Andrew Miller Shut Down

Virgil Vasquez will start on Friday night meaning that a spot on the 25 man roster needed to be created. That spot was formerly held by Andrew Miller. And this doesn’t sound like roster maneuvering. Danny Knobler reports that Miller will start working with Chuck Hernandez to prepare for 2008.

Miller was certainly rushed to the big leagues and handing him a spot in the rotation – and expecting him to hold it the rest of the season – was foolish. I had no problem with him making some spot starts or taking a couple turns in the rotation while guys were injured. But putting a young man in the rotation who didn’t even have a full season pro season to

  1. 1. Build stamina
  2. 2. Refine a 3rd pitch

was a poor decision.

His inability to consistently throw strikes manifested itself in 100 pitch 5 inning outings that screamed he just wasn’t ready. The stuff is there, and it was on display as he’d strike out the side in an inning. But the consistency wasn’t, as in those same innings he’d issue a couple walks between said strikeouts.

Now instead of having a pitcher they can count on in 2008 – like with Verlander going into 2006 – they are going to have to hope for a nice spring and that he can progress at the major league level.

I’m glad they are calling it a season for him. I just wish they hadn’t rushed matters in the first place. This was a Jim Leyland decision and I’m disappointed that Dave Dombrowski let him sign off on it. It’s Leyland’s job to give the team the best chance to win each day. It’s Dombrowski’s job to position the team to win each year. And I worry that this has short circuited his development.

Tigers tell Miller to get ready for 2008 – Detroit Tigers


  1. Jim

    August 30, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Bilfer, when I become a GM would you work for me?

  2. Crunruh

    August 31, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Hold it! If you had written this column on July 19, I would salute you. On July 19, Miler was 6-3 with a 3.18 ERA after 8 games. Most of us felt he was here to stay. In four of the the five games after that he didn’t do so good (but he wasn’t the only one.) The talent evaluators thought he was ready to take a shot, and for awhile they were right. I don’t see anything boneheaded on Leyland’s part in this move and I don’t see how throwing a 100 pitches at AA batters would have furthered his development more than throwing 100 at major leaguers. I fully expect him to be in the rotation come 2008.

  3. Vince in MN

    August 31, 2007 at 1:59 am

    Bilfer, interesting comments on the weight of Leyland’s input with Dombrowski. The first inkling I had that there was “something rotten in Denmark” was last year when they picked up Neiffi Perez. This is purely speculation on my part, but the deal didn’t make a lot of sense (Cubs fans were ecstatic thet we took him off their hands) until you took into consideration that Perez had had his best year when he played for Leyland SIX YEARS before. Then over the past winter, the Jose Mesa pickup had everybody scratching their heads (a 40 yr old RH to replace the LOOGY we lost in Walker), but my guess is that that was Leyland’s doing as well, probably for similar reasons. For most of last season, with the Tigers great start, Leyland’s “unusual” handling of personnel didn’t get much attention, but from the last part of last year through the present, this aspect of his game planning (or lack thereof, depending on your point of view) has gotten considerably more attention: the funny lineups, sticking with failing players too long while more deserving ones sit on the bench, the constant shuffling of pitchers back and forth from Toledo/Erie, force feeding Miller and Maybin, etc. Occasionally these strategies work out (e.g. Miller for a while, Raburn), but for the most part they appear to be an over reliance on hunch playing rather than considered thought. However, as you said, DD has to sign off on all the personnel changes if not the day-to-day use of the 25-man squad, so it may be unfair to blame Leyland entirely.

  4. Mike R

    August 31, 2007 at 3:55 am

    Leyland making a bad decision? I’m shocked, SHOCKED I say.

    For real though, He was rushed for sure and I hope this does not stunt his growth. He easily could’ve been a LH Verlander with a ton more movement and 3 pitches. Now, he’s closer to a Bonderman — 2 pitches, though dominant, he’s inconsistent. Shutting him down is good, but why aren’t we sending him to the Arizona Fall League where he could work on his change up and command in general? It’s good competition and a great opportunity to refine his stuff. The Innings I suppose could be what keeps him out of there as they may not want to put too many innings on his arm in one season, but still.

    I know this has nothing to do with anything from this post, but what is the purpose of Cameron Maybin being up if he’s not going to get regular AB’s?

  5. Cameron in Singapore

    August 31, 2007 at 4:16 am

    And all this is more reason why we shouldn’t have just given Maroth away earlier this year. Everyone was talking about our “surplus” of starting pitching; where did that go? Maroth was certainly not a world-beater but it would be better having him in the rotation than a question mark every fifth day.

