Cardinals

HRABE: Shelby’s In Good Company

Chris Hrabe
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St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller delivers a pitch in the second inning against the New York Mets at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on May 15, 2013.  UPI/Bill Greenblatt

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller delivers a pitch in the second inning against the New York Mets at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on May 15, 2013. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

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It’s no secret to anyone that follows the Cardinals (or even the National League) that Shelby Miller has had a pretty remarkable start to the 2013 season. Last Friday, I wrote about his one-hit, “hidden perfect game” start, one of the most impressive pitching performances I have ever witnessed.

There wasn’t a similar portrait of perfection on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, but Miller turned in another strong performance of shutout baseball, on a night he didn’t have his best stuff.

Miller’s magnificent start might not be as evident nationally, however. I will say, there was a nice notice of last Friday’s outing, and some recognition (more than rightfully so) for the masterpiece by the rookie right-hander. But to this point of the season, all attention paid to young pitchers has been directed to Matt Harvey of the Mets.

Harvey has been magnificent as well. There’s no denying that he is just about the only thing the Mets have going for them. But the caveat lies in the qualifier: AS WELL. If you only paid attention to the national media, or what you see on ESPN, you would think Harvey had commandeered a runaway freight train that was headed straight for the Cy Young, with potential stops for an MVP, Poet Laureate and The Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, before we continue, a few disclaimers. I generally disdain any rally cry by ANY fanbase around a “lack or respect.” I also tend to think that in-season award balloting is pointless, as are any pieces of analysis that contain the phrase “if the season ended today.” The season doesn’t end today. So stop it.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about what Harvey and Miller have done to this point. And that doesn’t mean anything has to be taken away from Harvey. He has been wonderful to this point, as has Miller, and is one of the “must-watch” guys every time he toes the rubber.

I just think it’s impressive how similar the two pitchers are to this point, both having started eight games this season. Here are the numbers through each pitcher’s first eight starts, courtesy of Baseball Reference & Fangraphs:

  • Shelby Miller: 48.1 IP, 33 H, 8 ER, 12 BB, 57 K, 2.38 FIP, 41.1 GB%, 6.0 HR/FB%, 86.5 LOB%
  • Matt Harvey: 56.1 IP, 27 H, 9 ER, 14 BB, 62 K, 2.31 FIP, 44.5 GB%, 5.8 HR/FB%, 87.3 LOB%

The numbers, even the advanced numbers* are remarkably close. But don’t tell that to the national media. Don’t tell that to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci.

Verducci says in his piece on Harvey this week, “You can line up the best pitchers under age 25 right now and I’ll take Harvey — and it’s not even close. And you are talking about a group with Stephen Strasburg, Chris Sale, Matt Moore, Madison Bumgarner, Jose Fernandez and Shelby Miller.”

Granted, Harvey is very good. But so is Shelby Miller. So are Stephen Strasburg, Chris Sale and Matt Moore. As far as I can tell, Verducci’s logic has a lot to do with the Mets not having a “homegrown ace” in recent history. You know, it’s science. Heaven forbid we take anything else into account.

But I digress. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter that national attention is being heaped onto Matt Harvey, despite the fact that there are a lot of young pitchers, Shelby Miller included, putting up absurd numbers over the first quarter of the 2013 season.

What matters is how good Miller has been, and how important he is for this Cardinals team. And Cardinals teams for many years down the road. You don’t need numbers after eight starts to tell you that. But they still look pretty darn good. Even next to Matt “MVP” Harvey.

*You’ll be seeing a lot of advanced statistics in my writing going forward. I’ll let FanGraphs explain it better than I ever could, for those unfamiliar:

  • FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching — Basically, ERA with everyone on a level playing field
  • GB%: Ground ball percentage
  • HR/FB%: Ratio home run/fly ball percentage (obviously, the lower the better)
  • LOB%: Left on base percentage (obviously, the higher the better)
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