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Shelby Miller

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Shelby Charles Miller

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Biographical Information[edit]

Shelby Miller was a first-round pick in the 2009 amateur draft.

Miller was 10-2 with a 1.90 ERA as a high school senior, with 154 K in 77 IP and only 40 hits, though he walked 38. He threw four no-hitters in high school. Baseball America named him a second-team All-American in 2009. The St. Louis Cardinals chose him 19th overall in the 2009 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Ralph Garr Jr. for a $2,875,000 bonus, the 7th-highest bonus of any first-rounder and more than #4 Tony Sanchez or #5 Matt Hobgood.

In his pro debut, Shelby allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) in three innings over two games for the Quad Cities River Bandits. Baseball America rated him as the Cards' #1 prospect and having the best fastball in the system. Back with Quad Cities in 2010, Miller began an unimpressive 1-3, 4.79 despite 56 whiffs in 41 1/3 IP. He made the US team for the 2010 Futures Game. Miller relieved Jordan Lyles to open the 7th with a 6-1 US lead. He allowed a leadoff single to PH Eury Pérez, who was thrown out stealing, then got Chun-Hsiu Chen on a grounder. Bryan Morris relieved Miller. He went 7-5, 3.62 in 24 starts for Quad Cities, pitching 104 1/3 innings, but striking out a whopping 140 batters. In 2011, he made 9 starts for the Palm Beach Cardinals, going 2-3, 2.89, then was promoted to the AA Springfield Cardinals, where he went 9-3, 2.70 in 16 starts. He continued to post tremendous strikeout numbers, whiffing 170 batters in 139 2/3 innings.

Millers started the 2012 season in AAA with the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League, where he made 27 starts. His numbers were only so-so - he was 11-10 with a 4.74 ERA, but he kept up his strikeout pace, with 160 in 136 2/3 innings. He earned a call-up to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September and pitched 6 times for the Cards, five of them in relief, going 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 13 2/3 innings, He gave up only 9 hits and 4 walks while striking out 16 opponents. Those numbers were impressive enough for the Cards to add him to their postseason roster in the NLCS, after Jaime Garcia went on the disabled list. He pitched twice in relief against the San Francisco Giants, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Miller was in competition against Joe Kelly for the Cardinals' fifth starter spot in spring training in 2013 and he won that battle by making a couple of solid outings in the late stages of Grapefruit League action. He won his first start of the season on April 6th, defeating the Giants, 6-3. On May 10th, he pitched a fabulous game against the Colorado Rockies: he allowed a single to Eric Young Jr. to lead off the game, then retired the next 27 batters in order to finish with a one-hit shutout. It was the first shutout and complete game of his young career. The next night, Adam Wainwright started the game by retiring the first 13 batters he faced for the Cardinals, which gave the team a streak of retiring 40 consecutive opposite batters, matching the record set by the Texas Rangers on May 3-4, 1996. On June 6th, he hit his first career homer off Matt Reynolds in beating the Arizona Diamondbacks, 12-8, to improve to 7-3. In that game, he struck out 9 and walked none in 6 innings, giving up only 2 of the D-Backs' runs. He finished that season at 15-9, 3.06 in 31 games, logging 173 1/3 innings, but he was hardly used in the postseason as the Cardinals made it all the way to the World Series. He only threw one inning of relief in the Division Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing a run, as commentators wondered why he was not being used after such a strong season. There was never a clear explanation given.

In 2014, his numbers were less sparkling, but still good. He again made 31 starts during the regular season, adding a relief appearance also, and pitched 183 innings. However, his ERA rose to 3.74 and his record fell to 10-9. This time he was given an opportunity to show his stuff in the postseason, however, as he started once against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Division Series and another time against the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. he ended up with a pair of no-decisions, giving up 5 runs in 9 1/3 innings. On November 17th, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves alongside Tyrell Jenkins in return for OF Jason Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden. The Cards felt they had a number of young starting pitchers ready to contribute on a full-time basis, but needed another starting outfielder following the tragic off-season death of Oscar Taveras.