  6. Bill A \ Kal MI

    August 31, 2007 at 7:40 am

    that kid ( Miller ) came out last time and pitched his heart out. no one could have asked for more effort

    trouble was the youngster didn’t think his best would be good enough and was over-throwing his pitches

    and this comes from a lack of confidence and that comes from a lack of experience

    if he’d just got up there and threw what he’s got at the Royals he’d done just fine

    what we are looking at is a coaching problem. Leyland has done the right thing here for Miller.

    the trouble Leyland has is that he doesn’t have the personnel to build a regular 5 man starting rotation and back it up with a tradituional bullpen. as a result he may have to start using the people he does have more effectively

  7. billfer

    August 31, 2007 at 8:05 am

    Crunruh –

    Do I get credit if I wrote in on June 22nd?

    Miller Stays

    Or if I looked at one of his best starts and worried about his reliance on the fastball?

    I know people haven’t been around all season, but I’ve been very consistent on Andrew Miller and I was chided for it repeatedly.

  8. Thinking Man

    August 31, 2007 at 8:50 am


    I totally agree about Miller, he was rushed along too fast. He, essentially, only has one pitch, which was good enough to get him to the Show (that in itself is truly amazing). But the rules are different at the Major League level. You must have more than one pitch and you must throw strikes consistently. Until Miller can do those two things, he will struggle at the Major League level. Look at Verlander … he has three above average pitches. That’s why he has succeeded.
    As I wrote in earlier posts, I think both Miller and Maybin were rushed. How long was Maybin in Erie, 10 days? I don’t care how well he did in those 10 days, he needed to stay and play. He still looks like a high school kid to me …. he just needs to mature as a ballplayer and physically (drink some protein shakes, kid!).
    If Dombrowski is smart, which I think he is, he’ll add a veteran starter for 2008 and get a serviceable outfielder to at least platoon with Thames in left. I would let Maybin play at least 50 games at Erie to start next season and if he’s doing really well, move him up to Toledo for another 50 games.
    One other thing I have to get off my chest …. why in the world doesn’t Leyland move Granderson to third in the lineup? I think he’s a natural for that spot, especially with Sheffield out. You can do lead-off by committee …. Raburn, Infante, Maybin. My thinking is that even if the lead-off spot doesn’t do well, you still have Polonaco getting on base a lot and setting the table for Grandy and Maggs. Granderson or Timo/Casey in the three hole … it seems like a no-brainer!

  9. Jim

    August 31, 2007 at 9:29 am

    To the poster about using Maroth: Maroth was stinking this year and is doing the same for St. Louis. Would have rather seen spot starts from 3 rookies (Vasquez,Tata,Juirrens) and go with one that performed consistantly.

  10. Musa D

    August 31, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Billfer, your long-held opinion is indeed vindicated.

    I’m curious how we know which roster decisions are Leyland’s, in general or in this particular case. Has this been written about somewhere?

  11. Kyle J

    August 31, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Bilfer had indeed been consistent on this topic. And what did DD/Leyland think they’d get out of Miller over the course of the second half of a season. Could you expect anything much better than a 4.50 ERA from a kid with only a few months of professional experience? In that case, why not go with a Durbin/Miner, who will pitch in the 4.50-5.00 ERA range, and let Miller get a full year of development in the minors.

    I think they got deluded by Verlander’s success. But you can only push that so far–Verlander had a full year in the minors.

  12. Matt in Toledo

    August 31, 2007 at 10:12 am


    I give you credit for sticking to your guns on this one. I did a look at his first start and concluded he wasn’t going to have continued success if he didn’t start missing some bats, but kind of wavered when he seemed to be doing well a few more starts in.

    Good call.

  13. Stephen

    August 31, 2007 at 10:23 am

    Boy, 5-5 5.63 ERA is not a bad start.

    Someone named Greg Maddux went 6-14 with a 5.61 ERA in his first full year at a time when 5.61 probably meant 6.25 in today’s league. I’m not a Leyland fan, but this experience is gonna help Miller more than hurt him. He was going to go thru this phase whether it be this year or next. There’s no assurance if he had stayed at AAA that he’d be any better prepared for 08. If he had, we’d be saying’he has electric stuff but how will he do at the major league level?’

    This is what you do with prospects in the modern age: you put them in the deep end and they sink or swim. If they sink, like Miller did in the second half of his audition, you throw them a life preserver. Look at Alex Gordon; he hit about a buck 180 in the first two months, has hit .285ish since and he’s got this year under his belt coming into ’08.

