Shelby Miller’s pitch usage changed last year. Per PITCHf/x, his cutter percentage jumped from 5.8% to 20.7% while his curveball percentage fell from 19.5% to 9.7%. He also employed his fastball differently. His four-seam — a pitch known for its explosiveness — was thrown just 32.7% of the time, down from 61.6%. Conversely, his two-seam percentage climbed from 10.3% to 33.8% (and his ground-ball rate rose from 39.9% to 47.7%).
The hard-throwing right-hander’s changeup usage remained relatively static, inching down from 2.4% to 2.2%.
Miller had success with his new approach. In his first-and-only season with the Braves, the former Cardinal established a new career high in innings pitched, and his 3.02 ERA, 3.45 FIP and 0.57 HR/9 were career lows.
Earlier this week, I asked the 25-year-old Arizona Diamondback about the thought-process behind his changes, and whether we might see anything different this season.
Miller on throwing more two-seamers: “I knew it could help me get deeper into games and be a more efficient pitcher. In 2013 and 2014, in St. Louis, I relied on my four-seamer a lot. I’d go five innings, five-plus, six once in awhile. I wasn’t getting deep; I wasn’t getting into to the seventh and eighth like I wanted to.
“I throw a lot of fastballs. When you throw four-seams the whole time, guys foul them off. And it’s flat, so they see it better. I know that mine [has good carry], so I do use it a lot up in the zone. It’s still one of my favorite pitches. It’s what I control the best and I rely on it a lot.
“When you’re only throwing a four-seamer, guys see it and see it and see it. I think you have to mix it up. A sinker is a great pitch. It looks like a four-seam fastball and at the last second it moves. It has a couple inches of sink, which can be the difference between a fly ball and a ground ball.
“The sinker allows me to give a hitter a different look. Everybody is different. Some hitters are better than others, and some people hit sinkers better than others. It’s really more about going in with a game plan. You’re not trying to overpower guys with sinkers. It’s more a pitch for double-play situations and early in the count when you’re trying to get ground balls. You have longer at bats and you have shorter at-bats, and my motto is, ‘Try to get guys out with three pitches or less.’”
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