Greg Holland 2.0 is what some people are saying after an atrocious Spring Training from Andrew Miller. Here’s why I don’t think the St. Louis Cardinals have to brace for that just yet.
Obviously, this would be a rather unfortunate situation if Andrew Miller does in fact struggle in 2019, as he was the marquee bullpen signing of the offseason for the St. Louis Cardinals in one of the biggest offseasons in franchise history.
The Cardinals showed that they learned from their mistakes last offseason with Greg Holland by securing Miller during the traditional free agent signing period and allowing him to acclimate with his new team. Unfortunately, Miller hasn’t really shown the results that would make it seem like that is paying off.
Miller finished Spring Training with a miserable 11.81 ERA in 7 game, which included a 8.82 BB/9. There were some bright spots — he allowed a .250 BAA despite struggling — but the horrendous control problems are reminiscent of Holland’s time as a St. Louis Cardinals.
I’m still not hitting the panic button just yet for a few reasons. The first and possibly the most important reason is that the Cardinals bullpen will be much more well equipped to handle the problems that would come with Miller struggling.
Part of the reason is that the Cardinals have cut down on quite a few stragglers. When you take a look at the current seven relief pitcher that the team is carrying on the active roster, you get a bullpen that compiled an impressive line in 2018.
While the top of the bullpen is much of the same as it was last season, the bottom is what makes the difference. On top of ridding yourself of guys like Chasen Shreve, Tyler Lyons, and the aforementioned Holland, John Gant and Alex Reyes were added to the bullpen.
While Reyes is a question mark, there’s no doubt that his talent is monumentally greater than any reliever the Cardinals explicitly got rid of (this is to exclude Dakota Hudson, who is in fact, very good).
On top of that, the Cardinals organization has several big names waiting for an opportunity to fill a role in the minor leagues. Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce De Leon are two familiar names that have proven that they can compete at the major league, and aren’t on the roster for logistical reasons as opposed to talent.
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Now, back to Miller and his performance, there is a certain philosophy that I use when thinking about Spring Training. The more a player has to prove, the more credible their Spring Training stats are.
Andrew Miller is not someone who needs to prove himself. This isn’t a guy who is on the path to redemption, nor is he a young prospect playing to prove he belongs. While last year was definitely not desirable for Miller, he had compiled a 2.01 ERA over 350 games from 2012-2017. That isn’t just something that is brushed away after a rough season, especially when he isn’t particularly old yet at 34.
I don’t think Miller was particularly worried about performing at an elite level during Spring Training, instead hopefully focusing on working out the kinks so that he can be ready to operate comfortably and effectively for the St. Louis Cardinals during the season.
Andrew Miller has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the past 6 seasons, even with an uncharacteristically poor season under his belt. It’s not an impossibility that he flops, but he has shown that he deserves a chance to perform in the regular season before Cardinals nation comes to a conclusion.