The Closest Thing to Andrew Miller’s Slider

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Padres’ bullpen. More specifically, it was a post about how the Padres could dismantle their bullpen around the trade deadline. I tucked something in near the bottom, but I don’t know how many of you read that post, so here I want it to stand alone. Sorry for repeating myself, if you knew I was repeating myself.

First, to establish what we’re doing: Andrew Miller’s slider is one of the best pitches in baseball, yes? Miller is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he just threw his slider more than half of the time. Miller’s secondary pitch, in 2016, was his primary pitch. Whenever one player does something extraordinary, people wonder who’s going to be next. So, who else, if anyone, throws something like the Andrew Miller slider? There is one name that stands out.

A few years ago, I introduced pitch comps. It’s just a simple method of comparing individual pitches based on velocity, horizontal movement, and vertical movement. Long story short, I looked at all 2016 lefties who threw at least 25 sliders. I ran the math, and just one other slider earns a comp score below 1.0. Granted, that threshold is arbitrary, but it’s what we’re working with. By a good margin, the slider most similar to Andrew Miller’s belongs to Brad Hand.

Slider Comparison
Pitcher Velocity H Mov V Mov Comp Score
Andrew Miller 84.6 5.2 -2.0
Brad Hand 83.8 5.1 -0.5 0.9
SOURCE: Brooks Baseball

Miller has a little more zip, and an inch and a half more sink (on average), but the pitches are siblings, if not quite twins. Here, you can see the pitches in action, courtesy of a perfect Tampa Bay camera angle. Thank you, Tampa Bay! Here’s Miller:

And here’s Hand:

Miller threw his slider 61% of the time. It was a strike 72% of the time, and 48% of all swing attempts missed. Hand threw his slider 31% of the time. It was a strike 61% of the time, and 53% of all swing attempts missed. But it’s worth noting that Hand threw 44% sliders over the season’s final month. His command of it improved. And why wouldn’t it have? The pitch was relatively new. Hand hardly threw sliders until 2015’s second half.

Brad Hand’s slider is not as good as Andrew Miller’s slider. Not yet. But it is a very good pitch, and a very similar pitch, and considering how new it was to Hand last season, who’s to say it couldn’t get better? There are different ways for players to succeed. Andrew Miller blazed his own trail. Brad Hand could now be following in his footsteps.

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

The pitch definitely looks similar, and seems like it should be very effective. This may provide an opportunity to see how attributes other than a pitch’s velocity and movement affect its results.

With Miller, I assume some of his effectiveness comes from his unique angle, which itself comes from his height and the length of his arms. He is also excellent at commanding the pitch both front/backdoor and cutting out of the zone. It will be an interesting case study if Hand’s version is as effective or less effective, and if the latter, whether it can be attributed to his release point or command.

7 years ago
Reply to  Bip

I’m pretty sure some of the smarter people here can figure that out, but I think the relative release point for the batter is the same. Look at where Miller stands on the plate and where Hand positions himself. English isn’t my primary language, so I hope you guys understand what I’m trying to say here.

7 years ago
Reply to  Thizzle13

Yeah it seems like Miller cancels out some of his reach by standing on the 3B side, while Hand stands on the 1B side. I’ve wondered why pitcher’s don’t move around based on batter handedness; so, why wouldn’t Miller also pitch from the 1B side against a lefty hitter?

Alex K
7 years ago
Reply to  Bip

I think that is a couple of things. 1) Habit 2) Consistency of how they have to stay in their mechanics to throw the pitches where they want.

7 years ago
Reply to  Bip

I definitely remember a couple pitchers doing this when I was playing ball growing up. According to this link some major league pitchers do do it (skimming through the biggest name is Liriano I think).