It seems like I’m always starting these Tap Room entries by waxing poetic about the beauties of baseball. Maybe it’s because I do think it’s the best sport in the universe.
There are just so many nuances, so many variables that make baseball difficult to predict, which is why we watch sports in the first place. There’s a drama, obviously, that goes with the unknown and unexpected.
And that brings us to today’s Tap Room subject: Orioles left-hander Wade Miley. You remember Miley, the guy the Orioles acquired from the Seattle Mariners last July who was absolutely awful during most of his first two months with the club.
Only two of his initial nine Orioles starts were considered “quality,” and in five he allowed four earned runs or more. It was so bad that I argued in September for his demotion to the bullpen during the stretch run.
Miley, however, had two good starts to end 2016, providing a little bit of hope for 2017.
But, really, just a little bit. That 6.17 ERA in 11 starts left a serious stench like when we don’t clean the bar at closing time.
Give credit when it is due, however. Miley has been a different pitcher in 2017. In spurts, he’s been dominating. Other times, he’s been dangerously close to a 2016-esque implosion.
Yet, after Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays – Miley lasted seven innings, allowed three runs (none earned) and was tagged for the loss because he gave up a first-inning homer following a Jonathan Schoop error – the lefty’s ERA sits at 2.59 in nine starts.
He currently has the seventh best ERA among qualifiers in the American League, striking out 49 batters and allowing only 42 hits through 48 2/3 innings (last year for the Orioles he allowed 70 hits in 54 innings).
This year, Miley’s problem has been walks – he’s issued a league-high 28 – and that has pushed his WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) to an unimpressive 1.44, the highest among the Top 20 ERA qualifiers in the AL.
Still, he’s limited damage, kept the Orioles in every start and has been a huge reason the club has been competitive this season.
What’s been the difference?
The guess is he’s simply more confident and comfortable in his new – newish – surroundings now. Part of that comfortability occurred last September when he talked with Scott McGregor, the Orioles’ pitching rehab coordinator and one of the greatest left-handed starters in team history. McGregor didn’t have a magic wand.
McGregor talked with him about mechanics and approach and simply was a great sounding board for Miley, reminding him it was a game and that Miley was only one guy, that he didn’t have to carry the weight of a team on his shoulders.
In retrospect, maybe the internal pressure of being traded to a contender worked against Miley, who has never pitched in the postseason. Maybe he was partially a victim of bad luck as an Oriole – as our Paul Folkemer wrote earlier this month in his advanced stats piece, Miley’s Fielding Independent Pitching mark was 3.79 in 2016 with the Orioles, more than two runs lower than his ERA, suggesting that bad luck did damage his overall performance.
Whatever the reason, Miley’s results have bene much better. He’s allowed four runs or more once this year.
And so many people have asked me whether I think Miley is for real, whether this is the guy you can expect for the remainder of 2017. Could he be a version of the 2013 Miley, who posted a 3.55 ERA in more than 200 innings for the Arizona Diamondbacks?
My answer is that I think he is better than he showed last year, but, because of the high walk total and the myriad times he’s had to wiggle away from a big inning, he’s not as good as the current 2017 numbers indicate.
If he’s somewhere in between, though, that’s someone with a mid-4.00 ERA — perfectly fine for a fifth starter, which is what Miley was supposed to be this March.
He’s been more, of course. He’s consistently been the Orioles’ second-best starter.
And that leads me back to my question today.
How do you view Wade Miley going forward this year? Do you believe that he can keep rising to the occasion and continue to give the Orioles a chance every fifth day?
Are you concerned that the high walk total is going to start biting him back (he only walked one Sunday)?
Is the jury still out for you?
Tap-In Question: Nine starts into 2017, are you now a Wade Miley believer?