After a successful return to the Hill for the 2008 season, Adam Miller will look to build off of what should have been a nice win. Without the errors and a little bit better fielding, I believe Miller would have made it through 6 innings without issue.
Let's take a walk through Adam's first start of the season using MiLB's Gameday.
Miller went 5 innings sticking to around the pitch count that Torey Lovullo suggested he would be at. Although I imagine had things went a little bit better for Miller, in terms of luck, he would have went on for a another 5 to 10 pitches. And as I mentioned, should have been able to make it through 6 innings, it not more.
The MiLB Gameday is not as detailed as MLB's, however it does give us a good impression of what the hitters were seeing and how the pitcher either tricked the hitters or was very predictable.
In the 1st inning, Adam Miller struck out Brett Gardner, the first hitter he faced in the season on a 4th pitch swinging strike. It was a pitch that was on the outside edge of the plate. The second batter Miller faced was Bernie Castro who walked on seven pitches, then moved to second on a passed ball. Castro fouled off three pitches as Miller worked mostly on the outside edge of the plate. Juan Miranda moved Castro from 2nd to 3rd as he grounds out in what would have been an inning ending double play (according to the Buffalo radio announcers). During this at bat Miller missed outside with his first two pitches, followed by a swinging strike inside. He hit his spot with pitch four on a called strike and and on pitch number five he left it over the plate a little bit where Miranda hit the ball to first. Shelly Duncan then managed to single in Castro looping an Adam Miller slider down the left field line. Miller was actually lucky to only allow a single as the slider went right down the middle of the plate. Miller was able to get out of the inning without allowing an earned run when Jason Lane grounded out to first; this, after he swung and missed on two fastballs. The first of which was out of the zone. Not a bad first inning, 2 strikeouts, a walk, a hit and an unearned run.
For the 2nd inning, Miller was working with a nice lead and seemed to be pitching, instead of throwing. While he still had issues hitting the outside edge of the plate, he did enough to get through the inning in order on only 10 pitches (7 strikes), zero of which were called strikes or swinging strikes. First basemen Eric Duncan was the first to the plate and Miller followed the scouting report keeping the ball away. Duncan ended up pulling the forth pitch he saw to second base for an easy ground out. Journeyman Nick Green was next to the plate and Miller made quick work of him, keeping the ball outside and getting a fly out to the opposite way in right field. Miller cannot be happy with his pitch selection against Greg Porter, however he did get him to ground out to short on 4 pitches (2 in the zone fouls).
Miller entered the 3rd inning with yet another run, but was not as sharp as he was in the second, allowing a hit and a walk. 32 pitches into his first start seems a little early to struggle, but since Miller made it out of the inning fine, it is nothing to worry about. Catcher Chris Stewart got onto first with a line drive up the middle. Stewart also took two called strikes, which were pitches that were low and in the zone, I'm guessing one of the two was Miller's signature slide piece. Brett Gardner saw four pitches, each of which were outside. Pitch one and two were perfectly placed pitches with pitch three being an obvious 'chase' pitch. Miller then missed his spot a little, but Gardner flew out to left center. Castro then worked a seven pitch at bat for a walk, he took pitch two and three for called strikes on the outside, probably a good idea given the pitch location. Pitch five and seven look to be very close pitches, low and right down the middle. With two on and one out, Miller faced his biggest test to date (image left). A nine pitch at bat which involved two swinging strikes and two pitches down the middle that were fouled off. Miller got by on his stuff during this battle, good to see from a guy coming back from an injury. Miller continued to show his ability to pitch, working both the inside and outside of the plate. It still appears as if he is struggling with location, but getting Duncan to ground out on six pitches (with an in the zone swinging strike) ended the inning.
A 32 pitch inning put Miller at 64 entering the forth inning, in what I would have expected to be a rough one given the quick fashion the Bisons went down in for their half of the inning. However, a three pitch at bat to Lane with a perfectly place inside strike two. Eric Duncan sat down after four pitches and a pop up to third base. Miller tried to go high-low during this pitch sequence (image right). Miller again made quick work of Nick Green getting him to ground out to third on two pitches, an in the zone foul and an away pulled ground out.
