Important Life Questions And Brad Miller

Title: Important Life Questions And Brad Miller
Date: June 17, 2014
Original Source: Rotographs
Synopsis: This article, which felt like my 100th on the topic, tried to make heads or tails of Brad Miller as a fantasy player.

Life is hard. It comes with a lot of tough decisions and a lot of tough questions that don’t have easy answers. We are humans, and we will make mistakes, and we should forgive ourselves for those. I’ve been dealing with a lot of this philosophical life stuff recently, and it’s been difficult.

I’m talking, of course, about Brad Miller, and it seems I’m not alone, as the baseball community remains puzzled by an important visceral question: is Brad Miller any good?

We ask this because evidence points in different directions and agreement appears beyond our grasp. Miller is still owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues and 3.5 percent of ESPN leagues, even though he ranks 32nd in shortstop fantasy value so far.

His numbers are, well, just look: .179 average, 5 HR, 3 SB, 23 R, 17 RBI

Daphne & Celeste would probably take issue with calling those ugly, because that’s too feeble a word for it. He’s been terrible. His strikeout rate has spiked, his BABIP has tanked thanks to a drop in line drive rate and an uptick in infield flies, his power is down, he’s rarely on base to steal, he’s swinging at more bad pitches and making less contact on them and he’s now primarily hitting at the bottom of the order after opening the year in the two-hole.

We were somewhat worried about his cold start back in mid-April, and the biggest worry in his profile was a poor concept of the strike zone, which has continued. The following shows his swing rates compared to 2013:

millerheatmap

What’s more, he’s continued to struggle whiffing on hard stuff, though at least he’s hit fastballs hard enough to make pitchers think twice:

Miller FB% FB Whiff/Swing FB SLG SL% SL Whiff/Swing SL SLG
2013 36.00% 16.67% 0.253 11.68% 31.46% 0.469
2014 30.20% 24.65% 0.462 13.49% 45.45% 0.290

The fact that he’s struggling, though, isn’t what’s interesting about Miller. It’s the “okay, what next” part that is intriguing.

To wit, Miller’s rest of season wOBA, per Steamer projections, has the largest gap from his year-to-date wOBA of any shortstop with 150 plate appearances to this point and 150 projected from here on out. That is, Steamer doesn’t project bigger regression for any other shortstop, which makes sense considering he’s posted the worst qualified wOBA at .248.

Projections systems tend to do very well for rest of season performance, so maybe we should trust Miller moving forward. Jeff Sullivan asked that question on Monday, polling readers on a number of names who have ROS projections well off their current performance. (For the record, Miller is projected for a .313 ROS wOBA by Steamer and .304 by ZiPS.)

The results were somewhat striking: 67 percent thought the projections were accurate, and only 33 percent thought they were too high.

Miller had a .323 wOBA last season, so two-thirds of the voters believe Miller will perform closer to his 2013 level than his current 2014 level the rest of the way. That’s important, because from his late-June call-up onward last season, Miller ranked 10th at the position in fantasy value. His Steamer ROS projection shows eight homers, seven steals and a .253 average the rest of the way, which would have him in the same ballpark, give or take a few spots.

I am far less enthusiastic, despite the optimism I had for him earlier in the year. He seems to have lost any semblance of the discipline that made him so attractive in the minors, and while you own a skill once you display it, I’ve divested myself until the discipline profile begins to improve. He’s looked better in June – average, even, but the line drives still aren’t there while the infield flies and strikeouts are.

I realize that the projections are correct more often than not, and thinking we know better is a poor long-term strategy. But there are exceptions, and I’d tend to think players early in the development curve show up as exceptions with greater frequency, especially when their discipline has fallen off a cliff.

I guess what I’m asking is for your help answering one of life’s great questions: is Brad Miller any good?

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