By now I think we’re all familiar with Shelby Miller’s remarkable winless streak, and also – this is important – we’re all quite aware that won-lost records, particularly within the relatively small sample size of a single season, can and often do mean absolutely nothing in relation to how well or poorly a pitcher performed in that that season, due to the many factors out of his control, such as run support and team defense.
I note the latter because we don’t need anyone to tell us via tweet or comment below that won-lost record is a terrible way to measure a pitcher’s performance, or – apply whiny voice here – “you know there are many, far better ways to measure a pitcher’s performance” or “why do you even bother citing a pitcher’s won-lost record?”
We get it. All of us. You, on the other hand, are a bit clueless if you respond in such a manner, as it clearly indicates you don’t bother reading what you are responding to.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a quick, closer look at Miller’s winless streak as he enters tonight’s start against the Rockies, and we do so in order to point out just how noteworthy is the level of bad luck and consistently poor run support that must come into play for a pitcher of Miller’s ilk to go without a single win for such an extended period.
First of all, just consider that until Miller came along this season, the only major league pitcher to go more than a dozen starts without a win during a season in which he made the All-Star team was Nolan Ryan, who had a string of 13 winless starts in 1983 for the Astros. Miller has 17, folks. Seventeen. He made the All-Star team this season after going 5-1 with a 1.33 ERA in his first eight starts this season, and the Braves scored 4.5 runs per nine innings he pitched in that span.
The team won eight of his first nine starts, but just two of his past 16. That’s right, the Braves are 2-14 in the past 16 starts by the guy who’s been their best pitcher this season.
Miller is 0-9 with a 3.11 ERA in his past 17 starts, and the Braves have provided an average of 1.55 runs per nine innings that he’s pitched in that span. Not 1.55 runs per start — 1.55 runs per nine innings pitched by Miller.
The Braves have not scored more than three runs while he’s been in the game in any of those starts, and in 12 of those 17 games they scored one or no runs while he was in (eight times they failed to score a run while he was in).
Miller has a 5-10 record despite a 2.50 ERA that’s the sixth-best among NL starters, just a tick behind Gerrit Cole (2.49), who 14 wins, and ahead of Matt Harvey (2.57), who has 11 wins. Cole and Harvey rank among NL wins leaders, while Miller is tied for the ninth-most losses in the NL.
The primary reason, of course, for the disparity: Miller has the worst run support among major league starters at 2.56 per nine innings pitched (and it’s been a full run lower than that during his past 17 starts). By comparison, teammate Julio Teheran has received the seventh-best run support among NL starters this season at 5.09 runs per nine innings pitched.
Miller’s .223 opponents’ average is the ninth-lowest among NL starters, just behind Harvey (.217) and ahead of former Cardinals teammate Matt Wacha (.230). Miller’s .327 opponents’ slugging percentage is tied with Jonny Cueto for fifth-best among NL starters, ahead of Tyson Ross (.332), Cole (.339) and Wacha (.342).
Before Miller, the only other Braves pitcher to go 17 consecutive winless starts within a single season during the team’s Atlanta era (going back to 1966) was Carl Morton, who began the 1976 season by going without a win in his first 17 starts.
In 12 starts at Turner Field, Miller is just 2-5 despite an outstanding 2.01 ERA and .216 opponents’ average in 12 starts, with 76 strikeouts (29 walks) and only four homers allowed in 76 innings. Two wins in 12 home starts with those stats? Really, it’s hard to believe.
And for those who keep waiting for the pressure and disappointment of his nearly historic winless streak to overwhelm him and affect his performance, well, consider this: In four August starts, Miller is 0-2 with a 2.84 ERA, 25 strikeouts, 14 walks and only one homer allowed in 25 1/3 innings. F
For the month, he’s limited opponents to a .189 average, .295 OBP and .278 slugging percentage. He has a .210 opponents’ average and .302 opponents’ slugging percentage since the All-Star break, after allowing .227/.336 marks before the break.
In his past two starts, Miller has 18 strikeouts with eight walks in 13 1/3 innings. And no wins. But hey, at least the Braves won one of those games, after losing 10 consecutive games started by Miller and failing to score at all while he was in seven of those 10.
Miller is tied for third among NL starters in lowest opponents’ average with runners in scoring positon at .193 (27-for-148), better than Cubs ace Jake Arrieta (.195) and trailing only a couple of former Cardinals teammates, Carlos Martinez (.159) and Wacha (.192).
If he can’t break the streak tonight, well, all bets are off on him ending it before the season ends. Because tonight he faces the Rockies, who are 3-12 with a 6.72 ERA in their past 15 games. Of course, one of those wins came Tuesday, when they beat the Braves 5-1 in a game where third baseman Adonis Garcia made three errors, the Braves left 10 runners on base, and all four runs charged to rookie starter Mike Foltynewicz were unearned. That’s right, all four, unearned.
