One of the dooms of the analytical baseball fan is April. April's storylines are so fresh, so pure. A rough 2 weeks in late July is a blaring klaxon of panic when it's the first tenth of the season. Right now Brad Miller has a wOBA of .296. He made a tragic, unforgivable, Felix-win-costing error. Not great.
It was merely 25 days ago that the vast majority of this community said they expected Brad Miller to be worth 2.5-4.5 WAR. I come to defend Brad Miller, at least from the panicky fringe of fans that want Nick Franklin there because he hit a triple, or moved off position because he made an error. But that's not you, because you're not that silly are you?
There are some things I will not defend Brad Miller for. That error Wednesday was an unforgivable play. The most routine of plays that closes out a win. Miller got the yips and pulled a 3 foot putt to win the tournament.
His O-Swing% has jumped almost 20% while his Z-Swing% has dropped more than 10%. Whether a league wide adjustment, a hitter pressing his way through a slump or simply some bad luck Brad Miller has not been the same hitter he was in 2013. Whereas most of us were looking for the bat to improve he has, like so many Mariners before him, apparently regressed.
His BB/K ratio of 2/19 is about two walks away from the Betancourt Zone and must improve. There's plenty of reason to think it will. Miller had a 24/52 ratio in a larger sample size last year and 113/162 in 1000 PA in the minor leagues. Brad Miller doesn't have a track record being a hack and I expect his walk rate to sharply increase going forward.
Here is where I caveat like it's hot. There are plenty of reasons to be encouraged by Brad Miller:
- Despite the miserable offensive start Miller has an ISO of .188. Among qualified 2013 shortstops the only player with a higher ISO than that was Troy Tulowitzki which A) Coors and B) Tulowitzki. Miller's extra base potential continues to project extremely well at shortstop.
- Doubling down on the slugging Miller's slugging percentage is .406. There were only 5 shortstops in baseball who slugged higher in 2013.
- Tripling down: The last Mariner shortstop to slug higher than .406 was 2007 Yuniesky Betancourt at .418. Prior to that? Alex Rodriguez in 2000.
- Brad Miller is not Yuniesky Betancourt.
- Right now, as of this second Brad Miller is STILL on pace to be worth 3.0 fWAR. That's possibly (definitely) being skewed by SSS theater with defensive stats but as the defensive numbers regress the bat should as well, but in the happy way.
This is a lot of hastily written words and half baked analysis to try and drive home the point that Brad Miller as he is currently playing is probably the best overall shortstop the Mariners have had since Alex Rodriguez. I want to make sure we all acknowledge that. There's plenty of reason to be frustrated. I'm frustrated. You're frustrated. Brad Miller is frustrated. A minor league OPS of .925 along with last season build high hopes and those have largely been unrealized so far this year.
We are all expecting more from Brad Miller. But let's acknowledge that what we expect is a star player and not condemn him to failure because he has played 16 games as a roughly league average shortstop as a 24 year old with less than one year of major league experience.