(baseballStL) -- As is already in evidence, postseason baseball requires extraordinary pitching.
How then do you explain the absence through at least the first nine games of the postseason of Shelby Miller from the Cardinals’ rotation?
In his first full year as a Redbird starter, Miller was mostly brilliant though at times a little erratic. But the body of work is impressive.
For the year, Miller was 15-9, with 152 hits in 173 innings pitched and 169 punch-outs. With nearly a whiff an inning and a WHIP of just over 1 and an ERA of 3.06, Miller would look to be a solid bet for a couple of starts.
But with Adam Wainwright throwing tonight and Lance Lynn announced as Tuesday’s starter, Miller appears to be odd man out.
But a couple of facts to consider. First, he was not the right choice to pitch any games against Pittsburgh. Miller was batting practice against the Bucs, going 0-4 with an ERA of 5.32. The Pirates batted .319 when he pitched, far above the sub-.200 average they posted in the five-game series.
Pitchers can’t afford to admit when someone has their number because a lot of their psyche depends on an aura of invincibility. So as hard as it is to keep one of your best pitchers on the bench, it was the right choice.
Another factor to consider is that Miller threw his 173 innings in 31 games, meaning he pitches less than 6 innings a start, a strain on the bullpen that can ruin a short series when relievers are almost as valuable as starters.
All of that aside, the most important factor may be that in the postseason, you always ride the strongest horse. Players ebb and flow during the year and none more so than pitchers who can’t find their curve ball for a few starts and then are lights out for the next month.
Right now, Adam Wainwright, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha have the mojo and anything that disturbs that is a mistake. When it’s working you don’t change it. Teams lose momentum and with it, championships when skippers over manage and outthink themselves.
So where does Miller fit in? At Busch Stadium. Miller’s best performances have been at Busch, where he logged a 10-3 mark with an ERA of 1.75 and an opponent’s average of just .199. He is at his best there, most comfortable and devastatingly effective.
He may get the call this series and it may not come until the World Series, but when he’s needed, it will be in a crucial spot.
That is his role. To be ready when and if he’s needed.