The downfall, if that is how one looks at pitcher Shelby Miller’s history with the St. Louis Cardinals and his recent trade to the Atlanta Braves, was “stubbornness“. Of all the mule-headed traits, Miller was on a path of butting heads.
Pitcher Shelby Miller, 24 years of age, made his debut with the Cardinals September 2012, after being drafted in 2009. That season, he was only in six games with one game start for a 1-0/1.32 ERA. He was given a chance in postseason play against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS, two games, 3.1 innings but didn’t fare so well with a 5.40 ERA. Even though, the youth factor and postseason pressure was credited to his poor showing; and yet, Cardinals fans were looking forward to seeing him in 2013.
In 2013, played 31 games with 31 starts, 15-9/3.06 ERA. Presumably he would be part of the rotation for postseason. Seemingly healthy, and no apparent reason was given by the Cardinals for him being placed in the bullpen for postseason. He was on the roster in case he would be needed to start or mid-inning detail. He was called for one inning during the NLDS against the Pittsburgh Pirates and walked off the mound with a 9.00 ERA.
Cardinals fans were up in arms, myself included, about the injustice of Miller’s situation.
In 2014, being 10-9/3.74 ERA, Miller was a part of the rotation postseason with two game starts. In the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers he was only able to go 5.2 innings but still sustained a smooth 3.18 ERA. Against the Giants, his appearance was trimmed back to 3.2 innings pitched with a 7.36 ERA.
Miller was suspended indefinitely during his minor league 2011 season due to alcohol related offenses. But, seeing that was not the way to the majors, got that issue under control. Once in the majors, he was not known for his ability to go deep into a game because of his pitch count. He relied heavily on his four-seam fastball which was fouled off more times than producing a strike, thus issuing many free passes. In 2013, he did have 169 strikeouts, but along with 57 walks. In 2014, 127 strikeouts/73 walks.
Stubborness not to change, not to go with pitch selection from Cardinals excellent veteran catcher Yadier Molina, eventually did not bode well with manager Mike Matheny, or the Cardinals organization. I believe he was viewed as a liability versus an asset to the team’s future.
In a recent article by Bill Ivie, Jr, Bleacher Report and a quote from Miller of confirmation:
“Miller said he’s been a ‘stubborn pitcher’ in the past, sticking to what he knows even when teammates and coaches who might know better offered him advice. That included Miller sticking with a four-seam fastball that opposing batters constantly fouled off, raising his pitch count.”
The Cardinals organization is one, I feel along with many Cardinals fans, to a fault with their unwavering faith that gives a player every opportunity to play, to prove themselves, to prove they are a team player. With the mindset of Shelby Miller and his ‘unwillingness’ to change for the better of the team, this was not the “Cardinals Way”. Thus, made for a great trade chip in 2014.
There are by far worse reasons for a player to be traded. But, when a game is on the line and one does not adhere to the instruction of Yadi Molina, foreseeing a long team history is not in a pitcher’s future.
Even though, I feel Miller may have been handed a wake-up call and will see his full potential with his new team. However, on the flip-side if he insists on old habits, I suspect he will become a ‘traveling pitcher’ in his future. In addition, I feel, Miller’s demise is a serious footnote to the young pitchers coming into the majors with the St. Louis Cardinals – be precise as the workings of a fine watch with following Molina’s lead for success on the hill.
I like Shelby Miller and we all have witnessed his potential. He’s got the ‘stuff’ to become a very good, consistent and confident pitcher. Now, it is up to him to prove his true abilities and willingness to do so. I only wish him the best; and, to put his ‘stubborn mule mindset’ to rest.