Pitcher Preview: Shelby Miller versus the Cleveland Indians

On Friday night, the Cleveland Indians face Shelby Miller, part of the most disastrous trade of the past half-decade. He is a 26 year old attempting to rebuild what was once a promising mid-rotation profile.

Due to pressures of performing on a one-sided deal and other complications, Miller struggled to an ERA over six in just 100 innings pitched in 2016. For Miller, the strikeout rate decreased, the walk rate increased, and the contact profile was worsened. Pretty much everything went wrong. For the Indians lineup, Miller is yet another favorable matchup. Favorable being derived from the fact that the Indians lineup is outstanding and poses significant execution challenges to each opponent.

Time for the matchup analysis.

Projected lineup (Line-up has yet to be released):

  1. Santana RF
  2. Lindor SS
  3. Brantley LF
  4. Encarnacion 1B
  5. Ramirez 2B
  6. Naquin CF
  7. Diaz 3B
  8. Gomes C
  9. Tomlin

First, a review of Miller’s pitch usage.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

This matchup preview will focus on three pitches, fastball, cutter, and curveball.

The fastball is prominent as it is Miller’s highest usage offering by a significant amount. Miller sits at 94 to 95 miles per hour, occasionally running it up to 97 miles per hour. He had an issue in August and September of 2015 where this velocity tailed off to sit around 93 miles per hour and that dip stayed with him until the last couple months of 2016. The return of his fastball late last year seems to have held up though as he was sitting above 95 miles per hour this spring.

The below chart shows where  Miller throws the pitch to left-handed hitters.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Miller due to his velocity advantage leverages his fastball up in the zone and away to left-handed hitters. This sort of usage likely poses an issue for Tyler Naquin but can be conquered be the rest of the Indians offense.

While Miller has above average velocity, he tends to get a lot of plate, which can be punished once timed. It is important to monitor how Michael Brantley continues to adjust to facing top-end velocity once again but his career indicates that a fastball in the strike zone is a fastball he likes.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Fastball away to Carlos Santana, he is going to eat.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Miller also leans on a cutter at about 88 miles per hour as a change of pace offering which can induce ground balls at an above average rate. Which is why this pitch is generally buried down and on the outside third to left-handed hitters.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Miller works this offering really well and it is a key one in this matchup. No Indian handles this offering well low and away because of its natural heavy action. Miller has a high walk rate because success against him relies on spitting on this offering and sitting fastball or hanging curve.

Finally, Miller throws a curveball which he relies on for a little bit of swing and miss. Like the cutter, the curveball is pounded low and away.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Finally, Miller’s curveball location also sets up well for one Michael Brantley.

Courtesy of Brooks Baseball

Brantley has struck out in a telling way early on and looks as if there are a few adjustments left to be made in his comeback. However, Brantley is lined up for an advantageous matchup with Miller, with OBP fiends Santana and Lindor in front of him, Brantley should be able to impact this game in the Indians favor.1

  1. When you bet on this for daily fantasy and he strikes out three times, there is no need to @ me on twitter. []