Shelby got his career with the Braves off to a great start in 2015 as he went 4-1, 1.60 over his first 7 starts. His next start on May 17th was a real gem: he held the 2015 hitless until two were out in the bottom of the 9th when Justin Bour spoiled his bid for immortality with a single to center field. Dee Gordon followed with a second single, but Miller then retired Martin Prado to end the game, settling for a two-hit shutout. He needed only 94 pitches to complete the game, and had faced the minimum number of batters heading into the 9th, as Marcell Ozuna, who had walked in the 2nd, had been erased on a double play. He was named the Braves' sole representative to the All-Star Game, but that came in the middle of a tough stretch during which he could not buy a win as his teammates gave him precious few runs to work with. Starting on May 23rd, he made 15 straight starts without a victory, compiling a record of 0-8 in spite of an ERA of 3.16. On August 16th, he pitched 7 hitless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks, then gave up back-to-back singles to Nick Ahmed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia to lead off the 8th and was removed from the game; Ahmed eventually scored the tying run and the game went into extra innings, with Miller once again having nothing to show for a great effort, his 16th straight winless start. On August 21st, his teammates gave him a rare early 3-1 lead against the Chicago Cubs and he allowed only 2 hits over the first 5 innings, but those led to a couple of runs on a solo homer and an error, then gave up two more runs in the 6th and one in the 7th and was charged with a 5-3 loss. He once again blew a late lead in his next start, on August 26th, as he was up 3-0 on the Colorado Rockies in the 7th inning, but he gave up four runs in the frame and was charged with another loss. More non-support followed on August 31st, as he was on the losing end of a 4-0 games against the Marlins. A 4-0 loss to the New York Mets on September 21st gave him 15 straight losses and 23 starts without a win. He finally ended the skein in his final start of the year on October 4th when he tossed 8 scoreless innings in defeating the Cardinals, 6-0. He thus ended the season at 6-17, 3.02, with his 17 losses leading the NL. He also tied for the league lead in starts with 33, pitched 205 1/3 innings and struck out 171. Except for the won/loss record, his stat line was excellent, and that is what the Arizona Diamondbacks saw when they agreed to pay a steep price to acquire his services on December 8th, sending a starting outfielder in Ender Inciarte, the top pick in the 2015 amateur draft in Dansby Swanson, and pitching prospect Aaron Blair to Atlanta to land Miller and minor leaguer Gabe Speier.

On April 24, 2016, he got to play the outfield for the first time of his career in a wild game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the bottom of the 12th inning, P Zack Greinke was used as a pinch-hitter by the D-Backs, and he reached on a single. Manager Chip Hale then inserted Shelby as a pinch-runner; he scored the game-tying run on a double by David Peralta followed by a single by Jean Segura. A flurry of defensive changes ensued heading into the 13th, and Miller found himself playing left field with Evan Marshall taking over on the mound. The Pirates scored twice in that inning, with a couple of the balls falling for hits in Miller's area; he then had to bat as the potential tying run against Arquimedes Caminero in the bottom of the 13th, but struck out to end the game, with Pittsburgh prevailing, 12-10. He still found it hard to get wins with his new team, as his first one was only recorded on May 7th, when he beat his former team, the Braves, 4-2. He was 0-3, 8.49 coming into the game, so it was not that he had been particularly unlucky, as had been the case the previous season. On May 27th, he was placed on the disabled list with a strained index finger. He returned on June 20th with a solid performance, defeating the Philadelphia Phillies, allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings for his second win of the year. Overall though, his first half was a disaster, with a 2-9 record backed with an ERA of 7.14, making him the worst starting pitcher in baseball. The D-Backs bit the bullet at the All-Star break, sending him down to AAA to see if this could help him to sort things out, but by then the off-season trade was looking increasingly as potentially one of the most lopsided of all time. D-Backs President Tony LaRussa then added another layer of mystery to the story when he referred in a press conference to an "issue that came up": "Believe me, it was not illegal, it wasn’t anything dramatically character-wise that was a problem. But there was something that came into the way that Shelby prepared that worked against him and not for him". IOn all he made 20 starts in the majors, going 3-12, 6.15 and pitching 101 innings.

