Andrew Miller has pitched a little more than 11 seasons in the major leagues. It has been a very strange 11 years because of the fact that he seemed to be two different people.
One Andrew Miller was a bust prospect who not only was on the wrong end of one of the lopsided trades in baseball history but also was in one of the most vilified starting rotations in recent baseball history.
The other Andrew Miller is one of the most consistent relief pitchers in the game, a difference makers who played in 3 straight post seasons with three different teams and won an ALCS MVP along the way.
Harvey Dent would be envious of such a defined split.
The Gainesville Florida native pitched for UNC Tarheels. He was a stand out pitcher for them, winning Baseball America College Player of the Year. In the 2006 draft, the Royals had the top pick and decided to go with Luke Hochevar over Miller. The Tigers, who had the second pick, gobbled up Miller.
He raced through the Tigers farm system and actually pitched for the major league team months after he finished college. While he was eligible to play in the post season for the 2006 Tigers, he was left off of their playoff roster. The Tigers won the pennant that year.
In 2007, Miller went back and forth between the minors and Detroit and did not have much success at the big league level. Still considered to be an elite prospect.
After the Tigers disappointing 2007 campaign fell short of the playoffs, they sent Miller as well as 5 other players to the Marlins. In exchange, the Tigers got the nasty contract of Dontrelle Willis off of Florida’s books.
Oh yeah, they also got Miguel Cabrera.
They got a Hall of Famer. They got a guy whose number will be retired in Comerica Park. They got a guy would win the Triple Crown and a pair of MVPs.
Meanwhile Miller flopped as a starting pitcher for the Fish. His ERA in his first season was over 5.87. He could not stay in the rotation in 2009 as he was smacked around. Tendonitis sent him to the DL. They tried him in the bullpen. How novel. But then would returned to the rotation.
After 2010, the Marlins gave up on Miller. He was dumped to the Red Sox for Dustin Richardson, non tendered and re-signed by Boston. The Miguel Cabrera trade was one of the biggest flops in Florida’s history and Miller was the face of that disaster.
In 2011, the big spending Red Sox had a disastrous finish to their season as the starting rotation imploded down the stretch and lost a playoff spot on the last day. In Miller’s 5 games for the Red Sox in September, including 2 starts, he posted an ERA of 11.70. That isn’t a typo. That’s an 11.
The rotation, known as the Fried Chicken and Beer Crew after their post game meals, let the team down and ultimately cost Terry Francona his job. Miller’s name was attached to that stink as well.
As the Red Sox had a horrific 2012, one bright spot emerged. Andrew Miller was assigned to the bullpen and actually did a decent job. The 28 year old might not be the ace the Tigers and Marlins envisioned, but he was a fine middle reliever.
The Red Sox would go on to win the 2013 World Series with Miller being a solid member of their bullpen in the first half of the season. But torn ligaments in his foot ended his season in July.
Returning from his injury, Miller pitched like never before. As a member of the 2014 Boston Red Sox, he struck out 69 in 42 1/3 innings, pitching to a 2.34 ERA. But with Boston out of contention, they sent him packing to the Orioles for prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
Miller dominated with the O’s, with his 1.35 ERA in 23 relief appearances. The Orioles made it to the ALCS that year.
In the off season he signed with the Yankees, where he had another dominating season and notching a career high 36 saves for the Wild Card squad. Last season he was dealt to the Indians and was nearly unhittable against Boston, Cleveland and the Cubs before finally running out of gas in Game 7 of the World Series.
In 2017, he made his second All Star team and is looking to push the Indians to the title.
And the way that Terry Francona, his former manager in Boston, is using him in Cleveland is novel. He doesn’t need to get the save. As of this writing he has 5 Cleveland regular season saves and 1 post season save. Instead he is a weapon to use at any time.
He can come into the game in the 4th, 5th, 6th or 7th, give a few innings and shorten games. Gone is “The Tyranny of the Save” where the best relievers are used only in the 9th. Miller slams the door at any point.
Miller is a pioneering reliever in the same way that Dennis Eckersley blazed a trail in the 1980’s for the evolution of the closer.
The difference between Eck and Miller is of course Eck was a star in the rotation before he made the transition to the pen.
Miller was a flop as a starter. For the good sake of his legacy, the bad part of his career took place at the start. Now in the second half of his time on the mound, he is building his legend.
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