A lot of times in sports the hardest thing to do is project. But, to be honest, projecting is what sports is all about. The person who can take a look at an 18-year old kid in high school and envision what they’ll be like as an athlete once they fill out – good or bad – wins in the end.
For the Cardinals, the projection on Shelby Miller was always extremely high. He was a high school phenom in Texas who threw three consecutive no-hitters in the playoffs one year. He’s always been destined for stardom.
The scouting report on Miller’s been fairly consistent since Day 1. Great fastball, room to improve with secondary pitches. It’s really no secret with him.
As he moved through the minors that never really changed. He’d dominate the lower levels with his fastball because even when those guys knew it was coming Miller could blow it by them with ease. But as the hard throwing righty moved up the system he had more and more trouble doing that. Secondary pitches were needed.
Fast forward to present day and we still have a young kid, just 23-years old, who presents an outstanding fastball just like he always has. His offspeed pitches have gotten marginally better. But his results, due to the level of competition he’s facing, remain mixed.
Granted, a 2.97 career ERA – which includes a 3.15 earned run average this season – is nothing to scoff at. The man continues to be a well above average pitcher. But here we go back to that old projection thing again. Shelby Miller was projected to be much more than “well above average”. He was supposed to be dominant.
Is this just who Miller is? Is he a guy who will always be pretty good but never reach the level that Adam Wainwright has achieved? Is he a, say, #3 starter as opposed to a #1 or #2? We have to remember the guy is still just 23-years old and in his second full season in Major League Baseball.
There’s still a boat load of time for him to evolve and improve.
But it’s worth noting that maybe, just maybe, the initial projections on Miller might’ve been a little bit overblown.