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Shelby Miller: How good are you?

Shelby Miller, ace pitcher or belly itcher?

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

My first title to this article was "Miller = numero uno sell high candidate."  But then I looked into it and found that there are definitely two sides to this story.  Some will look at his ERA-FIP and note that he has the biggest gap in baseball with a -1.66 difference.  Leading many to remark on his ERA and FIP gap as the "luckiest in baseball".  His babip is also an incredible .215.  His left on base percentage is the third highest in baseball, at 84.8%.  So how does a pitcher get this lucky?  It seems that all normal indicators of luck are on his side.

His strikeouts haven't moved up much from last season, but he's recorded the 25th most innings in baseball, he's recording outs in bunches, and he's slowly building up a nice reliable sample size to work with.  One may ask where do these outs come from?  First, he's getting more ground balls than he ever has before: 50.8%.  So how is he inducing more grounders than ever? Is it luck? Is he harder to square up than he used to be?  To answer that question, let us first look at his pitch speeds.

Year

Fourseam

Sinker

Change

Curve

Cutter

2010

95.83

0

0

77.92

0

2011

92.78

0

85.99

78.83

0

2012

94.13

0

86.69

81.14

89.94

2013

94.39

0

85.63

80.01

89.97

2014

94.34

94.18

86.73

77.74

87.79

2015

95.29

94.61

89

79.22

87.69

This isn't very scientific, but the harder pitches are thrown, the harder they are to hit.  If you didn't know this, you know it now.  Along with throwing everything hard, he has drastically changed his pitch mix this year.

Year

Fourseam

Sinker

Cutter

Curve

Change

2010

85.71%

0

0

14.29

0

2011

75

0

0

15

10

2012

67.04

0

0.37

24.81

7.78

2013

70.98

0

4.16

18.52

6.31

2014

67.82

3.92

6.38

19.56

2.25

2015

38.84%

28.41%

20.1%

12.37%

0.29%

In all likelihood, this is where the results have come from.  Miller is a totally different pitcher than he was in years past.  He's playing the damage limitation game of forcing the ball down, down, down this season.  With this in mind, are you surprised that he's far out performing his FIP and xFIP?  The more I look at it, the more I would expect him to exceed his ERA.  Ground balls typically lead to quicker outs, and more innings.  You also have to factor in that he has Jace Peterson, a very good second baseman, and Andrelton Simmons, the human vacuum up the middle, and Miller's plan looks more and more foolproof.  So the plan is clear, grounders all game.   What's interesting is that although he is moving the ball all over the zone:

He manages to get grounders regardless of where the ball is located.

So the proof is in the pudding, he's getting action on all of his pitches, and the results keep coming.  Now after 500 words, I think I should warn you, his sub two ERA isn't going to be around much longer.  While you should expect him to stay under the league average BABIP for the remainder of the year, you shouldn't expect him to exceed it by almost 80 points, and in all likelihood he won't have an 84.8 LOB% either.  Looking into the future, everyone is going to be a doubter of Miller.  With that said, there is no reason to sell him cheap, I fully expect the good times to keep rolling with Miller.