Andrew Miller’s New Harder Slider

Jose Bautista is a quote machine, good and bad. Earlier, Craig Edwards looked at what the Jays outfielder said about the strike zone, and here’s a more benign thing that Bautista said about Andrew Miller’s great slider: “For some reason his slider seems like he’s playing with it a little more,” he told reporters Sunday. “I felt like I saw two different sliders. Sometimes it’s more of a short slider. Sometimes it’s like a little slurve, with a lot more break, a sharper turn on it. As opposed to last year when he was throwing only one type of slider, which was a slurvy one.”

Bautista is right — Miller’s slider is different now. What’s interesting beyond that fact is that, by adding a second slider, Miller may have changed the movement on all of the versions of the pitch.

First, let’s look at the movement and velocity on the pitch earlier this season compared to now. Early in the season, Miller threw some harder sliders that bit less (the orange dots), but now he’s throwing them much more (see the second table by toggling the tab).

Early, 48% sliders had minus two inches of drop or more. Since September first, only 17% of his sliders have had that much movement. You can look at this two different ways.

For one, he’s using the harder slider more. That’s demonstrable in the graphs — you can see more orange dots on the second tab, obviously.

But the another way of looking at it is by looking at the blue dots. His slurvier slider is not getting the same drop as it used to. He’s had three pitches (2.3%) that had a negative four number or higher since September first, and that proportion was five times higher earlier in the season (10.7%).

It’s possible that throwing this harder slider: (84.5mph, -6.5x, 0.8y)

Has made more rare the slurvier sliders that look like this (81.5 mph, -5.3x, -3.8y):

Bautista was right, that Miller is playing with his slider shape. What he may not have realized is that the slurvier slider is becoming extinct. The Blue Jays will have to recalibrate their anticipation of the pitch’s movement.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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7 years ago

From the close ups durning the games it almost looks like a cutter grip. I’ve only seen them in the payoffs so I couldn’t tell you if he’s always done it that way but his grip doesn’t look like the typical slider grip.