In July of 2011 I took a golf trip down to Northwest Arkansas, and made sure to time it so one of the post-golf evening activities would allow me the opportunity to see Shelby Miller pitch in person. At the time, he was being widely regarded by nearly all baseball publications as one of the top prospects in the entire game, and I had to see this phenom for myself.
Miller battled through 5 innings of deep counts that evening, recording 5 strikeouts and walking only 1 batter, while leading the S-Cards to an 8-2 victory over the Wil Myers led Naturals squad. In the process, Miller showed exactly why he was deserving of his widely regarded top prospect status. I remember him consistently sitting between 92-94 mph and topping out at 98 on the stadium gun in his last couple of innings of work. Indeed, it seemed the Cardinals had found themselves a potential future ace, or at bare minimum a solid second fiddle to Adam Wainwright until his time to step up and assume the lead starters role.
Fast forward to 2013, and one of the only big question marks in spring training was which Cardinals pitcher would step up and fill the vacant 5th starter role that opened up as a result of Kyle Lohse moving on via free agency. The battle went back and forth for the duration of the spring between Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Ultimately, the club decided Miller had nothing left to prove at the minor league level and boy were they right.
Miller has come out of the gates with authority this season, posting a 3-1 record, 2.16 ERA, 26 strikeouts against 7 walks, and only 6 earned runs in 25 innings pitched. Had the Cardinals bats not fallen silent in Pittsburgh against A.J. Burnett, it’s very possible Miller could be sitting at 4-0 because he pitched very well in defeat that evening while lasting 6 innings and only surrendering 2 earned runs. Some nights, however, the other guy is just a little bit better, and Burnett proved it to Miller costing him his only loss in the process.
Besides Miller’s natural talent, the biggest key to his early season success has without a doubt been signal caller Yadier Molina. Miller admitted as much in a post game interview with FSNMidwest following a sterling performance against the Brewers in his second start of the season when he said he pitched the entire game without shaking off Yadi’s calls throughout the game one time. It appears Miller has learned early to trust his greatest asset, and now the only thing left to do is execute.
With his talent, paired with Molina’s experience, Miller has the chance to do very special things in St. Louis for many years to come. Here’s hoping nothing short of an injury derails this Texas freight train from barreling down the tracks and through the rest of major league baseball one start at a time.