Given his struggles the previous year, the Diamondbacks had no idea what to expect out of Miller heading into 2017, but he pitched well in the spring and made the team's starting rotation. He first four starts were encouraging, as he went 2-2, 4.09 with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings, but on April 27th, more bad news hit, as he was diagnosed with a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. He decided to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season. He became eligible for salary arbitration following the season, and in spite of his limited success over the previous two years, he won his hearing, receiving a raise of $200,000 to $4.9 million on his 2018 salary, whereas the team wanted to maintain his salary at the previous year's level. He had already gone to arbitration a year earlier, but had lost while requesting a raise to $5.1 million. Having completed a year-long rehabilitation, he made his return to the majors with the D-Backs on June 25, 2018. Facing the Miami Marlins, he allowed 5 runs on 6 hits in 3 2/3 innings and was charged with a 9-5 loss. His next few starts did not go much better and on July 11th, he fell to 0-4 with a disastrous outing against the Colorado Rockies in which he gave up 5 runs without making it out of the 1st inning, exiting with tightness in his elbow. The D-Backs lost that game 19-2 and Miller headed back to Phoenix, AZ to be examined by doctors. He did not return until September 29th, when he pitched one scoreless inning in relief to finish the year at 0-4, 10.69 in 5 games.

Miller became a free agent following the 2018 season, and in spite of how much they had paid to acquire him three years earlier, the D-Backs did not make a serious effort to retain him. On January 9, 2019, it was announced that he had agreed to a deal with the Texas Rangers for one year at $2 million, with a potential additional $3 million to be earned in performance bonuses. He finally got his name back in the "win" column on April 21st, when he defeated the Houston Astros, 11-10. He had actually limited the Astros to 1 run over the first 5 innings and had a 10-1 lead at that point, before he gave up 3 more runs while recording just one more out in the 6th, and the rest of his teammates almost blew that lead in epic fashion. His last win had been on April 18, 2017, a little over two years earlier. However, it turned out to be his only win of the season as he went 1-3, 8.59 in 19 games. He then opted out of the 2020 season, when he was under contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, as players were allowed to do due to the COVID-19 pandemic and when he returned in 2021, it was with the Chicago Cubs. He only got into three games for them, allowing 7 runs in 2 innings and was released on May 31st. he then signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and while he did better, he still went 0-1, 5.06 in 10 relief appearances. In 2022, his major league appearances were with the San Francisco Giants, but he was 0-1, 6.43 in 4 games as he still continued to struggle. However, he was doing a lot better in the minors, going 2-2, 1.71 in 16 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and 0-2, 3.62 in 27 games for the Sacramento River Cats, both in AAA, in 2022, providing some evidence that he still had some pitching talent.

On November 29, 2022, yet another team decided to see if he could finally turn things around n the majors. The Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a major league contract with the hope that his recent minor league numbers were indicative of a return to form.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • NL All-Star (2015)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2013)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2015)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Paola Boivin: "Tony La Russa's odd 'yucky' reference about Shelby Miller", AZCentral Sports, The Arizona Republic, July 16, 2016. [1]
  • Andrew Joseph: "The Diamondbacks’ trade for Shelby Miller looks worse than anyone could’ve imagined", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, July 14, 2016. [2]
  • Bob McManaman: "Diamondbacks' Shelby Miller eats better, hopes to pitch better", "AZ Central", The Arizona Republic, February 24, 2017. [3]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Under pressure: D'backs' Shelby Miller tries to shrug off big expectations", USA Today Sports, May 12, 2016. [4]
  • Nick Piecoro: ""It sucks" - Diamondbacks' Miller considering Tommy John surgery", "AZ Central", The Arizona Republic, April 27, 2017. [5]

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