Miller entered the 5th inning with 73 pitches thrown, 45 being for strikes. A nice ratio, but nothing spectacular given all of the foul balls that were hit. For this inning, the Yankees did the exact opposite of what I would have suggested to do to a pitcher approaching his pitch count in his first start back, they were aggressive. Porter put a ball in play after two pitches, both pitches in the zone on the outside edge. Stewart reached on an error by Miller, who was trying to throw out Porter at second in what would have been a double play. Gardner fouled off two pitches outside and the third one he popped out to left field. In what should have been the last out of the inning, or even an inning ending double play, Castro moved the Porter to third while sacrificing Stewart at second. Another quick two pitch at bat, where Miller worked away for a called strike, then missing a little and coming a little over the plate. In essentially the same pitch as the one Castro hit to third, Miller missed in what Miranda lined for a double which scored two, bringing the Bison lead down to one and forcing pitching coach Scott Radinski to the mound. Leaving Miller in provided to be the right choice as he got Duncan to ground out to short stop ending the threat on two pitches.
Overall, a nice debut for Miller where he threw 65% of his pitches for strikes. Miller owned an adequate ground out ratio of 47%. As I mentioned, with proper fielding, Miller should have made it through at least 6 innings, which would have allowed the Bisons to enter the 7th inning with a 4 run lead. Instead the club was only leading by a single run.
Miller will go tonight, again facing the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. Pitching at home for the first time this season and against the same team in five days will be the least of Miller's obstacles, as he needs to prove he is healthy and ready to be a factor with the Indians this season. If his first start was any indication of things to come, I must admit I was wrong about the kid. Here's to hoping!
I was intending on heading to the game this evening, however I have other obligations to take care of (namely school work that I have procrastinated on up until now that is due in the next two days). I will, however, be listening to the game on the radio and will provide updates as I see fit. I hope you are enjoying this series as much as I am.
Update - 04/28/08 - 6:10 PM EST
Yes, I bought MiLB.TV for the next month. Off to a shaky start, Adam Miller got out of a bases loaded, two out jam with a called strike. It appeared to be a two seam fastball that moved away from the hitter.
The thing that stands out the most from watching this outing so far, is that Miller does not seem to be fooling the hitters. A couple first pitch called strikes, and a few late fouls, but nothing where the hitters seemed absolutely fooled.
It is of note, however, that Miller would not have gotten into the jam he did had he had Major League fielding behind him. A sharp ground ball by Bernie Castro to Andy Gonzalez would have been a close, but easy play at first. Instead, the ball squeaked by and Miller was charged with a hit allowed.
Update - 04/28/08 - 6:35 PM EST
The second inning is going quite a bit better as Miller has gotten his velocity up and there has been noticeable movement on all of his pitches.
Jason Brown singled a weakly hit ball to second base that probably would have been an out for major league fielding.
Brett Gardner then followed with a sharply hit ball up the middle. Miller looked excellent during this sequence which led to the Bernie Castro at bat where Miller struck him out looking on an outstanding slide piece.
Update - 04/28/08 - 6:45 PM EST
I have big expectations for Miller this inning. I feel like he is starting to really get a feel for his stuff. I would like to hear that he is getting even more velocity on his fastball, but that may be unreasonable considering the weather conditions in Buffalo tonight.
First pitch, fastball strike, low and outside. Great start. Nick Green flied out in what the color commentator referred to as a 'great cut'.
Miller battled back against Miranda. He missed badly on the first three pitches and didn't look good on the delivery in any one of them. This at bat included a swinging strike and a couple fouled off balls. He's looking good, but not great, yet.
Jason Lane is up now and got up 2-0 on two terrible pitches. Miller returned with two outstanding pitches which made Jason Lane look like the AAAA player he is. A fly out to center ended the at bat.
Eric Duncan was the victim of Miller's second wild pitch of the inning. But being behind 1 and 2 in the count puts this kid at a major disadvantage. After a foul ball, Duncan dribbled one up the middle for an easy put out by Bisons shortstop Danny Sandoval.
Update - 04/28/08 - 7:18 PM EST
The Bisons got a two run home run from Ben Francisco, which should help Miller on the bump.
The network was joined by manager Torey Lovullo who raised concern about a lack of strikes, but is impressed with Miller's ability to get key outs when his back is against the wall. Sitting with 78 pitches in 3 innings, it is going to be tough for Miller to be the pitcher of record for the Bisons at this point.
Miller starts off the inning with a strikeout, getting Ransom to swing at a strike out of the zone for strike two and then foul tip strikeout a beautiful fastball low and away.
Gregory Porter volunteers to make things easy on Miller, swing at the first pitch and popping up to center field.
Miller is now making Jason Brown look foolish. Three pitches and three strikes. This is the third of four innings that Miller has finished off the Yankees with a strikeout. It looks like the kid should take the bump at least one more time.
Update - 04/28/08 - 7:25 PM EST
Bubbie Buzachero is warming up in the bullpen for the second time this game. It seems as if he'll take over for Miller in the 5th inning ending the kids game and giving him 9 straight scoreless innings.