Here Are Andrew Miller’s 10 Biggest Spots

Originally I wanted to sit here and write about the Reds’ godawful bullpen. But then the research started bumming me out, so I turned my focus to the opposite of the Reds’ godawful bullpen, which is Andrew Miller. I find Miller to be much more pleasing, so here comes stuff about him.

You might remember that, before the year, Miller sustained a fracture in his non-throwing wrist. So there was concern that he’d have to be sidelined for a while, which would deal a blow to the Yankees’ biggest strength, but Miller opted to play through the discomfort. He’s so far allowed an OPS of .273. He has an xFIP- a little over 0, an ERA- of exactly 0, and an FIP- somehow under 0. No less deliciously, Miller is presently the only pitcher in baseball who’s gotten a higher rate of swings at pitches out of the zone than at pitches inside of the zone. Andrew Miller basically turns hitters into pitchers, except he turns them into pitchers who have to be hitters. To make matters worse for them, they’re effectively pitcher-hitters at the highest-leverage spots. Andrew Miller is good.

There are so many ways to demonstrate how Andrew Miller is good. That paragraph demonstrates it. Everything after this demonstrates it. I decided to pull up Miller’s log of plate appearances on the year, and sort them by leverage. I looked to see how Miller has done in the toughest of the tough situations. Miller so far has 33 batters faced. Here are the 10 most important showdowns.


On April 12, the Yankees were clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Blue Jays. The Jays were down to their last out, and with the bases empty, they sent up Justin Smoak. At this point, the leverage index was 1.80. Miller quickly worked ahead 0-and-2. Uh oh!


Smoak struck out. In his defense, it was the only option available.


Miller inherited a two-run lead on April 25 in Texas, but you have to be careful in Texas, because the ball can fly. That’s why, when Rougned Odor came up to lead off, the leverage index was 1.94. Miller got ahead 0-and-1. Yikes!


To Odor’s credit, he hit the ball. But it doesn’t get much less dangerous than Rougned Odor hitting a fly to the opposite field. Brett Gardner caught the ball with considerable ease.


Let’s go now to April 17. It was 4-3 Yankees, and it was the top of the ninth, and with one down, the Mariners tried to counter Miller with Kyle Seager. Seager is kind of a small miracle of a player — a successful position player who emerged from the Mariners’ disastrous farm system. Somehow, Seager learned how to succeed against major-league competition. Unfortunately for him, Andrew Miller is something beyond that. The leverage index was 2.11, but two pitches got Miller ahead by two strikes. Criminy!


Seager struck out. I’m unconvinced that Seager actually went around. I’m fully convinced it doesn’t matter.


Miller made his season debut on April 7. It sounds funny now, given the standings, but the Astros and the Yankees made for a rematch of last year’s American League wild-card game. Miller got to pitch with a three-run lead, but when Marwin Gonzalez came up, there were two on with one down. The leverage index was 2.17. After a first-pitch strike, Miller uncorked three consecutive balls, but then another strike gave him an opening. Whoops!


Gonzalez struck out, but you miss with 100% of the swings you don’t take. (Gonzalez also missed with 100% of the swings he did take.)


Miller doesn’t only pitch with leads. On April 23, he pitched in a tie game. He worked the ninth — in all these appearances, he worked the ninth — and the Rays had Evan Longoria due to lead off. The leverage index was 2.31. Longoria thought he had a good idea, going after the first pitch. Dangit!


Lazy pop. Basically a strikeout that takes longer. Longoria’s remains the only plate appearance against Miller that’s ended after the first pitch. At least Longoria didn’t have to deal with a second pitch.


Here’s another appearance in a tie. I haven’t written “Mark Canha” yet anywhere this year. Good time to change that. On April 19, Miller was in the same situation he was in on April 23. Tied in the ninth, Canha leading off, standing in for Longoria. The leverage index was 2.31. Miller immediately got ahead 0-and-2. Fiddlesticks!


Canha struck out. Everyone looked somewhere else. There was nothing to see at home plate.


Let’s return now to that April 12 appearance. Smoak struck out with two down. Right before that, Russell Martin stood in, with a leverage index of 2.62. Martin definitely did not fall behind 0-and-2. Martin definitely did fall behind 1-and-2. Of course, against Andrew Miller, you could say any given hitter fell behind 0-and-0. Blast!


Martin grounded out. More accurately, Martin tapped out. Now that I think about it, that works in two different ways.


Now we return to April 17. Seager struck out with one down. Nelson Cruz tried to get things started earlier. The leverage index was 2.86. Cruz took a first-pitch ball, which you think is a good thing. But after throwing a first-pitch ball this year, Miller has held batters to a 1-for-10 line, with four strikeouts. Miller immediately rebounded by getting to 1-and-2. Applesauce!


Cruz struck out. The umpire made the sign for a strikeout. And the catcher made the sign for a strikeout? Rude.


On April 23, Longoria led off the ninth by popping out. But the batter after him reached — on an infield single. So that brought up Desmond Jennings, with the go-ahead run on first. The leverage index was 3.03. Miller, though, understood the circumstances, and threw two immediate strikes. Jennings, then, was in the deepest of holes. Jeepers creepers!


Pictured is one out. Not pictured is the other out. Desmond Jennings grounded into an inning-ending double play, which I suppose made up for the infield-single travesty.


Finally, No. 1. And we go to the leadoff hitter on April 12, when Miller had that one-run lead in Toronto. This is before Smoak struck out. This is before Martin tapped out. Michael Saunders tried to get the inning going. The leverage index was 3.46. Within three pitches, he had two strikes. Herrgottdonnerwetter!


Saunders struck out. The umpire helpfully pointed him toward the appropriate dugout. Saunders was probably very thankful.

We’ve examined the 10 highest-leverage plate appearances of Andrew Miller’s season. In those 10 plate appearances, Miller has generated 11 outs, six without any contact. Out of the contact, there’s been a pop-up, a weak grounder, a double-play grounder, and a harmless opposite-field fly. Miller has dominated everybody, but he’s somehow been even less fair when the stakes have been higher. Now if only the Yankees could do something about getting him the baseball more often.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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7 years ago

Are these supposed to be videos or stills (if videos, the site doesn’t appear to be loading correctly for me)?

7 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Sullivan

Why? Not that I’m complaining about your always awesome content, but I was looking forward to gifs or videos of darting breaking balls and embarrassing swings. A picture of Brett Gardner standing there, holding the baseball after the catch, is not something that added anything to the article for me.

You are king of the moving pictures, Jeff! Why no moving pictures?

7 years ago
Reply to  phoenix2042

I realize that my comment sounds quite whiny. I apologize.

Your written descriptions are hilarious, as always! I look forward to these kinds of articles.

Ozzie Albies
7 years ago
Reply to  phoenix2042

Why? I have no complaints about the content, it is always nice, but I want GIF file or video with a broken egg and rocking notorious killer. Pictures of Brett Gardner was standing there, holding a baseball after the catch, is not something to add something in the paper for me.

He is the King of the film, Jeff! Why do not you move a file?


I know my review seems pretty nervous. Sorry.

Write an introduction is funny as always! I look forward to such messages.