In his first start as an Oakland Athletic, Tom Milone pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just six baserunners, which should prompt him to become a pretty big waiver wire pickup today. It was not all good for Milone however, as he struck out no batters and walked three along the way.
Many were beating the Milone drum this offseason, I certainly saw him as a sleeper candidate but I was not quite as bullish as some. His numbers at triple-A last season do give reason to believe he will strike out enough batters to be useful in that category, but that has not quite been the case in his six Major League starts to date — he maintains a 3.97 K/9 over those six starts.
Even though his strike out rates have been less than stellar, his impeccable control has allowed him to be rather successful, posting a 2.91 ERA and a 3.62 FIP in the bigs. It is still possible that his strikeout rate never climbs to a respectable rate, as his fastball sits at an average of 87.4 MPH for his career and averaged just 85.4 MPH last night. Even if he maintains a mark around 4.00 K/9 throughout the year, Milone could be in for a Mark Buehrle type year.
That type of production is certainly not top tier in any sense, but it does have a place on roto rosters. In deeper leagues and AL only, Milone becomes even more valuable.
One potential issue is that Milone does not record many ground balls. This could be just a small sample situation, but he netted just a 30.6% in his five starts last season and recorded just nine ground balls yesterday compared to 15 fly balls or line drives. It is an issue worth monitoring, as his low home run allowed rate would likely increase over a bigger sample if his ground ball rate remains so low. To help with that issue is that his home park is extremely pitcher friendly and his team’s outfield defense should be pretty solid.
I do not absolutely love Milone and I am not rushing to pick him up off the waiver wire in every league, but he is a player I think could add some value to rate stats. If you need pitching immediately, he is not a bad target. I would wait a bit longer and see if he can pump his strikeout rate up just a tad and see if he can maintain that low home run rate before I picked him up.