Andrew Miller versus Justin Verlander
Andrew Miller is on fire at AA Erie right now. His pitching is most probably most similar to what 22 year old Justin Verlander did in 2005 in the minors. Here is how they compare in a few categories by level (both started at Lakeland and then went to Erie).
Lakeland - 13 starts, 86 innings, 9-2 record, 104 strikeouts, 19 walks, 70 hits, 1.03 WHIP, 1.67 ERA
Erie - 7 starts, 32.2 innings, 2-0 record, 32 strikeouts, 7 walks, 11 hits, 0.55 WHIP, 0.28 ERA
Lakeland - 7 starts, 41.1 innings, 1-4 record, 28 strikeouts, 15 walks, 43 hits, 1.40 WHIP, 3.48 ERA
Erie - 4 starts, 30.2 innings, 2-0 record, 24 strikeouts, 5 walks, 22 hits, 0.88 WHIP, 0.59 ERA
Not a bad start at Erie for Miller, huh? Looks even better if you throw in his 6 scoreless innings for the Tigers against St. Louis. But what can we expect from Andrew Miller in the future? Well, he's got a couple things going for him. For one, he's a lefty. Lefthanders with his stuff don't come around every day. He's also an extreme GB pitcher. In Lakeland he got 4.50 ground outs for every out made in the air (fly ball, line drive, pop up, etc). In Erie, he has bumped that up to 4.62 ground outs for every air out. Why do Ground Outs matter? Well, pitchers that have high ground ball rates and high strikeout rates are a rare bird. And I mean that in a good way. This post at The Baseball Analysts talks about MLB pitchers and GB% and K rate in 2006. Notice the names at the top of the list including Francisco Liriano, Brandon Webb, Jeremy Bonderman, John Smoltz, Roger Clemens, etc. It's good company to keep.
I'm not sure exactly when Miller will be in Detroit for good. After a slow start in Lakeland this year, he has certainly taken off in Detroit and Erie only allowing 2 runs over 36 innings pitched with excellent peripherals. A few months ago I would have laughed at any notion that he would be in Detroit for good this year. Now, I'm not sure. And I say that knowing Kenny Rogers and Joel Zumaya are coming back soon. I hope the Tigs keep him in the minors this entire season and keep him starting all year and limit him to 180 innings or less. I'd love to see him make the rotation next spring alongside Bonderman and Verlander was one of the best young pitching staffs in the majors and a foundation for the Tigers for years to come.