Pittsburgh Pirates Hot Stove: Shelby Miller


The Pittsburgh Pirates may benefit from welcoming in an old friend in Shelby Miller

Shelby Miller is a name known to many Pittsburgh Pirates fans. After seeing the young pitcher, win 25 games over two full seasons with the Cardinals, many would be content never to hear his name again. In their eyes, he deserved the banishment to the baseball purgatory known as the Atlanta Braves.

Now, with the Braves in full-on teardown mode, Miller is attracting considerable trade heat. Why wouldn’t he, what with A 3.6 WAR season in 2015 despite taking 17 losses on a bad Braves team.

The chief architects of that WAR rating could be his 47.7% ground ball rate, or perhaps his 6.4% HR/FB (home run to flyball) ratio. Miller employed a nice selection of pitches as well, mixing in a sinking fastball as well as a curve, changeup, and a cutter that had a 11.8% whiff rate.

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That sinker alone carried a 55.06 ground ball rate on balls in play.  It’s not hard to figure out how, with a 94.55 mph average velocity.  It’s not an entirely rosy picture, as opposing hitters slugged .419 off of the pitch in 2015. It’s hard not to believe that linking up with Ray Searage would help to bring that number back down towards his cut fastball, which opponents cannot drive, having slugged only .273 against it in all of last season.

All of that data serves to drive home his above-average home run rate. At only 0.6 HR/9 (home runs per nine innings), Miller keeps it in play but in the park. He would fit right in with the Pittsburgh Pirates starters, none of whom are home-run prone. (Charlie Morton “led” the regular starters with a 0.9 HR/9)

Miller is just entering in his first year year of arbitration, and is projected to make just under $5 million as per MLB Trade Rumors. That’s an entirely fair price for a pitcher of his quality. Is it so far fetched to think of him as an upgrade over Jeff Locke at about the same price? That’s exactly what it would seem to many.

And they would be absolutely right.

These are the types of pitchers the Pittsburgh Pirates must look to acquire this season. Young, controllable, and as close to the Pirates’ mold as possible.

With his excellent ground ball rate and good compliment of pitches, Shelby Miller would make an excellent trade target for a team that would acquire him to turn a strength into a weapon.

We saw the Pirates do just that by bolstering an already formidable bullpen. Perhaps now it’s time to turn that philosophy towards the starting rotation.