You can’t really sugarcoat it — Shelby Miller hasn’t been good so far in 2016.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ right-hander, acquired from Atlanta in the offseason, pitched a little better Wednesday night than he has for most of the season. It still wasn’t enough.
Miller allowed 10 hits but only three runs in 5.2 innings of a 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees at Chase Field. With the loss, Miller’s record fell to 1-5 on the year.
He’s also 2-21 in his last 23 decisions dating back to last season when he was an All-Star despite losing 17 games for the Braves, including a stretch of 16 straight losses from late May to late September.
The biggest reason for Miller’s struggles was a lack of run support. The Braves’ offense was putrid in 2015, scoring only 573 runs — an average of 3.54 per contest — dead last in Major League Baseball.
It was even worse when Miller took the mound. In games he started, the Braves gave him an average of 2.55 runs of support, which was also last among all qualified starting pitchers in baseball. While he was actually on the mound (RS/IP), the figure went down to 2.1.
Guess what? The Diamondbacks aren’t giving him that much more offensive support in 2016. Arizona has scored 194 runs through their first 43 games, which is the fifth-best total in baseball and an average of 4.51 per game.
However, Miller is only getting 3.89 runs of support this season (according to ESPN.com), which would rank tied for 63rd in MLB. That includes his first start of the year when Arizona bailed out Miller by scoring 11 runs in a win over the Colorado Rockies on Apr. 5.
By comparison, Cubs ace Jake Arrieta receives an average of 8.00 runs of support — tops in the National League — and yes, that statistic is unfair on many levels.
Wednesday night, it was much of the same. Yes, Miller allowed a two-run home run to Brett Gardner in the first inning to put himself and his team in a hole. Yes, he scattered 10 hits. But Arizona’s hitters didn’t show up either. After scoring 17 runs and belting out 25 hits in the first two games of the series against the Yankees, they mustered two hits and two runs in the finale. Miller got one run and one hit of support while he was on the mound.
“If you give up three runs, he’s giving us a chance to win in this ballpark,” D-backs manager Chip Hale said after the game Wednesday. “We were just beaten by a good pitcher and relievers — they did a nice job.”
The bottom line is, Miller has to be better than he’s been. He’s pitched into the sixth inning only four times in nine starts. He’s had one quality start on the year and leads the National League with 25 walks. There’s no avoiding it — Miller has been one of the least-effective starting pitchers in baseball through the season’s first six weeks.
But, as the old saying goes, “help a brother out.”
In February, Miller joined the Bickley and Marotta Show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and talked about the toll the lack of offense had on him last season.
“No one wants to go through that as a pitcher. It’s not easy, it’s not fun. It makes the game stressful,” Miller said. “When those kinds of things happen and you don’t win — that’s the whole reason we play the game is to win and when you’re not getting the results, it’s tough.”
It’s got to be really tough going through it for a second straight season.