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On Shelby Miller’s turnaround

The St. Louis Cardinals had not been able to convince top prospect Shelby Miller to execute the pitches called by his catcher/coaches from the bench. As a result, in mid-June, organization officials instituted a “no-shake” rule for the talented 21-year-old. The rule required the right-hander to use and improve his offspeed pitches because he was not allowed to override the initial pitch selection.

In another notable move that had occurred the week before, Joe Kelly had been called up to St. Louis on June 8 ahead of the Cardinals top prospect Miller. Kelly was also a part of the Double-A Springfield rotation with Miller in the second half of last season and in the Triple-A Memphis starting five with him this year.

Still in Memphis, Miller’s initial results under the new rule were not pretty. On June 16, in his first appearance under the new restrictions, Miller allowed seven runs, five earned, on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked three and only struck out three while allowing a home run for the sixth consecutive start. At that point, Miller’s season ERA had risen to 6.00.

After skipping a turn, Miller returned with a solid one-run performance over five innings on June 27. Perhaps it appeared the corner was turned, but it turned out to be an exception. In the next two starts, he was back to the old Miller, allowing eight runs in 6 1/3 innings.

In summary, his first four starts with the no-shake rule resulted in three losses, a no-decision and a 7.88 ERA. Miller fanned 20 but walked as many batters as he allowed hits, 15 each, in 16 innings.

1st four
16-Jun NEW 0 1 9.64 1 1 0 0 0 4.2 7 7 5 1 3 3
27-Jun ALB 0 0 1.80 1 1 0 0 0 5 1 1 1 1 3 8
2-Jul @OKC 0 1 11.25 1 1 0 0 0 4 4 5 5 1 5 5
7-Jul NAS 0 1 11.57 1 1 0 0 0 2.1 3 3 3 0 4 4
Total 0 3 7.88 4 4 0 0 0 16 15 16 14 3 15 20

Then, starting on July 14, it seemed to come together. Miller has cranked out five solid outings in his most recent six. His strikeouts are up and his walks way down, 35 to just three in 36 innings. During that stretch, Miller’s ERA is 3.12 and he earned the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week nod for the period covering July 30-August 5.

Last 6
14-Jul @RR 0 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 0 5 1 0 0 0 3 4
20-Jul OKC 1 0 0.00 1 1 0 0 0 6 4 0 0 0 0 3
25-Jul @NAS 0 1 11.25 1 1 0 0 0 4 7 5 5 2 0 2
30-Jul RR 1 0 2.57 1 1 0 0 0 7 8 2 2 1 0 8
5-Aug @FRE 1 0 2.57 1 1 0 0 0 7 4 2 2 0 0 8
11-Aug TAC 1 0 4.76 1 1 0 0 0 5.2 7 3 3 1 0 10
Total 4 1 3.12 6 6 0 0 0 34.2 31 12 12 4 3 35

Another very notable action occurred in the Cardinals system in mid-July. Trevor Rosenthal was elevated all the way from Double-A Springfield to fill a bullpen need in St. Louis. Like Kelly, Rosenthal had to be added to the Cardinals 40-man roster first.

The way he had been pitching to that point, the fact Miller wasn’t chosen again should have been no surprise to him or anyone else. Since then, there has been a big change in his results, however.

With 21 games remaining for the Redbirds after Monday and no post-season hopes, Miller looks to have four starts left in 2012. He can’t bring down his season ERA from its current 5.22 to its expected level, but he can continue to establish momentum toward restoring his full top prospect luster and head into 2013 on a positive note.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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23 Responses to “On Shelby Miller’s turnaround”

  1. Nutlaw says:

    Progress is good. Can’t give up on the kid yet.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    If Miller ens the Memphis season well, he should be called up to serve in the bullpen during September.

  3. crdswmn says:

    Are you suggesting that something “psychological” was affecting Shelby’s pitching? I’d stay away from any sabermetric sites like VEB with that analysis if I were you, it could get ugly. 🙂

    Whatever was/is the problem I don’t believe six starts proves it’s “fixed”.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Who said anything about psychological or that anything is fixed? No one here, as far as I can see. Improvement has been noted.

      • crdswmn says:

        I wasn’t suggesting you were claiming it’s fixed. I was suggesting I don’t believe the improvement shows it’s fixed. Purely my conclusion.

        The psychological comment came from your noting that the improvement came after Kelly and Rosenthal were promoted before him. Hey, it wasn’t a knock on you, I was trying to be facetious. I guess I failed. 🙂

    • CariocaCardinal says:

      But he’d so endear himself to Westie if he suggested that. on second thought, maybe not. he’d probably only score points with Westie if he said that was definitively the factor and wrapped in a conspiracy theory.

  4. blingboy says:

    No one could have complained if the headline of the article had read ‘Miller’s Latest Turnaround’. He’s turned this way and that all season.

    It seems like his reaction to Kelly’s promotion was negative. That and being put under the no shake rule, which implies reluctance or recalcitrance on his part. Remember also that there was some sort of issue before that required disciplinary action. Together it suggests to me a big psychological factor. I get the mental image of a juvenile worldview by one used to getting his way and having it his way. I can immagine that if nothing else had happened at all, just having to face stiffer competition (both on the field and in the clubhouse) by those not blown away by his awesomeness would have elicited a negative response and the downturn in performance which seems to follow.

    In fairness, I don’t really find too much reason to fault him. He is probably a product of the environment which he has always known. Facing a different kind of world now would have to be a shock. I agree that it is too soon to tell how it will turn out, but for now, he has picked himself up off the mat and come out swinging.

  5. blingboy says:

    Everyone seems to be quite impressed with Mighty Joe Kelly, including Molina and Matheny. Impressed with his makeup as much as his performance. Steady, consistant, eager to learn. He has picked up a slider since his promotion and worked it into his repertoire. No muss, no fuss. He seems the antithesis of Miller.

    It seems a foregone conclusion that Garcia will resume his spot in the rotation Sunday. If it were not for his contract, I wonder if it would be so certain. Not that he shouldn’t get the chance to come back and regain his job. But it shouldn’t be a no-brainer IMO. After all, having Garcia in the pen for a while wouldn’t be the end of the world.

    That’s not going to happen though. So does Mighty Joe continue to start in Memphis or does he go to the pen?

  6. crdswmn says:

    Brian Fuentes has been placed on the restricted list. He asked to step away for “personal reasons”

    Trevor Rosenthal has been recalled from Memphis.

  7. blingboy says:

    Nice standup triple for Furcal. Can we give the other guys whatever injection he got?

  8. blingboy says:

    Nice job by Craig getting on ahead of Holliday.

  9. blingboy says:

    Any guesses if Mighty Joe goes to the pen or Memphis?

    • JumboShrimp says:

      Shane Robinson might have to go to Memphis. Kelly will not be sent down, if Garcia returns.
      The Cards will use Garcia to skip over Wainwright and Lynn and give them a little rest. Lohse and Westbrook can keep heaving, since not under contract for next year.

  10. JumboShrimp says:

    Fuentes to the restricted list is a nice way of preserving his reputation. Rosenthal makes a stronger pen.

  11. blingboy says:

    Jay looked good on that catch at the wall. He looked less good whiffing with one out and a man of third.

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