Exit Interview 2020: Andrew Miller

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: Andrew Miller

Season stats: 1-1, 4 SV, 2.77 ERA, 16 G, 13 IP, 9 H, 5 BB, 16 K, 2.58 FIP, 1.077 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, 0.2 bWAR

Postseason stats: 0.00 ERA, 1 H, 1.500 WHIP

Statcast: 0.0% barrel %, 86.6 exit velocity, 19.4% hard hit %, .217 xwOBA

Best Statcast category: xBA, K % (83rd percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Fastball Spin (13th percentile)

Hero/Goat: Goat 2


Overview: I look at the overall numbers and I wonder exactly why I was so hard on Andrew Miller most of the season.  Part of it, to be sure, was a residual bad feeling from his 2019, when he posted a 5.19 WHIP and had a higher BB/9 rate than he’d had in half a decade.  You never get a second chance to make a first impression, after all.  Putting this together, though, I was stunned at how good the numbers actually were for his bottom line in 2020.

Maybe it was because he walked one and allowed a run to score in his first outing of the season against the PIrates.  Or maybe because, after allowing two runs against the Cubs on August 19, his ERA stood at 6.75 and I wrote him off around that point.  After that point, however, he rattled off nine innings and allowed just one run to score, bringing that ERA back down into more respectable territory.  (Of course, he also allowed two of eight inherited runners to score, blowing a game against the Reds that probably didn’t help matters.)  He continued to be excellent against lefties, limiting them to a .431 OPS, and really didn’t have any notable red flags.

Of course, it was also just 13 innings over 16 games.  Whether he would have continued to be effective over a longer stretch we’ll never know, but there’s no particular reason to believe that he wouldn’t have been.  He was lights out in September, for instance, just allowing one hit in 29 plate appearances while striking out 10.  Miller’s been around a while, but at least for the small sample that was 2020, it looks like he still has something to offer.

Outlook: The question, of course, is whether he has $12 million worth to offer.  Slightly more judicious use by Mike Shildt during the season might have kept Miller’s 2021 option (based on appearances) to vest, though with the doubleheaders and the small number of games to trigger, it would have been difficult.  (And, honestly, if Miller had come just one or two shy, he very well might have filed a grievance against the team.)  Unfortunately, in a pandemic-influenced payroll, $12 million for a reliever who might be fine and might well regress back to his 2019 level (or even his acceptable but not outstanding 2018) is a tough pill to swallow.  Already, we’ve seen Kolten Wong get cut for an amount approximating that.  Would Wong still be in St. Louis had this option not vested?  We’ll never know, but it surely didn’t help.

Not much you can do about that now, though.  Miller will be on the team–no other team is going to want a reliever at that cost with financial losses the way they are–and so you can only hope that Miller will be more in line with this season.  With the return of Jordan Hicks, he shouldn’t be asked to close out too many games and can continue to get the hard lefties out.  Whether he’ll be worth $12 million–or perhaps more importantly, probably 8.5% of the total payroll–is a different discussion.

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