon to go with the experience. No one in Memphis is ready to step in and be a force. Tyler Lyons isn't a bullpen guy anymore.
With a need to add someone efficient without wanting to go all in, Miller is a perfect answer. He will be 34 years old in May, so he can't ask for a 3-4 year contract. Coming off a rough season that includes lingering doubt about his shoulder, a two-year deal will suffice, and the Cardinals can squeeze a few incentives into the deal. Miller needs a new life, and the Cardinals and Busch Stadium, which still projects as a pitcher's park, could be a nice swan song for his career.
It's not a secret. The heavy usage with Cleveland in 2016-17 more than likely led to the downturn in 2018. When a guy is coming into every other game in the playoffs and pitching two to three innings, the pitches add up and the wear is clear. When in Rome, aka October, a manager doesn't care. Miller was overused and cooked in Cleveland. After a year spent coming off and on the disabled list, he should fresh and ready to roll.
Testing his shoulder will be imperative to a deal. The Cardinals don't need another Marcell Ozuna, who came into the 2018 season as a one-armed man. If Miller checks out and is sound physically, you ink him up.
The Cardinals officially launched the Hot Stove season on Wednesday, tossing a big steak on the grill with the acquisition of Paul Goldscdmidt. You better believe Scott Boras is going to stir the Bryce Harper market for a couple more weeks, so I wouldn't wait on his every move. He isn't going anywhere, and even if he does, the Cardinals can't turn him into a lefty reliever. The bullpen blew too many games in 2018, ruining quite a few nights in St. Louis. Finding a way to mend that bridge and suture the wound is paramount for a full comeback in 2019.
If Andrew Miller is half the pitcher he was in 2017, the Cardinals' bullpen gets better in an instant. I'd take a chance on him for the right price. After exiting the 2017 season as the best left-handed reliever next to Aroldis Chapman, Miller took a fall last year.
Things change quick in this game, but sometimes, the change can swing in the positive direction.