You have heard by now, I guess, that the Diamondbacks traded for Shelby Miller this offseason, yes? Right. In that deal, they gave up one of the best prospects in the game, shortstop Dansby Swanson, their first round pick in the 2015 MLB draft. Swanson alone would have been enough, but GM Dave Stewart gelt that he had too many outfielders and pitching prospects, so he threw in Ender Inciarte and Aaron Blair. Blair is one of the best pitching prospects in the game, and made his big league debut on Sunday. Inciarte, currently on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, had a breakout season in 2015, and plays a very good center field. All this for Shelby Miller.
Expectations for Miller, from Diamondback fans, certainly not this writer, were high coming into the season. Miller was coming off a solid 2015 season, where he won just 6 of his 33 starts, with a 3.02 ERA, 3.45 FIP and a 1.25 WHIP, striking out 7.5 batters every nine innings. These are the stats of a #3 starter in MLB, not an ace, and the Diamondbacks valued him like an ace based on what they gave up to gain his services over the next few seasons.
This season, he has been a huge disappointment, as he has yet to put in a quality start in any of his five starts thus far. He has given up 19 earned runs on 23 hits, 15 walks and 16 strikeouts in his 19.2 innings or work this season. It is no surprise that he has yet to win a game, as he is 0-2 with a 8.69 ERA, 7.73 FIP, and a 1.93 WHIP. He's giving up almost two base runners per inning thanks to a walk rate that is approaching 7.00 BB/9. He is also giving up the long ball. Last season, he gave up just 13 home runs in over 200 innings pitching in the cozy confines of Turner Field. The move to Chase Field has not been kind to Miller, as he has given up six home runs in just 19.2 innings, or almost three per game.
Yeah, that's not good, and not what Diamondbacks fans, Dave Stewart or his fantasy owners expected this season.
Is it time to can Miller Time?
Looking at his pitch type data on FanGraphs, we can see he is throwing more four seam fastballs and more change ups this season, and has all but abandoned his two seam fastball. His fastball velocity is down from 94.2 mph last season to 92.7 mph this season, but it is early, so we don't know if this will last. He is inducing fewer swinging strikes this season (9.2% in 2015 vs 5.6% in 2016), and hitters are not chasing pitches out of the zone as much as they did in 2015 (32% in 2015 vs 19% in 2016). Hitters are making more contact off Miller, and more of that contact is hard contact as his hard hit rate his risen from 27% to 34% this season. That can explain the increase in home runs so far.
All this data is worrisome, but it is only 19 innings, so he has a chance to improve going forward. I know of one owner who is dropping Miller in one of my leagues, and think he is one more bad start away from being dropped by an owner in another league I am in.
Should you drop Miller or wait it out. I recommend waiting it out for another start or two as he has been bothered by a hand injury, so that might explain the increase in walk and home run rate. If he can't turn things around in his next 2-3 starts, I would not hesitate to drop him, or try to deal him.