(BaseballStL) - In sports, and in life for that matter, we have a tendency to overreact to things that are right in front of us. When something big happens we tend to make concrete judgments on what that could mean for the foreseeable future.
Thus, watching Shelby Miller battle through five innings yet again is incredibly disconcerting and warrants immediate reaction given his recent pitching. For the fourth consecutive start, the 23-year old has failed to make it through the sixth inning.
For the year Miller has thrown just 109 innings in 19 starts. That’s an average of 5.73 innings per start. For those scoring at home, that’s not good.
Plus, it’s one thing to burn your bullpen by not going deep into games but it’s another to burn your bullpen by not going deep into games and giving up runs doing so. Tony La Russa once told me he’d rather have a pitcher go five shutout innings rather than have someone pitch eight frames but give up four or five runs.
Miller isn’t shutting anyone down though. His 4.29 ERA attests to that. That’s like a double whammy. You have a pitcher who not only is giving up some runs but he can’t even chew up innings either. What’s the deal here?
First and foremost, his walks are killing him. Miller had four last night against Pittsburgh and has averaged more than three walks per start over his last six. Walks hurt. They almost always come around to get you and score. They also drive up your pitch count which ultimately leads to exiting the game early.
So should we freak out here and worry about Miller? Perhaps. This was supposed to be a big year for him and his development as a big league starter after finishing 3rd in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season. Obviously, he didn’t take that next step in year two.
But we also have to remember that the guy is just 23-years-old and – subscribing to the golf analogy – on something like the 3rd or 4th hole of his career. He’s a developing player who by definition shouldn’t have reached his full potential yet.
Giving up on him may prove to be costly.
On the other hand, however, the Cards have four other starters healthy and pitching at the moment in Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Carlos Martinez and Joe Kelly. Michael Wacha is working his way back from a shoulder injury.
If Martinez and Kelly continue to outpitch Miller over the next several weeks and Wacha is ready to return and the Cards are locked in a battle with Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for the NL Central…then what?
How can you deny removing Miller from the rotation wouldn’t be at least a genuine possibility? Sure, lots can happen between now and then. Someone else could get hurt which would make this all academic. Miller could turn it on while someone else falters which would change the conversation entirely.