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Shelby Miller’s Debut, Animated

Cardinals right-hander Shelby Miller was ranked fourth overall among all prospects by our Marc Hulet on his preseason top-100 list and within the top 10 on most other lists of that sort. Despite a poor start to his season at Triple-A Memphis, Miller was excellent over his last 10 starts there, posting a 70:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 59 innings.

After being officially recalled to the majors on Tuesday, Miller made his major-league debut in relief on Wednesday afternoon against the New York Mets, posting this mostly cartoonish line in a 6-2 Cardinals loss (box): 2.0 IP, 7 TBF, 4 K, 0 BB, 2 GB on 3 batted-balls (66.7%), -0.16 xFIP.

Below is a brief examination of what Miller threw in his first major-league appearance — along with some Action Footageâ„¢ of how threw it.

Fastball

Reports on Miller’s fastball (a) generally situate it in the mid-90s somewhere and (b) are almost entirely glowing. Indeed, Miller’s fastball produced great results on Wednesday: he recorded four whiffs on 21 thrown (19.1%), which is considerably above league average for the pitch (which itself is around 7%). He also got called strikes with the fastball on a pair of two-strike counts (against Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda). In sum, Miller’s fastball was worth 1.2 runs above average in just this single outing.

Regarding Miller’s velocity, however, it wasn’t at all consistent in his two-inning appearance — or, rather, it consistently rose as he went along.

Consider, for example, this hastily crafted graph-chart:

Miller’s 21st and final fastball was more than 5 mph faster than the first one he threw. That Miller’s velocity increased runs contrary to that idea we might have of how a pitcher — one making his debut, in particular — might be affected by adrenaline or nerves. Complicating any conclusions we might reach about Miller’s velocity is the fact that this was, quite literally, his first relief appearance as a professional.

Here’s footage of Miller’s fastestball, a called strike three at 95 mph against Lucas Duda to end the seventh inning:

And here’s Miller striking out a resigned-looking Ike Davis, also in the seventh. Note: all of Miller’s fastballs to left-handed batters were middle of the plate and away.

Changeup

Miller threw five changeups on Wednesday, all of them against left-handed batters (although, it should be noted, 23 of the 29 total pitches he threw were to left-handed batters). Miller threw his change on the hard side, between 84 and 87 mph, against the Mets, and occasionally with armside run in the 9-inch area (as opposed to league average, which is generally around 6-7 inches).

Here’s Miller throwing one of his runnier* changeups and inducing a swinging-strike from Daniel Murphy:

*Denotes technical scouting term.

Curveball

PITCHf/x suggests that Miller threw two curveballs and one slider on Wednesday, but reports on the right-hander generally identify just the former of those two pitches. As one can see from this PITCHf/x chart of Miller’s appearance — and, specifically, the triumvirate of data points apart from the others — the three pitches were not terribly different in terms either of horizontal or vertical movement (while the range in velocity, 78-82, was also rather small):

Of the three curves Miller threw, two of them were to right-handed batters (i.e. one-third of the pitches he threw to right-handers) — nor it would be surprising to see Miller utilize the curve more often against right-handed than left-handed batters in the future.

Here’s a curve thrown by Miller at 78 mph to Ruben Tejada in the seventh inning, to open the latter’s plate appearance:

Data from Brooks Baseball was helpful in the composition of this post.