Why is lefty Andrew Miller so dominant against righties?
|07.01.13 at 1:48 pm ET|
Rajai Davis nearly spun out of the box swinging at strike one. Andrew Miller‘s next pitch was a 96 mph fastball, which Davis simply waved at. Then, Miller froze Davis with a back-door breaking ball for strike three.
Davis, a right-handed batter, simply was outmatched during this at-bat against Miller that ended the seventh inning of Sunday’s game with the potential tying run at first. In fact, many right-handed batters have been overmatched by Miller this season. Miller, a 6-foot-7 southpaw who throws from a slight angle, theoretically should be a nightmare for left-handed hitters. However, this season the numbers tell another story.
So far in 2013, right-handed hitters are hitting just .164, while left-handed hitters have posted a .274 batting average.
These numbers, even more surprisingly, are complete opposite from his career splits. Over his career, right-handed hitters have enjoyed success against Miller, hitting .290, while lefties have hit at a .250 mark.
“I made a conscious effort in spring training to do a few things different, but nothing big,” Miller said. “I felt pretty good against righties last year, but I don’t think the numbers showed it [righties hit. 263 off him last year]. … I’d like to think it’s just me getting the ball over the plate and giving myself a chance.”
Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway couldn’t explain what makes Miller so effective against right-handed hitters this season, but he was not surprised.
“His stuff is unbelievable,” Lavarnway said. “Coming from the angle he’s coming at, and throwing with the velocity, with that kind of movement, he’s tough for anyone.”
Miller consistently hit the high-90s with his fastball in his 1 2/3 innings of work in Sunday’s 5-4 win over the Blue Jays. His velocity has been more consistent this season, possibly explaining his impressive numbers. Lefties have enjoyed more success against Miller this season, with a combined slugging percentage of .375. On the contrary, not only are right-handed batters struggling against Miller, they simply are not hitting him. And when they do, it’s not hard. Miller has held right-handed batters to a .207 slugging mark this season.
Pitching coach Juan Nieves was adamant that Miller has always had this ability to succeed, but some minor changes have aided in Miller’s success this year, especially against righties.
“You see more command of fastball, pitching in more, using breaking ball, not only back foot but back door,” Nieves said. “Using a little bit of a split now. So, different things that we’ve been incorporating that he’s actually expanded. … The plate has become bigger, which is nice.”
The fact of the matter is Miller’s stuff this season has been electric. And while he appears to be a nightmare for left-handed batters, the Red Sox are just concerned with Miller getting outs, no matter what side of the plate the batter stands on.
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