If it weren't for Adam Wainwright ripping off his signature confidence-restoring move, we might have more time to talk about Shelby Miller. Last year Miller escaped a brutal, home-run-filled first half and resumed his climb up the prospect charts by striking out 53 batters against four walks in his last 10 starts. This year Wainwright has justified the nervous insistence of all good DIPS-fearing St. Louis Cardinals fans that he'd already had a fine comeback in 2012 by striking out 28 batters without allowing a walk.
Miller, alas, has a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just 3.71 in his first four starts of the 2013 season. Shelby Miller has now made five starts, overall, and they look like this:
Hey, nice! If these five starts have seemed strangely conflict-free to you—if you've felt as though this whole Shelby Miller thing has gone almost-too-easily—I blame two things. First thing: For a guy who moved further up the Baseball America Top 10 in 2013, Shelby Miller's 2012 was a little worrisome.
Second thing: It seems like it's been forever since a top Cardinals pitching prospect has made his debut without Ominous Overtones built in. Some other five-start runs you might remember gritting your teeth through:
Ominous Overtones: Adam Wainwright is supposed to be the closer now!
Into July, Adam Wainwright's ERA was over 4.60. He didn't walk fewer than three batters in a start until May. This is basically the only good thing about the 2007 season: The Cardinals left Wainwright in the rotation to get beaten up for a while.
Ominous Overtones: There are just too many.
Reyes actually pitched well in his first five starts—his fourth start was his losing one-hitter in Chicago. His next five starts (15 strikeouts, 13 walks, 6.84 ERA) were the disastrous ones.
But the Great Anthony Reyes Wars had already begun between starts one and two—here's lboros on the two-seamer/four-seamer debate in March of 2006. Starts three and four were separated by a month in the minor leagues, even though Reyes was a 24-year-old who was basically done with Memphis.
As it turns out, Anthony Reyes's health was more of a problem than his choice of fastball. But his stuttering MLB debut spoke to all of our anxieties about Anthony Reyes well before they actually showed up in his performance.
Ominous Overtones: What will the Cardinals do with Danny Haren?
Meanwhile: Before the Cardinals gave Anthony Reyes a chance to beat up on AAA for three seasons, they threw Dan Haren into the majors after 16 high-minors starts. Probably an okay decision! But the whole time I remember feeling unnerved about Haren's role in the Cardinals' future. Some of that's probably hindsight escaping from a decade-old trade.
But Dan Haren was the Cardinals' inexperienced top prospect at a moment in which that was a dangerous thing to be. He was just passable in his major league debut, and the Cardinals wanted a genuine, ace-looking guy, and that guy eventually turned into Mark Mulder.
I'm not saying we should be more excited about Shelby Miller now than we were last month. It's five starts—just like it was five starts for Adam Wainwright. They don't mean much. But I'm happy to just watch a Cardinals pitching prospect without the seeds of his own destruction built into his debut.