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Shelby Miller's Pitch Repertoire & the Whiff

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Shelby Miller's four-seam fastball is really good. His other pitches? Well, they aren't all that great.

Jeff Curry

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller put together a stellar rookie campaign that netted him enough votes to finish third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. Miller rode his four-seam fastball to a 3.06 ERA that belied a 3.67 FIP and 3.73 xFIP. Today, we're going to use the wonderful Pitch F/X information available at Brooks Baseball to see how Miller's pitch repertoire performs at inducing whiffs.

Shelby Miller Pitch Usage Rates (2013)

As Joe detailed during the Hot Stove, Miller used his four-seam fastball at a higher rate than any other starter in the the majors last season. And while knowing that Miller threw his four-seamer just under 71% of the time tells us that he used it a heck of a lot, a circle graph shows us just how Miller's four-seam fastball usage dwarfed that of his other offerings.

Batters posted the following swing rates against Miller's various offerings:

  • Four-seamer - 48.79%
  • Curveball - 40.30%
  • Changeup - 36.90%
  • Cutter - 55.74%

The following bar graph shows the results of those swings between whiffs, foul balls, balls in play, and home runs, as a share of total pitches thrown (not just swings).

Shelby Miller Swing Outcomes by Pitch Type (2013)

As you can see, Miller had by far the highest whiff rate with his four-seamer. Whiff rate is calculated by how many swings and misses a pitcher induces out of overall swings. Whiff rate differs from swinging strike rate, which is found at Fangraphs. Swinging strike rate is a measure of how many strikes a pitcher throws are notched via a swing and a miss. Brooks Baseball has whiff rate and Harry Pavlidis has given us whiff rate benchmarks at The Hardball Times, so that's what we're using in the following graphic.

2014

This graphic at once shows just how elite Miller's four-seamer is and just how lacking his secondary offerings are. Miller's four-seamer had a whiff rate in 2013 that was head and shoulders above that posted by his contemporaries. On the other hand, Miller's other pitches lag about as far behind their respective league-average whiff rates as MLB four-seamers do Miller's in whiffs. This spring and beyond, the development of Miller's curve, change, and cutter bears watching.