    The Tigers handled this exactly right. They shut him down when he got ineffective and kept his innings pitched for his first full professional year at a completely acceptable level.

    And I never thought I’d write the above sentence.

  14. Ryan S

    August 31, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Yeah, I think those who argued in favor of playing more cautiously with Miller have been proved right. You just can’t live in the Major Leagues with one pitch.

    This experiment backfired in many ways. Of course it’s jeopardizing the future of a pitcher who we’re hoping to be a future ace. It probably also made our bullpen woes worse than they already were. Miller never made it past the 5th inning in the second half. That’s a lot more innings for Grilli and Co.

  15. Ryan S

    August 31, 2007 at 11:12 am

    Stephen, I’d counter your claim that this did no harm by suggesting that’d we’ve basically lost a year in his development. If we have any hope of him developing an off speed pitch, it’s going to take some time in the minors. That keeps him off the major league roster some if not all of next year. He doesn’t start until ’09 (best case late ’08).

    If they had sent him back to Eerie at the All Star break, he might have been able to develop that extra pitch and be primed to start ’08 in the rotation.

  16. Haiku Man

    August 31, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Miller was sent down
    One-Pitch Pitchers never win
    What were they thinking?

  17. Stephen

    August 31, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Ryan, I don’t agree. We’re talking 50 days since the all-star break where he’s benefitted from major league coaching and picking the brains of guys like Rogers. We think Miller is gonna learn more in Erie where the closer is a 40-year-old Alan Mills who hasn’t played in seven years? On those long 7 hour bus trips instead of working with top notch strenght and conditioning coaches? He can spend September, October and then January and February working on a 3rd pitch. I’m not saying he turned out to be ready, he did at first and then clearly did not, but you don’t have a guy come up pitch lights out–he was the second best starter for his first month–and then pack him off. You give him a chance and when he hits his learning curve, you shut him down and send him for a refresher class.

    And this is the major leagues! We’re in a pennant race, we have tons of pitching injuries, you pitch the best possible guy you have and, for a while, Miller was the best #5 starter we had.

    And I hate to say this, but the Bonderman comparisons don’t wash. The problem with Bonderman isn’t that he needed a third pitch, everyone could use a third pitch, but the fact is he’s just not very smart. I don’t think he has the intellect to adjust on the fly which means he will probably always be an above average starter with great stuff but never a great pitcher. There’s ton of guys like that, Jaret Wright, about five-six years ago, comes to mind. Pavano etc…

  18. Jim

    August 31, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    That second Jim isn’t me!

  19. Ryan S

    August 31, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Forgive me for being skeptical that he’ll pickup an effective breaking ball by talking to Kenny Rogers. I agree that the advice of an ML pithcing staff is valuable. But you learn skills by doing, not talking. And how is he going to learn this stuff in the offseason? Throwing bullpen sessions?

    He needs time to try this stuff out against real batters in game situations. That means the minors. If we don’t have guys in the farm system that can teach a pitcher a new pitch, we’ve got bigger problems than what to do with Andrew Miller.

  20. Stephen

    August 31, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I hear you about the breaking ball. But, at worst, i think the trade-off of real world experience versus more classroom time is a wash.

  21. Stephen

    August 31, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Here’s a comparison which admittedly is not perfect. NFL teams would only send their most marginal projects to the now-defunct NFL Europe. The quality of play was mediocre, coaching wasn’t great, and players picked up bad habits–i.e. forcing a ball into coverage that you can get away with against scrubs that is going to be picked off and returned agains even the woebegone Lions.
    Miller has learned the hard way some of the slop that would strike out guys in Erie won’t work at this level. That’s a lesson everyone–whatever your profession–has to learn the hard way; by failing. It’s gonna make him that much more intent on fine-tuning that third pitch. It’s one thing for a AA coach to tell you work on your curve, and another to be in KC and go ‘holy crap, i better improve my curve or i ain’t gonna have that career i thought i was going to have.’

  22. jvwalt

    August 31, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    I’m with the apparent minority on this one. I don’t see a big problem with pitching Miller in the major leagues, and I see a number of positive reasons why to do it:

    — A lack of alternatives. The Tigers needed fresh arms to get through the season. And although I will always admire Mike Maroth for his survival of the 2003 debacle, he was not the answer anymore.

    — The organization has had a lot of success with young pitchers on the major-league roster. It didn’t work as well with Miller, but he did pitch creditably, at least some of the time. He was better than Maroth, at the very least.

