The roster shuffling will continue as Erick Fedde was already optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse and Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports that Justin Miller will be added to the Nationals roster to take Fedde’s vacated spot.
On the surface, there is no doubt statistically that Miller looks worthy — but — a deeper dive into Miller’s time with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs reveals some questions about where Miller was until April 24th and why has he only pitched 9-times in 30 calendar days? He spent some time in extended Spring Training, but why? Also, he never pitched in back-to-back games and of his 9 appearances, all but one was with at least 3 days or more between appearances. Maybe the extra rest was needed due to pitch counts since Miller threw most of his appearances working into a second inning of work. Most likely there are reasonable answers to each question. The good news is he really improved on his velocity and movement on his 4-seam fastball and slider.
Miller has been incredible for the Sky Chiefs with a 15.15 impressive K/9 and a WHIP that is almost non-existent at 0.44 to go with an ERA that really doesn’t exist at 0.00. So we ask the question, what happens if you need to pitch Justin Miller in back-to-back days?
In mid-January, Miller was signed as a free agent on a minor league deal with the Nationals on January 12th according to CBS Sports but the MLB Transaction log shows nothing on that date. He shares the same agent, Kevin Kohler, with Brandon Kintzler which was rumored to be the reason general manager Mike Rizzo picked him up.
Two entries were made on the transactions log:
April 23, 2018 RHP Justin Miller assigned to Syracuse Chiefs
March 22, 2018 RHP Justin Miller assigned to Washington Nationals
We know last year Miller was in Triple-A with the Angels and then released on July 16th but don’t know where he went after that. The prior year, he pitched 40-games with the Colorado Rockies and the right-hander did pitch in back-to-back games 8 times. Lefties just crushed Miller in 2016, and righties hit him decently also at a .740 OPS. So why do we believe Justin Miller circa 2018 will be different from what he was before? The scouting report says he has a lively fastball and a nasty slider with an uptick in velo. We will have to hope the fastball and slider are better than what he had in the past. Maybe he has new grips and new mechanics. He also worked out in the off-season in Palm Beach Florida with Cressey Sports Performance as they have been successful in rehabbing baseball players. We should find out soon how good Justin Miller is.
In the past week, Tim Collins took Ryan Madson‘s roster spot when Madson went to the 10-day DL, and now Miller essentially takes Carlos Torres place that was temporarily Fedde’s spot. The bullpen will be back to 8-men again when Miller is officially added. Someone will have to leave the bullpen shortly when Madson comes off of the DL and two names that stand-out on the list are Wander Suero and Trevor Gott who have spent most of their time in ‘low/med lev’ situations.
If we look at their pitch charts, you get a good idea of what they are actually doing. Wander Suero is a cutter pitcher and will mix in his curveball occasionally. The cutter hasn’t made him look like Mariano Rivera as they aren’t breaking bats, but a .182 BAA is good enough if his walk rate stays at zero. Suero’s tenure started with too many walks and the last two weeks he has had a 3:1 K/BB ratio which is good. His curveball isn’t bending knees and is the off-speed pitch he needs to keep batters honest. The solution for Suero seems to be just working on that curveball and maybe working a four-seamer up in the zone for a different look and some more swing and miss.
For Trevor Gott, his sinker is getting hit often. Statistically his four-seamer appears to be more effective as well as the curveball except for the one he hung. With a K/9 of 7.2 he is striking out less than 1 batter per inning relying on the balls put into play to find one of his defenders which clearly isn’t happening enough against his sinker with a BAA of .382. He is also walking batters at a 4.2 per 9IP pace.
So sure, give Justin Miller an opportunity because manager Dave Martinez needs help at the back of the bullpen.