The Astros know Andrew Miller. It wasn’t long ago that the Astros really liked Andrew Miller, so much so that this past winter, the Astros tried to sign Andrew Miller. Now as they get ready to take on the New York Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, Andrew Miller is the last man the Astros want to see.
In the first year of a 4 year/$36 million deal, Miller saved 36 games in 38 tries for the Yanks, striking out 100 batters in 61.2 innings. After bouncing around from team-to-team and role-to-role, Miller has become the great player everyone expected he would almost a decade after the Tigers selected him with the sixth pick of the 2006 draft.
Miller was selected one spot ahead of Clayton Kershaw nine years ago, and on top of a $3.55 million signing bonus, he was handed a Major League contract that guaranteed him $5.45 million, which isn’t actually allowed anymore. Following three appearances in the Florida State League, he made his Big League debut, three weeks after signing with Detroit, pitching on a club that ended up in the World Series. He went back and forth between the Tigers and the minors in 2007, then, in December, he was a centerpiece in the package sent to the Florida Marlins for Miguel Cabrera.
That’s when the wheels started to come off. He made 29 appeacances (20 starts) for the Marlins in 2008 and finished with a 5.87 ERA. The next season he took a Big League mound 20 times (14 starts), and in 2010, that number dropped down to 9 (7 starts) with an ERA approaching 9. He was traded to the Red Sox that November and was non-tendered. Without much interest on the open market, the Red Sox brought him back on their terms. He spent the next two seasons bouncing between Boston and Class-AAA Pawtucket, but it was 2012, when things changed. Miller became a full-time reliever.
The Astros only saw Miller once this season. At Yankee Stadium on August 24, he struck out two in a scoreless inning. In that outing, he allowed a single leadoff single to Evan Gattis an absurd 3-2 slider.
Nobody else was quite as lucky, or good.
On the first pitch to Luis Valbuena, he missed with a 97 mile per hour fastball. Here is the next pitch.
Ok, you’re knees aren’t supposed to buckle on a 1-0, get-me-over slider. That just isn’t fair. Valbeuna took the next slider for strike two, though he thought it missed outside. After Miller missed with his heater on the next two pitches, he stopped playing.
Oh, ya, that’s the other thing about Miller. He’s quick to the plate. I had had him somewhere around 1.2 seconds from first move to the catcher’s glove, which is outstanding, especially for a closer who are normally slower to the plate and susceptible to allowing stolen bases. Not Miller. Opponents swiped one bag against him in 2015, but enough about base running. We have one more hitter to get to. Chris Carter followed Valbuena, and remember, this game was played in August. September Chris Carter was still a week away.
Pitch 1: Fastball
97 at the knees, fun stuff.
Pitch 2: Slider
Where did the ball go?
Pitch 3: Slider
Might have been the last pitch of the at bat.
Pitch 4: Fastball
After back-to-back devastating 2-out sliders, there’s 97 mile per hour cheese for you! Sweet!
Opponents hit .151 against Miller in 2015. With runners in scoring position, that number drops to .125 with 18 strikeouts in 40 at bats. He finished with a 5-1 K/BB rate, and struck 30 in 15 innings during September. He’s not impossible to get to, just ask the Blue Jays a couple of weeks ago, but if enters the game Tuesday night with a lead, it will probably be time for the Astros to start looking ahead to 2016 and thinking back to what might have been had Andrew Miller taken Jim Crane’s money, instead of the Steinbrenner’s.Follow @AdamSpolane