    — I don’t see why 2007 will stunt Miller’s growth, unless: (a) he blew out his shoulder, which he didn’t, (b) he’s an idiot, and he decides that he who doesn’t have to be coached anymore, or (c) his coaches are too stupid to keep him on track. If he’s handled properly, 2007 should be a positive experience for Miller — just like 2003 was for Bonderman.

  23. Kathy

    August 31, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Hundreds of pitchers are drafted every year, and how many make it to the bigs? Not very many. The Tigers brass think they have an Ace, but surely they must know by now, he may not have the fortitude to be one. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    I don’t know how to do the quote thing, but I wrote this down several months ago. So, here’s a quote by Tommy John:

    “There is simply no such thing as a starting pitcher who has a long career with a low strikeout rate.”

  24. Matt in Toledo

    August 31, 2007 at 1:01 pm

    I think there’s something being missed in the argument of whether the Tigers should have brought Miller up or not. The fact that Leyland pushed for the move tells me, like Billfer said, he was trying to put the best pitcher on the mound every fifth day.

    Leyland presumably looked at Durbin, Miner, Jurrjens and whoever else and figured he’d take his chances with the kid whose stuff could allow him to pitch lights out on any given night.

    I think that’s the mistake the Tigers made as far as Miller’s future. I think they called him up, not because they thought it was best for his development, but because they thought they needed him on the team. All that “he can pick pitcher’s brains” and “learn from Kenny Rogers” stuff sure sounds like rationalization and afterthought to me.

    I think this idea is further supported by a story I remember from the offseason where they reported Leyland asked what he had to do to get Miller on the team and Dombrowski told Leyland Miller would have to start. That implies Leyland was angling to get him on the roster even if it meant putting him in the bullpen. Do you think THAT would have been good for his development?

    I admit I’m using hindsight here, but it seems their mistake was to look at Miller and other options, and opt for him for (perhaps) a small benefit now in favor of further development and a larger benefit later.

    Also, a third pitch isn’t Miller’s only problem. He has struggled with his control for as far back as we have stats, and his final season of college was the only time it went from being problematic to just questionable. He can get by without a third pitch, but he can’t get by walking a batter every other inning for an entire season as a starter.

    I’ve probably gone on too long already, but I just thought I’d chip in some thoughts on this topic.

  25. Brian

    August 31, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    Another issue with moving Miller along so quickly is that his trade value has probably taken a hit. Last year’s audition seemed to confirm that his control was questionable, but it also showed off his potential ace-level stuff. His value was high and his upside very tempting.

    Now people are starting to question whether this year has either damaged his growth as a pitcher or revealed perhaps fatal flaws that will keep him from being a top of the rotation starter. Personally, I have my concerns but I think some people, mostly on other blogs, are making too much out of Miller’s performance this year. Still, you know that other GMs are going to try and use Miller’s struggles to squeeze DD on any potential trades.

  26. William

    August 31, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    I agree with Stephen–I don’t think it was that bad a decision, and honestly, I don’t think it will hurt his trade value (if that is even a question).

    I think he will be fine in time, and I agree with the stance that Bonderman vs Miller is not a fair comparison. I look for Miller to be a better pitcher than Bonderman. Maybe in 2009, we can look forward to a JV-JB-Jurrjens-Miller-Porcello rotation.

    That said, it was time to shut him down. No sense in ruining his confidence even more at the present time–and losing games in the process.

  27. Coach Jim

    August 31, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Calling him up was the right thing to do. He was super-hyper-mega dominating at AA, and for a while he carried that success to the bigs. I also agree that we should shut him down now. Its rare to have a 21 or 22 year old kid that can throw 200 innings (Dwight Gooden?), so I won’t bum out about it.

    Miller’s curve has decent break, its just the control that needs to improve.

    The only argument for staying in the minors, and this applies even to JB, is to develop a 3rd pitch. In the minors you can work on it without the pressure of winning…or at least with much less pressure.

    If we envision Maybin playing LF, he needs to PRACTICE in the minors, or winter ball.

  28. Mike R

    August 31, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Matt summed it up fine.

    And I don’t get how people say this doesn’t hurt his development. He went essentially from the University of North Carolina to the Detroit Tigers and trying to pitch in a playoff race. There’s no way (1) he was physically ready, (2) he was mentally ready, (3) he was pitching ready. And now he’s been shelled on the big league level.

  29. Jim

    August 31, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    I think it was a worthwhile experiment that didnt pan out obviously. Shake it off and move on I guess.