The win over the Braves marked just the fourth time in their past 26 games that Colorado pitchers allowed fewer than three runs. They are 7-19 with a 6.15 ERA in that span.
Miller is 2-1 with a 3.57 ERA in four starts against the Rockies, the loss coming in his only star against them as a Brave, on July 10 in Colorado. He was charged with season-highs of 11 hits and five earned runs in five innings in that game.
Carlos Gonzalez, who didn’t play Tuesday due to a sore knee, is 1-for-6 with a homer and four strikeouts against Miller, the only current Rockie who’s homered off him. DJ LeMahieu is 3-for-5 with two walks against Miller, and Braves nemesis Charlie Blackmon is 3-for-8.
• Unfamiliar Flande: The Braves’ snake-bitten pitcher is matched up tonight against lefty Yohan Flande (3-1, 3.94 ERA), who pitched in the Braves’ minor league system during 2011-2013 but hasn’t faced the Braves or almost anyone on the team.
Flande is 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA and .216 opponents’ average in nine games (five starts) since July 4, despite allowing eight homers in 38 innings. He’s 1-0 with a 4.58 ERA in his past three games (all starts) despite allowing six homers in 17 2/3 innings in that span, including three solo homers in 4 2/3 innings in an Aug. 9 start at Washington.
Flande has a better road ERA (4.42) than at Coors Field (3.62). He also has a 3.00 ERA in nine night games (three starts) compared to a 6.39 ERA in four day games (two starts).
The only current Brave who’s faced Flande is Cameron Maybin (0-for-2).
Andrelton Simmons is toughest to strike out in the majors at once every 14.7 plate appearances, far ahead of the next-toughest, the Mets’ Daniel Murphy (once every 13.4), while the third-best rate is once every 11.8 PAs by Cleveland’s Michael Brantley, the American League leader….
Nick Markakis continues to blaze in August, his .344 average (32-for-93) tied with Dee Gordon for third-best in the NL through Tuesday. As a leadoff hitter this season, Markakis’ .383 OBP is third-best in the NL, behind Gerardo Parra (.432) and Matt Carpenter (.391).
Speaking of not whiffing much, Markakis is eighth-toughest to strike out in the NL at once every 8.3 plate appearances. He has the NL’s fifth-highest batting average with two strikes at .265 (66-for-249)….
Jace Peterson’s .198 average against lefties is fifth-lowest among NL qualifiers, as is his .247 OBP against lefties. In the second half, Peterson has struggled against most everyone. Since the beginning of July, he’s 36-for-181 (.199) with 10 extra-base hits, 15 RBIs, 14 walks, 48 strikeouts, a .260 OBP and .282 slugging percentage….
Matt Wisler’s 9.13 ERA in August is the worst among NL starters, while fellow Braves rookie Mike Foltynewicz’s 7.27 is tied for fourth-highest among NL starters.
• The Boss: Tuesday was the 40th anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run.” Here’s one of the great tunes from that terrific album.
One soft infested summer
Me and Terry became friends
Trying in vain to breathe
The fire we born in
Catching rides to the outskirts
Tying faith between our teeth
Sleeping in that old abandoned beach house
Getting wasted in the heat
And hiding on the backstreets
Hiding on the backstreets
With a love so hard and filled with defeat
Running for our lives at night on them backstreets
Slow dancing in the dark
On the beach at Stockton’s Wing
Where desperate lovers park
We sat with the last of the Duke Street Kings
Huddled in our cars
Waiting for the bells that ring
In the deep heart of the night
We let lose of everything
To go running on the backstreets
Running on the backstreets
Terry you swore we’d live forever
Taking it on them backstreets together
Endless juke joints and Valentino drag
Where famous dancers scraped the tears
Up off the street dressed down in rags
Running into the darkness
Some hurt bad some really dying
At night sometimes it seemed
You could hear the whole damn city crying
Blame it on the lies that killed us
Blame it on the truth that ran us down
You can blame it all on me Terry
It don’t matter to me now
When the breakdown hit at midnight
There was nothing left to say
But I hated him
And I hated you when you went away
Laying here in the dark
You’re like an angel on my chest
Just another tramp of hearts
Crying tears of faithlessness
Remember all the movies, Terry
We’d go see
Trying to learn to walk like the heroes
We thought we had to be
Well after all this time
To find we’re just like all the rest
Stranded in the park
And forced to confess
To hiding on the backstreets
Hiding on the backstreets
Where we swore forever friends
On the backstreets until the end
Hiding on the backstreets
Hiding on the backstreets…