The Phillies are reportedly interested in free agent relief pitcher Andrew Miller:
While Patrick Corbin is in town visiting the Phillies, two sources say LH reliever Andrew Miller is at the top of their pitching wishlist as well. Both @jonmorosi and @JSalisburyNBCS have mentioned Miller.
— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) November 27, 2018
If you’re a Phillies fan, this probably excites you because you’ve heard of Andrew Miller and know that he’s had a lot of success throwing baseballs in recent years:
Yep, Andrew Miller's Slider is still ridiculous pic.twitter.com/GJEXEllvwr
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) June 22, 2017
His otherworldly 2016 season was highlighted by a remarkable postseason run in which he posted a 1.40 ERA and struck out 41.1% of batters faced over 19.1 innings pitched in 10 games. His lone blemish that fall was the memorable homer he allowed to David Ross in the deciding game of the World Series. But he then ran it back in 2017 with a 1.44 ERA and outrageous 0.83 WHIP over 57 games before injuries and inconsistency derailed his 2018 season.
Given the Phillies’ middling bullpen performance and obvious lack of a dependable left-handed arm a season ago, adding Miller to a unit that was 18th in ERA and 16th in WHIP in 2018 seems like a no-brainer.
But is it?
The answer depends on how you view Miller’s 2018 struggles, what exactly the Phillies want him to be, and how much they are willing to pay him, because there are concerns.
Miller’s average fastball velocity has declined from 95.4 mph in 2016 to 93.6 last season, and the remarkable success he enjoyed with it and his slider vanished a season ago. That ineffectiveness, perhaps unsurprisingly, led to decreased production across several key metrics over the past three seasons:
- 2016: 0.69 WHIP, 1.68 FIP, 44.7 K%, 3.3 BB%
- 2017: 0.83 WHIP, 1.99 FIP, 38.9 K%, 8.6 BB%
- 2018: 1.38 WHIP, 3.51 FIP, 29.2 K%, 10.4 BB%
Less frequent strikeouts, more frequent walks, more base runners, more expected runs. Even if you’re willing to overlook his 2018 struggles as the mere product of knee, hamstring, and shoulder injuries that each caused separate stints on the disabled list, those injuries alone should give the Phillies pause as they make what would be a substantial financial commitment to a 33-year-old reliever who has logged 13 Major League seasons and 483 games.
Does this mean Miller’s production is about to fall off a cliff? Not necessarily, but if the Phillies want Miller to profile as a lights-out, multi-inning reliever, and he wants to be paid moving forward like one, then I think this is an extraordinarily risky proposition.
There’s no arguing that signing Miller would grab headlines, grow the hype, and give the Phillies’ bullpen a skill set it desperately needs, and to that end, I’m on board. But given his pedigree, anticipated demand, and the aforementioned red flags, I just wonder if bringing him here would be, to borrow a phrase from John Middleton, “a little bit stupid.”