It's Miller Time in the Pen

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Andrew Miller (30)

Both because he didn’t make it out of the second in his last outing and because our middle relief has effectively collapsed, it’s worth exploring what Andrew Miller might be able to offer out of the bullpen.

On the surface, the answer seems to be “not much.” It’s difficult to start when you’re walking 5.75 guys per nine. But it’s not much easier to relieve with those numbers. Essentially, until he stops walking people, Miller’s not going to be much good to us.

Or is he? A second look at the splits indicates that if he has a role, it might be as a power left hander out of the pen. The role that Hill had until he blew out his elbow, and the one that Doubront, Morales et al are now fighting over.

Consider that against lefties, Miller’s walking 3.86/9. Still high, but more manageable. And he’s striking out a lot of them: 11.57/9. For context, that’s better than two guys more per nine than flame throwing Daniel Bard. That might well play out of the pen. As would a FIP of 2.66 against lefties, which, if nothing else, is a substantial improvement on the 5.86 he’s put up against opposite handed batters.

Nor are there indications that he’s been especially lucky; quite the opposite actually. Lefties are batting .415 on balls in play against him; a hundred and twenty points or so higher than they should, in other words.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that should we make the playoffs, Miller’s not starting. Let’s further assume that they wouldn’t carry both Miller and Morales. They probably would, because who’s left? But let’s just assume. Their respective numbers against left handed batters.

Name FIP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP
Miller 2.66 11.57 3.86 0.64 .415
Morales 3.66 9.16 3.86 0.96 .302

I don’t know what you see when you look at that, but I see a pitcher who strikes out more guys while walking the same number, in spite of being more unlucky on balls in play. He may not throw as hard – Miller’s average fastball velocity this year has been 92.3, several ticks down from Morales’ 94.5 – but his results are better. And it’s certainly plausible that Miller would gain velocity in shorter stints.

Now granted, Morales doesn’t show the extreme splits that Miller does – his LHP/RHP FIPs are 3.66 and 4.42, so he’s more versatile than Miller at this point out of the pen. But if you wanted to get a tough lefty out in October, which would you pick?

I know who I’d choose. Give the Sox credit here: Miller or may not pay off as a starter, but he should have value for the club one way or another.


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