Generally speaking, one of the worst things you can do as a fantasy baseball player is to overreact to stuff that happens in the first week of the season. Think about it this way, if a pitcher with a 5.71 ERA and 1.48 throws a perfect game in June, would it make any sense for fantasy owners to go out and sign him? No. Not at all. So why should we flock to a fairly average starting pitcher who had nothing more than a decent line in the season’s first game?
In reality, we shouldn’t. Still, I can’t help but be incredibly encouraged by what Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks did in the season’s first game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Before we get going too far, I know. Miley took a loss, so why am I not raving about Clayton Kershaw? If Kershaw’s available in your league, drop everything you’re doing right now and sign him. I don’t think I lost any of you, so let’s delve a little deeper into Miley’s body of work.
We’ll get to his start against the Dodgers, but I’d like to start by looking at his first two years in the majors to see what we can learn.
Wade Miley: 2012-2013
That appears to be a pretty significant regression season, but there are a few points that need to be made.
- His month of May was beyond bad, as Miley posted a 7.34 ERA and 1.456 WHIP in 34.1 innings.
- If you eliminate May, his ERA in 2013 was 2.78.
- WHIP is a little trickier. While Miley’s June ERA was a far more respectable 3.56, his WHIP was even higher than May’s total, coming in at 1.549.
- From July 1 on, Miley’s stats looked like this.
Wade Miley: 2013 after July
All of a sudden, 2013’s inflated numbers look a little more like an early season sophomore slump, don’t they? I certainly understand that we can’t just break everything down and that the body of work definitely matters. If we were just breaking things down, we can go far enough and say that pitchers like Philip Humber and Armando Galarraga are actually some of the best pitchers ever because they’ve thrown a perfect game (though I’m reaching a bit in Galarraga’s case).
Normally I’d be right on board with being skeptical about being too encouraged by a second-half surge, but this is sort of a unique case. Players, especially pitchers, frequently have a strong rookie season, only to be met with much tougher results in Year 2. It’s natural, you’re no longer a surprise to any of your opponents. It’s part of the reason why fantasy owners should be a little hesitant to go nuts for rookie phenoms in their second year.
But once I’ve seen someone take the adjustment that the league handed him and adjust back, I can’t help but be encouraged.
Here’s something else that’s encouraging. We didn’t go over this in any of the stats above, but in 2012 and 2013, Miley’s hits allowed per nine innings pitched rate was an identical 8.9. From July on in 2013, that mark fell 8.1, and that’s a big drop. Miley’s not a strikeout guy and unless you’re Cliff Lee, 2012’s rate of 1.7 BB/9 is not sustainable. So, it is important that guys like Miley find ways to pitch to contact and still record outs. In the second half of 2012, he did that a lot better. He’s still a young pitcher, only 27, so that’s definitely a big time plus.
Now, what about that first start? Why should I be encouraged by 5 IP, 2 BB, 3 H, 3 ER, 8 K? The K’s are nice, and the WHIP for the start was an even 1.00, which is good. But can I really be encouraged by 3 earned runs in only 5 innings? That’s an ERA of 5.40. Yes, it is. Yes, I can be encouraged.
The Dodgers big bats were tamed by Miley.
- Yasiel Puig vs. Miley: 0-3, 2 K’s, 1 groundout.
- Hanley Ramirez vs. Miley: 0-3, 1 groundout, 1 popout, reached on a throwing error by third baseman Martin Prado.
- Adrian Gonzalez vs. Miley: 0-2, 1 BB, 2 K’s (reaching on one wild pitch strike 3).
Those are three potential All-Stars who couldn’t manage one hit against the guy. Scott Van Slyke and Justin Turner were the only Dodgers to get a hit against him. It’s a small sample size, yes, but that’s awfully encouraging.
Here’s something else to note. Pitchers are dropping like flies this spring. Kris Medlen, Jarrod Parker, and Brandon Beachy , and Miley’s teammate Patrick Corbin are all going to miss the year with Tommy John surgery. A.J. Griffin is going to miss a few weeks to start the year. Injuries are so bad that last Friday’s Ask Nash was devoted to potential replacement pitchers. Less than a week after that published, one of those pitchers — Josh Johnson of the San Diego Padres — got hurt, and now he’ll miss the first month of the year.
When injury replacements are themselves getting hurt, we really cant be too picky, can we?
Lastly, let’s look at Arizona’s next several series.
- 4 vs. San Francisco Giants
- 3 at Colorado Rockies
- 3 at San Francisco Giants
- 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
- 3 vs. New York Mets
- 3 at Los Angeles Dodgers
- 4 at Chicago Cubs
- 3 vs. Philadelphia Phillies
- 3 vs. Colorado Rockies
- 3 at San Diego Padres
Not exactly the most offensively ferocious teams. I’d probably avoid starting him at Coors Field and maybe at home against the Dodgers, especially if Matt Kemp is back and playing well. But in most of those cases either
- The opponent has a mediocre offense.
- It’s in a very pitcher-friendly park.
When I was watching the opener, I looked at Miley’s ownership in ESPN leagues and took a mental note: 15.5 percent. At the very moment I’m writing this, it’s 15.8 percent.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Wade Miley can be the best pitcher on a fantasy champ, or anything close to that. But while his 2013 was rough, he finished it very well. While his first start didn’t produce great stats, they weren’t terrible and were not indicative of how well he pitched.
Consider that, along with the fact that pitching is depleted and he should have a fairly nice run of iffy offenses coming up, and I think Miley should be owned in significantly more leagues.