The return of the Adam Miller Watch comes at you after the worst statistical start of Miller's season. Miller's last start on May 4th, was a relatively shaky one, in which he was more the victim of bad luck then terrible pitching. This was noted in last week's Miller Watch when I discussed the play by play action of the game as I saw it unfold live. I do however want to make note that I am worried with how Miller was working behind in many of the counts.
On May 4th, Miller started the game off strong, striking out two in the first inning and beginning four of the five hitters he faced with a first pitch strike.
When Miller allowed two hits in the second inning, you could see his location was beginning to fade and he was not able to fool many of the hitters he faced. During this inning, three of five hitters started their at bats out with a ball.
This trend continued as Miller missed the strike zone to all but three of the first eight hitters he faced. Keep in mind, one of those three was a first pitch single that plated two of the three runs Miller allowed in that inning.
During the forth inning, Miller looked to be reestablishing himself early on against hitters, forcing them to go after his stuff. After two quick outs he again struggled to find the strike zone early and fell behind the next two hitters he would face. At this point, it was obvious Miller was laboring as he was clearing his season high for pitches thrown and had done so with a great amount of stress considering the amount of base runners he had allowed to this point.
As mentioned, luck played a role in the lack of success Miller had on that Sunday afternoon. The weather was not the best for a ballgame, especially for a kid from Texas. However, the biggest issue Miller ran into, was not being able to control hitters. He was constantly putting himself into situations where he was behind in the count and thus was forced to throw strikes. While Adam has the stuff to get by in instances where he is struggling to locate, occasionally the balls will simply fall into play, even greater are the chances of this happening when you are playing in front of Minor League defense.
A couple positives to take from this start. The first, despite Miller's lack of control, he managed to only allow one walk. Possibly Miller could have been a little more careful in hitters counts to not entirely give in. Second, Miller induced the most strike outs per inning of his short season. Although the negative of this is that it took more plate appearances then Adam's previous time out, the stat of K/9 increased, if ever so slightly.
A source close to the team is reporting that Miller's fastball has been working in the 90 to 93mph range. This is about where Torey Lovullo suggested it would be for much of the season as Adam focuses more on how to pitch.
My source also tells me that Miller has stated he is feeling fine, however he is frustrated with his location. Obviously with how Adam's track record, we can see that his walks are an anomaly and are presumably more due to rust then his actual ability. However, it isn't as if Miller's walk rate is terrible. So this could in fact be Miller's frustration with being unable to get ahead of hitters early.
Overall, my source tells me Miller hasn't felt as crisp as he would like. This, as I am told, is part of the reason why Miller has not been working very far into games. Keep in mind however, that Miller is essentially in Mid-April form instead of approaching Mid-May form. Even a minor set back, like the blisters Adam started the season with can have a major effect on a pitchers performance well into the season.
In addition to this, I am curious if Miller is holding something back. My source tells me Miller has hit 95mph at least once on the ballpark radar gun. For a pitcher who typically works in the mid 90s this could either be Miller trying a new approach (as asserted by Lovullo) or this could be Miller cautioning against injury.
I will be in Detroit for the Tigers-Yankees game and to set a long time friend off (aka Bachelor Party) so I won't be able to do my usual pitch-by-pitch analysis on the game. I will return for Miller's following start having hopefully attended the game in Buffalo that evening-weather permitting.