Should Fantasy Owners Be Selling Off Shelby Miller?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Considered one of the premier pitching prospects in the game, Shelby Miller thrived for much of 2013 (though there were a few speed bumps) as he posted a 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 8.78 K/9 over 173.1 IP.  There was a lot expected of him entering 2014 and with 6 W and a 2.79 ERA you would think everything would be positive.  However, that’s hardly the case.

Miller has many red flags hanging over him:

  1. Strikeouts are down – 6.97 K/9
  2. Walks are up – 5.05 BB/9
  3. He’s been prone to the long ball – 1.39 HR/9
  4. He’s had significant luck – 90.9% strand rate, .255 BABIP

That’s a lot to be concerned about, so let’s start with the top.  There are a few factors that are contributing to his lack of strikeouts.  For one, he’s simply not getting batters to chase pitches outside the strike zone.  Last season he had an O-Swing% of 29.5%, but that number has dropped to 21.7% (league average is 29.3%).  That’s obviously a significant issue, and also helps to explain his decline in SwStr% (9.0% to 7.4%).

There’s no glaring change in his approach on the mound, though he is using his fastball a bit more.  While he has a four pitch mix, he’s throwing his fastball nearly 75% of the time (he was at 71.3% in ’13).  While the velocity is there (93.4 mph), it’s hard to be successful throwing it that often.

The control issue can also be tied to the inability to get batters to chase on pitches outside the zone, at least a little bit.  We can’t forget that he did have some issues with his control at Triple-A in 2012, with BB/9 of 4.70, 3.68 and 4.82 over the first three months, prior to the organization making some adjustments and helping him right the ship.

Is there a good chance he fixes the problem once again?  Absolutely, but it’s not something that we can completely ignore either.

The same thing can be said for the home runs, as he did post a HR/9 of 1.6 in 136.2 innings at Triple-A.  It’s not that he’s allowing a significant number of fly balls (35.9%), but he owns a 15.4% HR/FB.  He was at 12.2% in the second half last season, so this is one issue that may not go away any time soon.

The luck is also a significant factor, because sooner or later the numbers are going to give.  He’s had clear luck on his side, while it’s not like he’s avoided hard contact (respectable 20.0% line drive rate).  The real question is, when will the bottom drop out?

There is no questioning the ability of Shelby Miller, long-term, and he should have a promising career moving forward.  However, for the remainder of 2014 there are significant concerns and it’s possible that he does far more damage to your numbers (even if he is able to improve the strikeouts) than good.  Even in dynasty formats, now may be the time to shop him if you are playing for 2014.  Cash in while the numbers still look good, before things take a troublesome turn in the wrong direction.

Source – Fangraphs

3 comments

  1. Ty says:

    Traded Shelby for Michael Brantley, good deal?

  2. Nick says:

    Just shipped him and Cole Kalhoun for Jay Bruce.

  3. Rotoprofessor says:

    Ty – I’m not the biggest Brantley fan and do think he’s due for a regression. It’s not terrible, but I may have shot for a more secure option.

    Nick – I love Bruce, so works for me.

    As a general reference, in a dynasty league I just packaged Miller with Rick Porcello to acquire Chris Sale.

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