With so much attention being pointed toward Matt Harvey (well-earned attention, mind you), Shelby Miller slipped through the early weeks of 2013 with little or no national attention despite his accomplishments.
During his first eight starts, however, Miller has put together an impressive rookie effort.
As of the season’s quarter mark, Miller is on pace for 20 wins, 204 innings pitched, 228 strikeouts and only 48 walks.
With his name firmly implanted in the Rookie of the Year discussion, those numbers go far beyond that—they’re Cy Young Award-caliber numbers.
It’s very early in the season, but that’s why we have projections, predictions and analysis.
While expecting Miller to keep up this pace might be unrealistic, it would not be impossible. There’s a reason so much excitement has surrounded his ascension through the minor leagues—it’s because he really is that good.
So, what would Miller need to do to win a Cy Young Award in his rookie effort? Plenty—but, don’t underestimate him.
Most importantly, he needs to keep his run total low.
So far, Miller has surrendered only eight earned runs in 2012. That’s an average of one per start.
His actual ERA, however, is currently tied for the best in MLB at 1.40. It’s safe to say that’s not where he will finish the season, but if he could finish with even as high as double that (2.80), he would have a clear shot at the award.
There’s more to winning a Cy Young Award, though, than just having a good ERA.
Another goal for Miller will be to keep his hits down—way down.
To date, he’s given up 33 hits over eight starts and 51.1 innings pitched. He’s done a good job of keeping hitters at bay simply from the movement on his fastball and samples in the curveball most regularly with two strikes against left-handed batters, according to data from Brooks Baseball.
For now that’s working well, but over time, batters will begin to figure him out, and that will likely require at least some minor adjustment for him.
When the time comes, expect to see expanded use of his off-speed pitches. His four-seam fastball will likely remain his main tool, but the ability to keep batters off-balance is something that will benefit him for years to come.
For a strikeout pitcher, Miller has also kept his walks quite low. Through May 19, he’s walked only 12 of the 83 batters he’s faced. It’s not perfect, but if he can keep his walks near 50, that will go a long way toward keeping him in the running for the pitchers' top honor in MLB.
There has been one flaw in Miller’s game that will need some attention if the Cy Young Award is to become a true possibility.
The problem is that he’s not putting up much of a fight against potential base stealers. Through his first eight starts, runners are 7-of-8 against Miller.
His lack of attention has even made it difficult for Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina to throw out baserunners, having caught only one.
While it is a flaw, it’s not exactly a deal breaker.
There are plenty of other pitchers who will have solid seasons, so who wins the award is all but impossible to predict at this early stage.
With an explosive team behind him and the best active catcher in the game behind the plate, Miller has what it takes to stay in the running throughout the year.