Shelby Miller: 2016 was by far worst year I’ll have in the big leagues

Mar 8, 2017, 11:27 AM
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller throws in the first inning of a baseball game a...
Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Shelby Miller throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
(AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
LISTEN: Shelby Miller, D-backs starting pitcher

Shelby Miller was able to find something good in his 2016 season.

Throughout his struggles and frustrations, he never stopped trying to turn things around and always found a way to stay true to himself.

That’s not all.

“The positive things were you take what you can from it, you learn from it,” he told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “I ended on a pretty good note, which is nice, and get ready for 2017.

“I guess that’s the most positive thing, put that crap behind me.”

The calendar has indeed turned, giving Miller a fresh start. But much as he may want to forget 2016 ever happened, he knows that’s not really an option.

“That’s a year I’ll remember forever,” he added. “It’s part of my career, it’s a part of my life now. It’s something I’ll have to deal with. It’s something that I can look back and be like, by far the worst year I’ll probably have in the big leagues.”

One would hope.

Acquired in a blockbuster trade that saw the D-backs part with outfielder Ender Inciarte as well as prospects in pitcher Aaron Blair and shortstop Dansby Swanson, Miller got off to a bad start and was never really able to recover. He landed on the disabled list with a finger injury in May, and later in the season was sent down to Triple-A.

Miller’s final two starts of the season offered hope as he allowed no runs on eight hits with four walks in 11 total innings, but the outings did little to salvage his overall numbers.

In 2016, Miller went 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA and a 1.67 WHIP as opponents batted .310 off of him.

Miller was of course not sole reason for why the Diamondbacks posted a disappointing 69-win season, but in some ways his performance summarized things nicely. High expectations led to a colossal let down, which has left some wondering if the future will hold any improvement.

It almost has to, though, right?

Miller admitted he does not think he pitched as bad as it seems, though that’s the type of thing that may be difficult to understand. What is not debatable, however, is that up until last season, Miller was one of baseball’s better young hurlers.

In 2015, with the Atlanta Braves, he won just six games but posted a 3.02 ERA and made the National League All-Star team, and over parts of four seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and Braves he had a solid 3.22 ERA.

So while he was not a good pitcher for the Diamondbacks in 2016, history suggests he is better than what he showed in his first season in Arizona.

Just 26 years of age, there is time for him to bounce back.

Miller pointed out how last season it was not as if he was getting hit hard all the time, just that he would usually have a disastrous inning that would undo what was an otherwise solid start.

“For me, it was just not getting myself out of those jams, getting out of those holes,” he said. “I don’t think my stuff, honestly, was there as good as it could be, and this year I feel really good and confident with what I have.

“My velocity is up, my stuff is way sharper than it was at this point (last season), so my mindset is clear slate going into 2017, ready to go and help this team win.”

Miller had a rough spring outing Tuesday against the Oakland A’s, but otherwise spring has offered some signs that things will be better this season.

The pitcher’s fastball has regularly sat in the mid-90s, and new manager Torey Lovullo said he likes what he has seen from Miller behind the scenes.

“I’m watching a guy that’s dedicated, focused, paying attention to his bullpens and just really working hard in the moment; and then when you walk by him he has a really intense look on his face,” he said. “There’s a lot really good components that are going into the success that he’s having right now. We just want to see that continue to play out each and every outing.”

Even while Miller was scuffling last season, one thing you never heard was he lacked desire.

Miller said he is his own harshest critic.

“People always talk about the pressure of trades and stuff like that, and how I’m performing, you’ve got the media coming and asking you every single day,” Miller mused. “It’s like, I know this stuff and I know what’s going on and I know how bad I’m pitching. I know all of this.

“For me, I can deal with that, personally. I know I’m a strong person and I know that I’m mentally tough and I know all the little things I need to do to make things right and get things right.”

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Shelby Miller: 2016 was by far worst year I’ll have in the big leagues