Brad Miller – 2016 Player Card
As we count down the days until the blessed return of baseball we’ll be bringing snapshots from a variety of angles for each of the significant players on this year’s upcoming Rays team. The format will be similar for each player and then we want to take a look at an individual thing for each guy towards the end of each card. Think of these as a quick cheat sheet on what a player looks like. You can use the Corey Dickerson card as a walkthrough, of sorts. Now at the plate – Brad Miller
With the normal stuff out of the way we can take a look at something that we found interesting. The rest of this card will take a look at what Miller does based on the count.
Note that Joe Sheehan’s run values already adjust for the count so this will tell us how much above or below average Brad Miller is based on the number of balls and strikes he already has. In hitters count he is incredibly selective, but as the count favors the pitcher he becomes more and more aggressive despite seeing fewer and fewer strikes. Once he has two strikes on him he become hyper swing-happy, perhaps in an effort to protect the plate, but we’ll get to the results in a little bit. In the mean time let’s focus on those pitcher counts, because it looks like he could stand to be a little (or a lot) less passive.
Brad Miller has never swung at a 3-0 pitch. Not once. As you can see, though, it’s not like he’s passing up the opportunity to swing at some meatballs. As the heatmaps above show he really likes the ball inner half and down if he can get it. Well, pitchers just don’t give him what he’s looking for in that scenario so it’s hard to fault the man. While he should probably cut it loose once in a while on 3-0, which may have been out of his hands to this point in his career, he seems to be doing well to lay off of pitcher’s pitches.
In a 2-0 count he does see a much higher percentage of pitches in the zone, while offering at a very low rate. We see here that he is letting some pitches go by that he could probably do some solid damage upon, but it’s not like pitcher’s are putting it on a tee for him, either.
When he does cut loose it is often on pitches that he can handle with a few approaching his sweet spot, and several more over the heart of the plate. Notice how he does a good job of spitting on the breaking ball. These are relatively safe swings, but it would be nice if he could hurt those fastballs over the plate rather than taking them for strikes.
I have no idea if the Rays plan to use Miller in the leadoff spot against righties, but if not I would love to see him be able to ambush the occasional first pitch fastball. What is interesting here is just how many first pitch breaking balls he sees here. It would seem that pitchers are aware that he wants to deal damage first pitch so they mix it up by giving him a ton of secondary stuff so that he can’t just grip and rip.
When he does swing we can see that he will get fooled from time to time by the breaking ball, but with that downside comes the upside of all those fastballs over the heart of the plate and inner half. I’m perfectly fine with him swinging through a breaker first pitch if it means that he’s occasionally going to give the heater a ride.
The above chart seems to mesh really well with the first one of this section. The deeper he gets buried in the count the more he trades called strikes for swinging strikes, but we have already seen that pitcher’s come into the rulebook zone far less often in these scenarios. If we could make a suggestion it would be that Miller try to tighten up that two strike approach a bit, while simultaneously avoiding getting buried by being more aggressive earlier in the count when it is in his favor.
As is, he looks like a guy that has a little bit of inflation to his walk rate. The walks are nice, but they come with more strikeouts and there is the chance that he is letting hittable pitches go by in an effort to work deeper into a count. It’s all well and good to not get serious about swinging the bat until you have a strike on you, but that decision does not come without trade offs. We would love to see him bat in the two-hole with a fast runner like Kiermaier already on base ensuring that he sees plenty of fastballs. Let him get aggressive in these situations instead of showing passivity to allow for the stolen base, because if he can give it a ride then Kiermaier is scoring on any double and getting to third on virtually any single. Additionally, Miller has enough speed to stay out of the double play so even if he hits a grounder on the infield you’re still looking at a guy on first with the heart of the order coming up.