Feldman: Shelby Miller could be forcing a tough decision in October
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 19: Shelby Miller #40 of the St Louis Cardinals pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter in the first inning at Miller Park on August 19, 2013 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Lynn/Getty Images) By Tom Lynn
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06: Shelby Miller #40 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) By Ezra Shaw
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 15: Starter Shelby Miller #40 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the New York Mets at Busch Stadium on May 15, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) By Dilip Vishwanat
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 26: Shelby Miller #40 of the St. Louis Cardinals on his way to start against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) By Harry How
BASEBALLStL (BaseballStL) -- Last October was one of the hardest times Cards youngster Shelby Miller ever went through as a pitcher. He had to watch largely from the dugout as his teammates were beating up on the Pirates and Dodgers en route to the World Series.
The 23-year old made just one appearance in the postseason – a one inning cameo in a 7-1 Game 2 loss to the Pirates at Busch. That was it. His 3.06 season ERA did little to change the fact Mike Matheny felt the Cardinals had other/better options for the playoffs.
Miller is doing his best to make sure that doesn’t happen again in 2014.
Whether it was last October’s disappointment (for him personally, not the team), getting sent to the bullpen briefly this year or watching his best friend Joe Kelly get traded to Boston this past July 31st, something has changed within the Houston native. Something is different within him. He’s a different pitcher.
He’s, dare I say, evolving into what we all thought he could be when he was drafted in the 1st round back in 2009.
Miller has thrown 14 scoreless innings over his last two starts to lower his ERA to 3.83. The most recent one against the Reds saw him need just 81 pitches to cruise through seven and even start the eighth. Efficiency has been his biggest challenge as a big leaguer. That’s exactly what has changed lately.
Games scores of 75 and 73 in those two recent starts are the second and third highest of this season for him. Only an 85 against Toronto in June is higher.
There are still three full turns through the rotation (and part of another) before the regular season expires on September 28th. That’s a whole lot of pitching to be done to shape the decisions made for October.
But what if Miller continues this streak? What if he really and truly has changed? Could he force Mike Matheny to take out someone in the Adam Wainwright/Michael Wacha/Lance Lynn/John Lackey group to receive a postseason start?
We all know Wainwright is going nowhere. Same goes with Wacha and what he did a season ago combined with his success – when healthy – this year. Lance Lynn’s been dominant as well for most of 2014. Miller hasn’t exactly been better than those guys.
The question now turns to John Lackey. The 35-year old has made seven starts since getting traded from Boston and has a surprisingly high ERA of 4.87 to go along with a .302 opponents’ batting average. He’s hardly been dominant – though the numbers are slightly skewed by a couple rough starts intermixed with a couple really good ones.
No decision has to be made right now. If the Cards stay on turn as expected the remaining few weeks, Lackey should receive four more starts while Miller will get three. A whole lot can happen between now and then.
This is certainly something to keep an eye on though. Michael Wacha forced the Cardinals to make some tough decisions a year ago by how well he pitched in September. You have to wonder if Shelby Miller can do the same thing this year.