Miller is Lifting Off
The summer has been full of dog days, but Brad Miller has been a tremendous bright spot at the plate.
If you have followed the broadcasts in recent weeks, much has been made of how Brad Miller and Brian Dozier are at the top of the home run list since June 17th. That is a bit of a cherry-picked date, but at least now that serves as a nice round number of two months of play. Miller’s triple-slash line in that time is a robust .296/.348/.640 over 221 plate appearances.
The increased power comes during a time when Miller has made a couple of noticeable changes at the plate – something Parker Hageman from Twins Daily was kind enough to turn into a Vine:
His top half actions looks mostly the same except but his front shoulder does appear to be more inward and his bat begins in a more upright position. While those changes are subtle, it’s impossible not to notice the changes in his lower half. He has now taken to a more pronounced leg lift in his swing and taking a closed stride toward the pitcher versus a more slightly open stride he had last year.
That kind of change is something Josh Donaldson went through as he began to break out as a power hitter under the tutelage of Bob Tewksbary, something editor emeritus R.J. Anderson covered a couple of years back over at Baseball Prospectus. Last year, Tewksbary told John Lott that Donaldson’s approach, “..gives you more time to see the ball, helps you make better decisions, helps you drive the ball to all fields.”
Miller has certainly been driving the ball to all fields during these summer months as has shared his home run distribution rather evenly whereas previously, a majority of his home runs were off the pull variety.
What may be even more impressive is the types of pitches Miller is going the other way with. If you break down pitches into the hard (four-seam, two-seam, cutter) and soft (breaking balls, changeups) varieties, Miller has been depositing them over the fence into two buckets: he is pulling the soft stuff and mostly going up the middle and away with the hard stuff.
The book on Miller had been to get him out with the soft stuff because he didn’t handle it well. Prior to these tweaks, Miller had a career .266 wOBA when facing soft stuff. Of late, that is up to .416. Against the hard stuff, his wOBA has risen from .345 to .425.
It has been said the Rays have long-liked Miller, but it is unlikely they envisioned him hitting 30+ home runs in any season and providing the thump in the lineup he is these days. They may not like him at shortstop any longer, but if this newfound power is here to stay, they can move his bat around the field. It is ironic they may finally found the power-hitting first baseman they’ve longed for in a former shortstop.