Recently on Fantasy Baseball Today, Adam Aizer, Al Melchior and I discussed the players we most regret drafting at this early stage of the season, and the more I think about it, the more I believe Shelby Miller belongs at the top of the list.
Consider me among the disenchanted. I touch on it in the video, but I just can't shake the feeling I should have known better with him.
I struggle every spring to find the right balance between how good the scouting reports say a player should be and how good the numbers say he actually is, having gotten burned more than once by going too far to one extreme or the other. What complicated Miller's situation is that over his first 13 starts last year, he was great by any standard, posting a 2.21 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 10.1 strikeouts per nine inning. But over his final 18, everything changed. He became inefficient, unable to go even six innings in 11 of those starts as he issued 3.9 walks per nine. And so far this season, he appears to have picked up where he left off.
What exactly changed for him is open to speculation. He's tweaked his arsenal over his last dozen starts or so, introducing a cutter to reduce his dependence on the curveball. But given the timing of that change, it may be less the cause of his struggles than an attempted solution. Again, speculation.
But one thing is clear: No matter how good Miller may be, he isn't now and hasn't been for a long time. So to tier him with pitchers like Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Julio Teheran and even Gerrit Cole coming into the season, fully convinced he was as good as he showed in his first 13 starts and that the last 18 were the product of overmanagement and fatigue, was, frankly, a bit reckless.
It wasn't so much where I drafted Miller, who often lasted beyond those four, that gets to me but that I counted on him to be my second starter even though he hadn't done anything to deserve it. I wasn't wrong to like Miller on Draft Day, given his upside, but I shouldn't have trusted him on the level I did.
And that's important to remember even now. Just because I'm disenchanted with Miller doesn't mean I think he's a chump who won't amount to anything this year. It just means I don't value him like I used to. He's now my 36th-ranked starting pitcher and another bad start (maybe today's) from dropping out of the top 40. That's still pretty good, but not must-start good.
Keep in mind, though, he's an exceptional case because of the way the last two-thirds of last season went for him. You'll notice none of us bemoaned drafting Madison Bumgarner, Eric Hosmer, Allen Craig or Carlos Santana. The point wasn't to pick out our slowest starters and rip them for ripping's sake, discounting everything that happened in previous years in response to this one little month. Over time, stats tend to normalize, as we're seeing with Santana now.
It's just that "normal" for Miller remains to be seen, and the bad exceeds the good so far.
Can you think of anyone else who fits the description, someone you feel like you should have known better than to draft given how little you knew about him in the first place? Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu make a compelling case for the other side of the coin, but of course, the hype on them coming into the season revealed something in and of itself.