Will The Real Brad Miller Please Stand Up?
One of the big questions coming into the 2017 season was whether or not Brad Miller would be able to duplicate his power surge of 2017.
In his first 1243 plate appearances (2013-2015) he had hit just 29 career home runs, then, in 2016 he delivered 30 home runs. He finished the season batting .243/.304/.482 with a wOBA of .333 and a wRC+ of 111.
He is still searching for the power stroke that enabled him to crush 30 home runs in 2016. Through his first 39 games, he is batting just .205/.350/.318 with a pair of homers.
What he is doing this season is drawing walks. His 30 walks lead the American League and are second only to Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks who has drawn 31. His walk rate or 18.4-percent ranks third in the AL and sixth in all of baseball (minimum 100 plate appearances).
Pitchers Alter Approach:
Are pitchers approaching him different from last season? According to Fangraphs Pitch data, last season pitchers threw a fastball (53.2-percent), a slider (13.6-percent), a cutter (6.6-percent), curveball (10.6-percent), and a changeup (12-percent).
This season, he is being challenged by more fastballs (58-percent), sliders (16.5-percent) and fewer cutters (5.5-percent), curveballs (6.6-percent), and changeups (11.1-percent).
Obviously, pitchers don’t believe that Miller’s power spike last year was a fluke.
Becoming More Selective:
Baseball is all about making adjustments. Pitchers altered their approach to Miller at the plate, now he has to adjust back.
According to Fangraphs, Miller has cut down the number of swings at pitches outside the strike zone. Last season, he chased 32.8-percent of the balls outside the zone, while this year he has been much more selective at the plate swinging at just 27.3-percent of pitches outside the zone.
This goes along with swinging at few pitchers overall. Last year, he swung at 49.1-percent of pitches while that has dropped to 42.6-percent this season. He still swings and misses at nearly the same rate (12-percent, 2016; 11.7-percent 2017).
According to StatCast, his average exit velocity last season was 93 miles per hour compared to 83.3 miles per hour in 2017. While his launch angle and average distance has been lowered by the lesser velocity off the bat, he is still pulling the ball 37.5-percent of his plate appearances.
What To Expect:
At some point the improved patience displayed at the plate will result in a spike in power. He probably won’t finish close to the 30-homers he had last season, but overall, he should provide the lineup with an overall more potent force.