Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller: Are They the Best Control/Power Duo in MLB?

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIJune 8, 2013

The St. Louis Cardinals have two of the best pitchers in the MLB in Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller, but the two couldn't be more different.

Where Wainwright is one of the best control pitchers since the turn of the century, Miller can simply overpower pitchers despite being a rookie.

The two complement each other nicely, however, and they have emerged as the best power/control duo in baseball. The real question is whether any other combo can even come close.


Breaking Down Adam Wainwright

Wainwright has been an ace for years.

He's posted an ERA of 2.63 or lower in three of his past four seasons, and this year has been his best yet, posting career bests in ERA (2.34), WHIP (1.02), BB/game (0.5) and K/game (7.0).

What's really been impressive about Wainwright is not the fact that he's 9-3 and is one of the early favorites for NL Cy Young, according to ESPN's Bill Baer, but how well he is controlling his pitches.

With 91 strikeouts and just seven walks in 96.0 innings pitched, Wainwright has a stratospheric strikeout-to-walk ratio of 13.0. Baer chronicled Wainwright's ridiculous command in his article about NL Cy Young candidates:

In 89 innings, Wainwright has struck out 84 and walked only six, for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 14-1. Among all starting pitchers since 1901 to toss enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, only two have finished with a double-digit strikeout-to-walk ratio: Bret Saberhagen (11.0) in 1994 with the Mets, and Cliff Lee (10.28) in 2010, splitting time with the Mariners and Rangers. Wainwright has had more games with zero walks (seven) than games in which he walked a batter (five). At his current pace, Wainwright would easily eclipse Saberhagen's record.

Wainwright has been painting the corners, and his numbers show it. He has the fewest walks in the MLB of anyone with at least 78.0 innings pitched and is tied with Clayton Kershaw for the second-most strikeouts in the NL.

He's not going to walk you. Adam Wainwright has gone to a 3-2 count on 3 batters. All of struck out.

— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) June 7, 2013

Tonight, Adam Wainwright struck out seven and walked one...and his K:BB went down. Freakish.

— The Outside Corner (@Outside_Corner) June 8, 2013

Jon Tayler of Sports Illustrated documented Wainwright's performance against the Colorado Rockies on May 11 and marveled at his mix of control and power:

Wainwright’s performance was a gem, with the Cardinals’ ace mixing power with punishing offspeed offerings to flummox the Rockies. In 120 pitches, Wainwright launched 45 four-seamers and sinkers, averaging 90-92 mph and hitting 95, adding in a devastating curveball that frequently dropped in the strike zone or got weak waves from Colorado’s hitters. All told, Wainwright tossed 120 pitches, 88 for strikes, and never threw more than 19 pitches in any inning.

Wainwright simply doesn't walk batters, and he makes you beat him by taking the bat off your shoulder and swinging at his filthy pitches.

That's what makes him one of the most feared pitchers in the big leagues.


Breaking Down Shelby Miller

You wouldn't think that a rookie pitcher would be able to completely overpower hitters and knock the bats out of their hands, but Miller has found a way to do it.

His command isn't quite as good as Wainwright, but Wainwright should be envious of his power. According to Yahoo! Sports' Tim Brown, he can hit 97 mph with ease:

His fastball command still isn't quite what he wanted. It's still big – he ran it up to 97 mph when the big boys came along in the middle innings with men on base – but not as precise as he'd like.

Usually, 22-year-olds with fastballs that approach 100 mph are very raw, and hitters eventually catch up and hit them hard.

Not Miller.

As Brown mentions in his article, Miller got hit hard by the Los Angeles Dodgers but would work to come back in his next start:

Miller had just gone 5 1/3 hard innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He spoke softly. He'd managed to match Clayton Kershaw for the most part, put the game into the arms of his bullpen and watch as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Dodgers on their way out of town.

He'll come back in a few days, work on it in the bullpen, then try again on Friday night against the San Francisco Giants. These things take time. He's 22. He's been doing this – here, in the big leagues, for the Cardinals, against these lineups – since early September.

Miller came right back and shut down those pesky defending World Series champs, throwing seven shutout innings, scattering six hits and a walk while striking out seven.

There's no doubt that he has become one of the best pitchers in the game today, and Twitter has taken note of the 22-year-old phenom:

In his rookie season, Shelby Miller is not only the league ERA leader, but also the favorite to start the All-Star Game and Cy Young leader

— Stephen Westfall (@MUScubaSteve) June 8, 2013

Miller's latest performance came against the Arizona Diamondbacks, during which he fanned nine in six innings and hit his first career home run.

Screw the home run.Shelby Miller should be walking very tall because he is 7-3 and leads the league with a 1.91 ERA.Darn impressive.

— Bob Netherton (@CardinalTales) June 7, 2013

His raw power and developing control and curve make him a fierce opponent, and MLB hitters need to watch out for Miller.


Is There Anyone Else Out There?

We know that Wainwright and Miller make up a nasty duo, but there are a few one-two punches who can put up a fight when it comes to outstanding control and power.

The Detroit Tigers boast Justin Verlander's insane power with Max Scherzer's solid control.

The Los Angeles Dodgers send out Clayton Kershaw's underrated power and Zack Greinke's impressive control.

The Washington Nationals have flamethrower Stephen Strasburg (when healthy) and control freak Jordan Zimmermann.

Verlander's fastball consistently gets faster as the game wears on to the point where he can easily throw over 100 mph in the ninth inning. However, Scherzer's control is not up to Wainwright's standards, walking 20 batters in 83.1 innings and posting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just 5.0 compared to Wainwright's 13.0.

Edge: Wainwright and Miller.

Greinke and Kershaw both have solid power and control, but neither can even compare to the control of Wainwright and power of Miller. Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in the game, but Greinke certainly weighs down this duo.

Edge: Wainwright and Miller.

Finally, Strasburg's speed and power can certainly top Miller's. He was also prized for his power as a rookie, but Strasburg was hitting triple digits and coupled that with a hard slider. However, Zimmermann's control can't come close to Wainwright's (whose can?), as he has already walked 11 batters in 87.2 innings pitcher for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just under 8.0, which is still light years behind Wainwright's 13.0.

Edge: Wainwright and Miller.

Wainwright and Miller are simply the best in baseball, and that becomes all the more obvious when comparing numbers between the four duos.

Adam Wainwright 9-3 96.0 2.34 1.02 91 7 13.0 3.5
Shelby Miller 7-3 75.1 1.91 0.98 81 17 4.8 3.2
Justin Verlander 8-4 80.0 3.71 1.35 93 26 3.6 1.5
Max Scherzer 8-0 83.1 3.24 0.89 100 20 5.0 2.2
Clayton Kershaw 5-4 93.1 1.93 0.96 91 26 3.5 3.6
Zack Greinke 3-1 37.0 3.89 1.49 27 11 2.5 0.4
Stephen Strasburg 3-5 74.1 2.54 1.06 73 21 3.5 1.0
Jordan Zimmermann 8-3 87.2 2.16 0.91 53 11 4.8 2.3

The verdict is in, and it's not even close. Wainwright and Miller make up the best power/control duo in the MLB by a landslide, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if the NL Cy Young goes to a St. Louis pitcher.


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