The Los Angeles Dodgers had a rough end to the 2022 season, losing to the Padres in the NLDS. Next year’s Dodger team will look different, as LA has already lost Tyler Anderson to the Angels and may very lose start shortstop Trea Turner as well. On November 29, LA began to bolster its roster by adding a new reliever to an already loaded pitching staff. The Dodgers’ bullpen had a number of breakout performers in 2022, and Los Angeles hopes that the team’s latest addition, Shelby Miller, can follow suit.
A Look at Shelby Miller
First off, it really is important to note that this move has no real consequences for the Dodgers. Los Angeles won’t lose any financial flexibility by signing Miller, a former 15-game winner who peaked in his first three seasons, but has taken many steps back since then. After the now-infamous trade that sent Miller to Arizona, the right-handed pitcher has had just two seasons where he has thrown 40 or more innings (2016 & 2019). And since that 2015 deal, he had been virtually ineffective at the MLB level. That did, to an extent, change in 2022.
This past season, Miller had a rather solid year in AAA. The now-reliever excelled in the Minors, striking out 69 over 53.1 innings between Scranton Wilkes-Barre (NYY) and Sacramento (SF). The former Cardinal and Brave received a call-up in September with the Giants, and performed relatively well. Despite a 6.43 ERA, Miller struck out 14 over seven innings while showcasing a two-pitch mix and an uptick in pitch spin.
Miller has seemingly simplified his pitch mix, as the 32-year old used only a slider that sits in the 79-82 MPH range, and a mid-90’s four-seamer during his abbreviated time with the Giants in 2022. While the speed on either pitch is not earth-shattering, Miller still gets great extension with his release that makes pitches look just a bit faster. Among pitchers in MLB last season, Miller ranked in the 98th percentile in this category.
The slider was a solid offering for Miller, as it had some nice zip and movement on it in September and October. The former Giant did utilize it quite often, using it over 55.1% of the time in 2022.
The same can be said for Shelby Miller’s fastball — which had above-average spin per Statcast— did induce whiffs at a rate of 26.1%.
If 2022 was any indication, Miller still has the tools to be an effective pitcher. Between the added spin that Miller had last season, and the increased usage of the slider, the former Cardinal can be an effective reliever for a team that has had success stories with the likes of Yency Almonte and Evan Phillips in recent years.
Will it work? It might not, but the Dodgers have nothing to lose with someone who has, at the very least, adapted to refine his approach to work in the new age.