Every year since 2012, we’ve spent some time after the season looking back at those that wore the Birds on the Bat. Whether it’s a bit player that got into just a couple of games or someone that played almost every day, we’ll look at their stats, their positives, their negatives, and grade them based on what we would have expected from them. The stat line is from their time in St. Louis, though splits and other numbers may include time with other teams, if applicable. Think of this as like the players packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter. Once again, our great header work comes to us from cardinalsgifs, who continues to be a master.
If we’re talking about 2019, we’ve got to highlight the brand that made the most impact this season: Primos and their partnership with Jose Martinez. Throughout the span of these interviews (today through Dec. 5) you can get 10% off your order of that sweet, sweet Cafecito coffee (well, I guess you probably have to doctor it to make it sweet) or anything else at their site. My wife is a coffee snob and we’ve bought multiple bags of the medium roast. It’s a great stocking stuff or Christmas gift as well, especially when you expand your order to pick up the Jose Martinez coffee mug. So use code C70SAVE10 at checkout and show your support of their ties to the Cardinal fanbase!
Player: Andrew MIller
Season stats: 5-6, 6 SV, 4.45 ERA, 73 G, 54.2 IP, 45 H, 11 HR, 27 BB, 70 K, 5.19 FIP, 1.317 WHIP, 11.5 K/9, -0.4 bWAR
Statcast: 8.4% barrel %, 87.7 exit velocity, 33.1% hard hit %, .308 xwOBA
Hero/Goat: Goat 6
Overall grade: C
Positives: Made an impact in the postseason, throwing five scoreless innings between the NLDS and NLCS….lefties had a .667 OPS against him….pitched exactly as many innings (27.1) at home as he did on the road….limited hitters to a .204 BAA at Busch….had a 3.81 ERA in the first half, even though he allowed a lower BAA in the second….had a strong July, posting a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings….struck out 13 in seven June innings….batters hitting first in the lineup went .160/.300/.160….the middle of the order (3-6) went .198/.325/.327….if hitters swung at the first pitch they mustered a .501 OPS….gave up a .408 OPS when he was ahead in the count….allowed a .196 BAA with nobody on….had a .728 OPS against in late and close situations….had a 2.57 ERA in the ninth inning….had a 3.31 ERA and allowed a .643 OPS on zero days’ rest….did well against his former league, putting up a 1.08 ERA and giving up a .409 OPS in interleague play….had a 1.69 ERA in 5.1 innings against the Reds.
Negatives: Didn’t exactly make a great first impression, allowing runs in both of his first two outings….gave up four runs in his next-to-last regular season appearance….righties had an .804 OPS against him….had a 4.61 ERA at Busch Stadium….had a 5.13 ERA in the second half….his strikeouts dropped dramatically in the second half and his walks increased a bit in two less innings….had an 8.10 ERA in September….had a 5.56 ERA in April….the bottom third of the lineup slashed .314/.442/.686 against him….10 of the 11 homers he allowed came if the batters took the first pitch….allowed a .797 OPS on the first pitch….if the hitter was ahead, he posted a 1.217 OPS….three times he gave up a homer to the first batter he faced….allowed a .302 BAA with runners in scoring position….with two outs and RISP, the line was .308/.438/.423….batters hit .284 against him in high leverage situations….had a 9.26 ERA in the seventh inning….had one plate appearance all year after he reached 25 pitches and that batter homered….had a 9.45 ERA on two days’ rest….had a 4.70 ERA against the Cubs and a 4.82 ERA against the Brewers.
Overview: There really is a reason John Mozeliak shouldn’t play in the reliever market. The idea of Andrew Miller turned out to be much better than actually having Andrew Miller. There’s no doubt that he still can play–just about the time you’d give up on him, he’d run off a stretch where he’s striking everyone out. However, it wouldn’t last. It seemed like you could tell from the first batter, maybe even the first pitch, what kind of Miller you were going to get on that day. So often it was a pitcher that struggled with his command and, when he did find the zone, it went a long way. Miller gave up more homers this season (11) than the last two years combined (6). His previous high in long balls allowed was eight and when you have a pitcher that turns 34 just a couple of months into the season having that sort of season, it makes you wonder about what you’ll see going forward.
There’s still good in him, of course. But his strikeout rate is down dramatically from where it was a couple of years ago and his walk rate has been increasing the last few years, hitting 11.4% this year. He allowed more barreled balls than he ever has and while his slider was still effective (though he did give up five homers off of it), his fastball was down about .6 mph, which is pretty concerning. Miller was often used as that reliable eighth inning guy to get the game to Carlos Martinez, but the results don’t back up that sort of decision making.
Outlook: The Cards are on the hook for another year of Miller, but this (along with people like Brett Cecil, Jonathan Broxton, Luke Gregerson, etc.) is just another reason why you should always grow your own relievers if possible. If nothing else, if they struggle, they aren’t costing you $12.5 million. Maybe even more distance from his knee surgery of 2018 and a fresh start will help him produce a little more like the Miller of old. However, you probably better prepare for more inconsistent work in 2020.