Can Anything Stop St. Louis Cardinals' Shelby Miller?

By Thom Tsang
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry, Clayton Kershaw. I know you’ve been the arguably the best pitcher in MLB since 2011, and you’ve gotten off to an unbelievable start to this season; but, as far as 2013 goes, someone’s got you beat thus far — and his name is not Matt Harvey, either.

That distinction belongs to St. Louis Cardinals rookie Shelby Miller, who is having a phenomenal year thus far.

He’s been so good, in fact, that even when he labors with inefficiency, it’s still tough to score on him.

The New York Mets found out exactly what that meant on Wednesday, when they wound up as their latest victims to Miller’s run of success. That’s not something you can easily say about a pitcher who only didn’t get past the sixth inning and needed 96 pitches to do it, but considering that the righty only gave up four hits and a walk while striking out six in that span, it was really more able quality rather than quantity.

Unfortunately for Miller, it was not enough to earn him the win, thanks to the Cardinals bullpen falling short once again … not that lowering his ERA to a MLB-best 1.40 should be anything to feel particularly unfortunate about.

That puts him in a tie with Kershaw, and just slightly ahead of fellow phenom Harvey; but here’s the thing: the Cardinals’ young star leads both in strikeouts with a 9.99 K/9, and gives up fewer free passes (2.10 BB/9).

And the kicker? He’s doing it at just 22 years old, two years younger than the ever-so-buzzy Harvey.

Though there’s really not much of a major league sample sizes to go from when you’re talking about Miller, one of the things that has distinguished him as a full-time starter in 2013 as opposed to when he mostly came out of the pen (save for one tantalizing start at the end of the season) is that he’s attacking hitters more (66.3 percent first pitch strikes vs. 57.4 in 2012).

You’d think that with a 9.0 percent swinging strikes rate that his K/9 will come down at some point, and his .246 BABIP may trend up a bit to affect his counting numbers. That said, even if you don’t buy the 51.1 inning sample (it is rather small), a conservative outlook for the youngster should still see him potentially break the 3.0 fWAR barrier, which is really nothing to scoff at.

Then again, if the glass-half-full approach is more your thing … well, the sky’s the limit for Miller, no?

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