What’s Wrong With Shelby Miller?

I ask that question in the title knowing full well I have no answer and, indeed, if anyone has one I’d like to hear it.  Shelby Miller was one of my picks to have an outstanding year this season and the results have been, well, let’s say underwhelming.  While up until these last couple of starts he’s been able to have better results than the numbers would support, it looks like things are starting to catch up with the Cardinal right hander.

I think the first thing most everyone would worry about is some sort of injury, but when you look at his velocity, there doesn’t seem to be anything out of line there.  It is interesting to note that he seems to have added a sinker this month, which I assume would go under the breaking section of this chart.  Given that his breaking stuff is getting hit all over the yard this month, it could be part of the refining process of learning the sinker.  However, even his hard stuff is being hit at a higher rate than normal.  Not completely out of line and not higher than some months last year, but at an elevated rate.

The biggest problem, and we’ve noted this before, is that he’s not getting the strikeouts that he got last year.  His whiff percentage is way down on most everything and that’s what triggers the most concern.  He’s striking out two less batters per nine innings than he did last season, which is always striking but much more so when he has seen his strikeout-to-walk ratio cut in half, closing in on the levels we saw with Jake Westbrook in the past.  When you are walking almost five a game, you need a Yoda to work with you:

While Miller only walked two last night, A) that was still more than he struck out and B) one of those walks opened the floodgates.  Miller’s first two innings weren’t shabby, with only a two-out hit marring them.  However, a one-out walk in the third and then nothing went right.  Four runs there, three runs in the fourth and the rest of the game was fairly anti-climatic.  The bullpen held the line and the Cardinal bats tried to do something, but it was just too much of a hill to climb.

It’s hard to fathom, really, but if Joe Kelly were completely ready to go right now, he’d take Miller’s place in the rotation if you based it completely on results and there’s little reason to think it’d be based on anything else.  Could Miller slide into the bullpen, get used to gripping and ripping and maybe get some of that gunslinger mentality and approach back?  It’s a moot point right now because Kelly still has no timetable on his return, but you wonder if that change of scenery might be what he needs.  The club has needed a long reliever for a while.

So obviously Miller is last night’s Goat.  Just as obviously, when you look at the box scores, Kolten Wong gets the Hero nod.  Four of the club’s 13 hits (which is a pretty solid offensive night overall, when you think about it.  Four runs and 13 hits is often enough to win a game with the pitching the Redbirds have) and he scored a run and drove in one as well.  Matt Carpenter had two hits and Yadier Molina went two for three with two walks, though Molina’s one out was at the wrong time, with two outs and the bases loaded with the score 4-0.  If he’d traded that out for one of his other hits, the game might have gone a bit differently.  That’s baseball, though.

Also, I think you have to commend Randy Choate for his work last night.  Coming into a bases-loaded, nobody out situation, even when you are down four, is not fun but Choate was able to get the strikeout and the double play to make sure the Yankees didn’t add to their total and leave the gap at least reasonable for a comeback.  Given the results the last time we saw Choate, that’s very encouraging.

After that dip into the interleague pool, the Cards get back to real baseball with the Giants coming in this evening.  Jaime Garcia makes his third start of the season against San Francisco, whose hitters are somewhat familiar with the lefty:

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Hunter Pence 21 19 5 1 1 1 2 2 3 .263 .333 .579 .912 0 0 1 0 0
Angel Pagan 13 12 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .385 .417 .801 0 0 0 0 0
Mike Morse 12 10 4 2 0 0 0 2 0 .400 .500 .600 1.100 0 0 0 0 0
Buster Posey 9 9 3 1 0 0 1 0 2 .333 .333 .444 .778 0 0 0 0 0
Tyler Colvin 6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .167 .000 .167 0 0 0 1 0
Pablo Sandoval 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Gregor Blanco 4 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .250 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Madison Bumgarner 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Crawford 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Tim Lincecum 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Cain 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Brandon Hicks 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 83 77 20 5 1 1 4 5 15 .260 .313 .390 .703 0 0 1 1 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/29/2014.

Bit of a mixed bag there, but nobody that’s seen him much has had just a terrible time with him.  Pablo Sandoval might get a rest if he needs it, depending on how much Bruce Bochy looks at small samples, but nothing else really stands out.

Cards will go up against Ryan Vogelsong and after a few days of unfamiliar pitching, it’ll be nice to see someone that the hitters have a history with.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Yadier Molina 21 20 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 .150 .190 .150 .340 0 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 20 18 7 2 0 0 1 0 3 .389 .421 .500 .921 1 0 0 1 1
Jon Jay 16 16 3 0 0 0 1 0 1 .188 .188 .188 .375 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Holliday 13 11 3 0 0 0 1 2 2 .273 .385 .273 .657 0 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 12 12 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Allen Craig 11 9 3 0 0 0 1 1 4 .333 .455 .333 .788 0 0 0 1 0
Matt Carpenter 9 6 2 0 1 0 0 3 1 .333 .556 .667 1.222 0 0 0 0 1
Jhonny Peralta 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 .250 .400 .250 .650 0 0 0 0 0
Shelby Miller 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 111 99 24 2 1 0 5 8 16 .242 .312 .283 .595 2 0 0 2 2
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/29/2014.

Mike Matheny has a tough choice to make, at least if he goes by his typical decision-making logic. Does he go with the hot hand in Wong, who just got three hits, or does he play Mark Ellis, who has significant success against the Giant hurler?  That might be interesting to see which way he leans there.  I’d say since Ellis hasn’t started since Saturday, he might get the call and I could understand that, though I’d still go with Wong in this situation, I believe.

No matter what choice he makes, this could be a tough one.  Vogelsong hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last two outings against Miami and Minnesota.  It’s been either feast or famine with him this year–0-1 runs or 4 or more in every start–so let’s hope the Cardinal bats do the feasting!

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    There has been work on VEB looking at brooks baseball and his fastball has HALF of the tailing action it had the beginning half of last year. The tailing action seems to have started fading as he learned the cutter, which has been horribly ineffective itself. No idea if ditching the cutter would bring back his horizontal movement on the four seasmer but since it both sucks and seems to be the root of the problem it would be a good place to start. Now if we could just get some of the Cardinals staff to listen(obviously not going to happen, damn it)

    • Cardinal70

      That does make a lot of sense (and I should have known VEB would have a good hypothesis on the matter). It can’t hurt at all, unless it’s already too late to get back the tailing action.

      • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

        Yeah it was just done recently (by either Craig Edwards or Joe Schwartz I think, I can’t remember) but it still merits further discussion its just a very heavily evidenced hypothesis. I just thought I’d bring it up here as useful input

  • Buddhasillegitimatechild38

    Also, I appreciate the inclusion of Yoda

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