- Clarksville Sports Network – Clarksville Tennessee's most trusted source for sports, including Austin Peay State University. - http://clarksvillesportsnetwork.com -

Colby Wilson’s Braves Report: Miller Time

[1]Clarksville, Tn – Let’s talk about Shelby Miller’s Sunday start.

From the outset, something felt a little different. Miller’s fastball had both life and movement – in fact, the 96.06 MPH average [2] was the best in a single-game for his entire career, according to BrooksBaseball.com, and you can confirm that with Giancarlo Stanton, who was blown away by three phenomenal fastball’s to end the fourth inning.

That was the moment that broke the Marlins, when the game went from ‘attempted comeback’ to ‘let’s try to stave off some embarrassment here.’ At-bats on both sides began to take on a quicker vibe, as the Braves endeavored to get Miller back on the mound while he was still fairly warm, and the Marlins were clearly ready to be anywhere else by the top of the fifth. Miller never labored until the ninth – 94 pitches is a fairly low number for a complete-game shutout (there’s a reason it’s a vital statistic to be included in the hallowed Maddux [3], of which Miller now has two this season) that’s deceptive in that Miller needed 14 pitches to get through the final frame, the most he threw in one inning for the entire game.

May 17, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller (17) delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Marlins Park. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports) [4]

May 17, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Shelby Miller (17) delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the first inning at Marlins Park. (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

Hell, he was so good the Marlins fired the manager and bench coach within two hours of the last pitch on Sunday afternoon, and installed a personnel guy whose last coaching experience was at a high school in Alabama (no, really [5]). And while the Marlins are on-going disaster run by baseball’s answer to James Dolan and Isiah Thomas, it’s still at least somewhat telling that Jeffrey Loria and David Samson sat down on Sunday, watched Shelby Miller break their ballclub’s will to live for nine innings and threw in the towel on the Mike Redmond era more or less instantly. That act has to be at least some testament to Miller’s abject dismantling of a lifeless team in front of a lifeless “crowd” (a good half of that 23,075 listed in attendance dressed as empty seats for the occasion) in a carnival barker’s wet dream of a ballpark.

Sunday was the crescendo to an excellent start of the Braves career for Miller, who is now 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA (!!!!!) in eight starts. He’s thrown two Madduxes this month alone – the record [6] for a season, by the way, is three. Regardless of what else has happened within the confines of John Hart’s wheeling’s-and-dealings, Miller has made him look the genius as the Braves (in the very early returns) have made out like bandits in the Heyward-Miller deal and working with Roger McDowell has unleashed a side of Miller, particularly with his complementary pitches, that the Cardinals were never able to get out of him. He’s used three fastballs – a four-seamer, a cutter and a hybrid two-seam/sinker that seems as impossible to hit as it is to define – to great effect. The evolution of his two-sinker [7] (let’s make that a term) is at least somewhat responsible for his sudden turn-around and was a pitch he picked up from Justin Masterson of all people when Masterson was acquired by the Cardinals around last season’s trade deadline.

(Ponder that: Justin Masterson, with an ERA just slightly south of 6.00 for the last two seasons, may be responsible for turning Shelby Miller into an ace. Baseball’s funny.)

Regression is on the horizon, because of course it is unless you’re Bob Gibson or a closer. Top of my head, I’m betting the .183 BABIP, 88.8 percent strand rate, 3.77 xFIP and 16.3 percent line-drive rate signal that a return closer to the mean is in order. But when you’re pitching at a super-human clip, returning to earth and settling somewhere between great and very good isn’t the end of the world. As long as his supplemental pitches continue to baffle on the days his four-seamer becomes hittable, the Braves may have an ace on their hands.

(Oh, God, Fredi’s going to destroy his arm. I can feel it in my bones. This is the worst.)

What to Read

More Miller-related things, this [8] from Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh. Like many websites, Grantland sometimes leans toward featuring the statistically-enabled or the statistically-inept when it comes to baseball writing, so it’s nice to see the Braves on the right side of that for a change. Also, I enjoyed the phrase ‘hipster, dark horse Cy Young candidate’ in this piece [9].

Stat o’ the Week

Last season, Atlanta’s relievers gave up line drives on 21.8 percent of balls in play (fifth-worst in baseball). This season’s rate is 19.5 percent (a more manageable 13th overall). Somehow, that has translated to a cratering in ERA (from 3.31 to 4.60), further proof that baseball numbers are stupid and can say anything if you stare at them long enough.*

(* – I don’t believe that; I just don’t have anything else to add. Weird stat crossover though.)

If you only catch one game of the Brewers series, make it…

Continuing our theme of Miller-related discussion, I think his starts have become must-see viewing. He faces somebody, probably Wily Peralta, when the Braves face the Brewers this Saturday (3:10 p.m. CT).

Complementary Old-Timey Baseball Quote

“A no-hitter is a freaky thing,” Tweet said. “Most of the greatest pitchers never pitched one. It’s a combination of a lot of little accidents.” – Duane Decker, Switch Hitter

Best Performance by a former Brave last week

I often wonder what might have happened if the Braves had ever bothered to pay Mark Teixeira back when baseball players made all the money, ever. And sure, his contract is an onerous burden that the Yankees have shouldered to the tune of $68.125 million for 2.3 Wins Above Replacement – combined – over the last three seasons. But still, he was pretty good in his day. Anyway, he hit .429 last week. $23 million is some serious piper-paying, Yankee fans. Hope that’s worth it.