The St. Louis Cardinals have been right in their concerns about Shelby Miller's struggles during his short tenure at Triple-A Memphis. But, Miller isn't the only pitcher who had struggles in his first season at Triple-A.
So far in 2012, Miller has had a very rough time.
From April through June, he was plagued by the long ball. Miller surrendered 16 home runs in only 71 innings pitched over 15 starts. He's averaging 1.8 HR per nine innings pitched.
Considered by most to be a strikeout pitcher, he's got decent strikeout numbers this year (107), but has given up a lot of walks (46). He's also given up 110 hits, and his opponents are batting .279 against him in 2012.
Before we get too concerned, the comparison's to Adam Wainwright's struggles in Memphis should be explained.
In his first full season at Memphis, Wainwright also struggled with the home run. In 182 innings, he gave up 18 bombs. While that's not quite as bad as Miller and also encompasses a whole season, the point is that Wainwright came around and has been very successful.
Wainwright also gave up a lot of hits—204 to be exact. Miller is not on pace to reach that number, but on the other hand, it's also unlikely that he will reach the same number of innings before the Triple-A season ends on Sept. 3.
With any luck, Miller's 60 earned runs won't quite reach Wainwright's 89 for the season either.
In 2005, Wainwright's ERA rested at 4.40. Miller's ERA is currently at 5.44, a full run more than Wainwright.
There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Miller.
In June, the Cardinals changed how they handled his starts. The St. Louis Post Dispatch reported that Miller was no longer allowed to shake off the catcher's call in an effort to get him to hone and improve his off-speed delivery.
Throughout his time in the minors, he has gotten by on his fierce fastball and his curveball, and he has been working on a change-up that continues to develop. That's the pitch they seem to believe will help to pull him out of his slump.
Since the Cardinals changed his routine and let him skip a start to work on his fundamentals, he has begun to show signs of improvement.
In his last four starts, he has thrown two shutouts and had one game with only two runs. He's given up 20 hits over 22 innings, which isn't perfect, but it's definitely a move in the right direction.
He's surrendered only three home runs over his last five starts, with two of those coming in his one poor outing through the period.
Over the same stretch he has also given up only seven walks and piled up 21 strikeouts.
He's not out of the woods yet, but he's still progressing. I hesitate to read to much into the wainwright comparison, but it does help to put his season into perspective.
It's possible he could need a little more time in Triple-A in 2013 before making the transition, but I still expect him to be in St. Louis next season. Most likely, he'll be up as a September call-up in 2012.
Will Shelby Miller be the phenom that he's long been billed as? Only time will tell.
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