Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lefty for lefty: Andrew Miller to the Sox

Former Tigers and Marlins LHP Andrew Miller.

As some of you might have heard, the Red Sox recently (Friday) finalized a deal with the Marlins that will send left reliever Dustin Richardson to the Marlins for lefty Andrew Miller. On the surface, the two are pretty similar: both were draft picks out of college in 2006, Richardson is 6'6", 220 lbs, while Miller is 6'7", 210 lbs, and both hail from the south (Kansas and Florida, respectively).

However, this is where the similarities end. Richardson was brought along very cautiously by the Sox, as is their general pattern with pitching; he didn't make his big-league debut until September 28, 2009 against Toronto (1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 SO, 0 BB, 0 ER).

Successful debut? Yessir.

On the other hand, Miller was pitching for the big-league Tigers just twenty-two days after he signed with the club, and sixty-four days after his last game as a collegiate pitcher, debuting for the big club on August 30, 2006. The then 21-year-old pitched a scoreless eighth inning - at Yankee Stadium, no less - and I'm sure several Tigers execs patted themselves on the backs for rushing him to the bigs.

Unfortunately, Miller's success would be rather tempered after that, and he was traded to the Marlins in the winter of 2007, part of the package of players that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.

Andrew Miller has literally never spent an entire season in the minor leagues - not even a shortened Low-A type season. His career numbers look like this: 15-26, 5.84 ERA, 294.1 IP. Dustin Richardson, on the other hand, spent all of 2006-08 in the minors, and most of 2009, and his numbers look like this: 0-0, 3.31 ERA, 16.1 IP. Miller's WAR stands at -3.8 for his career, and Richardson's is 0.3.

So at first glance, it looks like the Red Sox are getting a raw deal here. However, you all know that I trust Theo Epstein almost unconditionally, and you don't have to look all that deep to see Miller's appeal. Relief pitching is notoriously volatile, and Richardson is a young reliever coming off a generally consistent year, and so Theo is selling high, something he loves to do.

Miller is a former sixth pick overall, and he's also the former teammate of another Sox relief
pitcher: fellow-2006-first-rounder Daniel Bard. Bard fell to 28th overall, where the Sox scooped him up, and kept him in the minors for three years before he made his debut in May of 2009. Bard, of course, has never looked back.

Daniel Bard (above) and Miller were light-out teammates at UNC.

Despite all of Miller's well-documented struggles, Bard still thinks h
e's a great pitcher, and that perhaps the Marlins tried to do just a little too much tinkering with his delivery: “The stuff was too good. The projectability with his body was there. To me, it still is. All the tools are still there. Nothing has changed. I’m sure he had some stumbles along the way he would like to get rid of, but he’s still only 25-years-old and on the cusp of being a really good major league pitcher.”

Of course, the Red Sox have some very good pitching coaches in the organization, even without the now-departed John Farrell, and I'm sure Theo has something in mind to get the still-young lefty back on track. The praise of Daniel Bard should not be taken lightly: by now, he's figured out what it takes to be an affective big-league pitcher, regarding actual skills and mental toughness, and if he thinks Andrew Miller has it, I'm inclined to trust him.

[Quote in this post from WEEI.]

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