40 in 40: Boston Red Sox Player Profiles: Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller is a 6’7 left-hander with a 92 mph fastball that can touch 96, a killer slider and a solid change up and he is a former top 10 draft pick. He was the key player in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Detroit Tigers. So why is this guy barely able to stick on the Boston Red Sox minor league roster?  The answer is incredible simple; Miller has no idea where the ball is going when it leaves his hand. None. He has walked 5.38 batters per nine as a Major League pitcher, an unsustainable rate if ever there was one. Even, so the Boston Red Sox are latest in a long line of team’s that think enough of his talent to take shot at fixing the 27 year old southpaw.

The man charged with that task right now, Pitching Coach Bob McClure, was straight-forward with his take on Miller’s issues:

 “I think Andrew can be a starter. But I don’t believe he can be a starter stepping two feet across his body. I don’t think you can repeat and command a baseball by being that off line, then having to redirect as the ball is coming out of your hand.”

The initial change didn’t work for Miller and he reverted back to a slightly less dramatic across-the-body delivery before his recent hamstring injury slowed him down. There were some promising signs in the new Miller/McClure delivery, with Miller throwing three innings and striking out five while walking two and not giving up a hit. Still, the most likely role for Miller this year is that of a LOOGY. He will have to prove that he can control the walks before he gets another chance in the Red Sox rotation.

Repertoire

Miller throws a four-seam fastball, a slider and a change, all of which have the potential to be plus pitches, if he can ever learn to locate them. His fastball sits 92 mph and he can dial it up when needed. He throws it between 60-65% of the time. His slider is his main off-speed weapon and he uses it 20-25% of the time. It gets a solid whiff rate of 11.7%, but his lack of control limits his effectiveness with the pitch. The pitch averages 78 mph and while his inability to locate it makes it tough to tell, he appears to focus on throwing it to the catcher’s left and side, breaking it in on righties and away from lefties.

His change up is reserved for righties and he relies heavily on it against them; he throws the pitch around 15% of the time. It has movement very similar to his fastball but clocks in almost 8 mph slower at 84 mph. Surprisingly he doesn’t appear to  throw it away from righties much, the way many of his teammates use their change ups. Instead he throws it inside and often low in the zone.

Andrew Miller could still turn his career around. At age 27, lanky left hander Randy Johnson started to locate his pitches and became a Hall-of-Fame level level ace. Still, the odds are not good. Miller has excellent stuff, but it likely that he will never be able to locate his pitches well enough to be starting pitcher. Being left handed, he will find work in bullpens for a long time, occasionally enticing baseball people with flashes of dominance. ForBoston, he is probably not going to be much more than another lefty option in the pen, but the chance that he will finally put everything together is still enough to make people dream on him.

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