Count me among the bajillion people who, in regards to their expectations for Brad Miller, allowed their optimism to grab them by the balls and lead them to the bedroom only to emerge the next day with a rash of regrets as well as just the normal, medical kind of rash.
Brad Miller is absolutely lost at the plate this season. He is only the most recent example of a promising Mariners’ position prospect coming to the Majors to briefly impress only to fall victim to the disturbing trend of trying to pull everything. This, as with every other player to whom the curse has lent its sinister shadow, has resulted in Brad sucking. He is, as they say at times, “in-between pitches.” He has adopted a tendency towards taking called strikes on hittable fastballs until he falls into pitcher’s counts, only to readily offer at off-speed pitches out of the zone, resulting in a 26.7% K-rate and a putrid .534 OPS.
What’s worse is that he is allowing his disappointing season at the plate to leak into his defense, where the mental miscues are beginning to aggregate into a serious concern. These miscues, when coupled with Brad’s expected above-average offensive production at the position seemed like charming hiccups. Those charming hiccups have turned into foam burps which have then turned into aggressive projectile vomiting session post-franzia-night all over your white carpet.
Let’s pull a spray chart for Mr. Miller real quick.
See all of those stupid magenta squares over by where the 2nd baseman pretty much always is? Those are groundouts to the second baseman. Brad used to be a guy whose main positive trait was the ability to spray line drives to all fields, resulting in a projectable batted ball profile that would indicate a high BA and likely doubles power. He bulked up over this past offseason in an effort to ass a little power and meat-titan-ness to what was before a slight frame and it seemed that in the process he may have become pull happy in an effort to put those muscles to work. This strategy has not yielded dividends.
I wrote a piece earlier disparaging Dustin Ackley from falling into this trap. I also recently wrote an article basically forgiving Seager for doing the same thing. The difference here, however, is the way the players pull the ball. Seager launches baseballs into the air like it’s his job. He is a fly ball hitter and he has consistently shown that, though he pulls the ball a bit more than you would like, he gets the ball in the air, some of those balls leave the yard, and the result is a productive major leaguer.
When Ackley and Miller fall into this trap, their production declines precipitously. They let pitchers get ahead of them in counts and then, when they are at the pitcher’s mercy, they expand the zone and either whiff or pull a pitch off the plate on the outside off the end of the bat to the second baseman for an easy out, or a double play. Yippee.
The suggestion here: send Miller down and bring up either Chris Taylor or Nick Franklin in an everyday role and see what they can do. I know people are not crazy about Franklin’s defense at SS. That being said, however, I think Miller’s performance in the field has declined to the point where their defense is comparable. Franklin struggled during his previous call-up this season, but he was playing in spot-duty at an unfamiliar position with inconsistent at bats. In layman’s terms, he was not given a chance to really prove that he had figured out major league pitching or that he was ready to do so.
Franklin has an OPS of 1.079 to go along with 2 dingers in the past 3 games down in AAA. He has nothing left to prove at that level. It seems at this point that the Mariners, given the framing paradigm of a team seeking to win games NOW should use the depth at their disposal in order to keep afloat.
Having a black hole at the bottom of your lineup is bad. This problem is exacerbated by the volatility up and down the rest of the lineup.
It is one thing to have a bad apple among a bunch of kickass apples. It is another to have one obviously bad apple surrounded by a bunch of organically grown apples (read: no preservatives or whatever wait can apples even have those?) that might be left in a microwave or something at any given moment, becoming bad apples themselves!
There have been some who have been clamoring for Chris Taylor to be the guy rather than Franklin to get the call. I understand this desire as we have yet to really see what Taylor can do in a Mariners’ uniform and therefore he still has that new-prospect smell that always seems to elicit the grass-being-greener-over-there mentality from the fan base. This makes sense as we have all been getting pretty tired of recycling the same prospects only to have them sent back down and replaced with similar prospects who were probably recently sent down for similar reasons themselves blah blah blah.
The fact of the matter is, Taylor is new to AAA and isn’t on the 40-man roster. If they bring up a guy it is going to be Franklin and I do not have a problem with that. The move serves multiple purposes that make sense given the Mariners’ situation. The Mariners do not benefit from Miller’s continued struggles and for a team looking to contend (even if that is wildly unlikely) he weighs down the rest of the lineup too much in his current condition. Moving to Franklin almost certainly helps them in the near-term as they try to piece together a lineup capable of winning as many games as possible. Further, the move rewards Franklin who has been doing nothing but mash in AAA and has absolutely nothing else to prove at the level. Finally, the move is in Brad’s best interest as the SS of the future for this club. Continuing to scuffle and lose confidence at the major league level is only going to make him press that much more.
Nick has earned a shot. Miller needs time to collect his thoughts and get his confidence back. The Mariners need another bat capable of making the occasional impact.
Brad Miller AAA party now plz.