We are officially less than three weeks out from Opening Day! As is yearly tradition, performances out in Phoenix, Arizona during spring training generate excitement amongst Brewers fans.
In some cases, it's a time where Brewers fans get to see enticing prospects get their first crack at some big league action. However, that isn't always the case. More recently, an established veteran looked sharp in his 2023 spring training debut.
Wade Miley is back with the Brewers and could serve as an important factor in this team's rotation. Back in early January, the Brewers reunited with the familiar face to bolster some much needed rotation depth. He appears to be healthy heading into the 2023 season which could be significant for the Crew.
Battling injuries for the majority of 2022, Wade Miley looks sharp in his Brewers spring training debut and appears to be healthy heading into his 13th season.
It's fun to get excited about Spring Training performances. Even if it just is two innings of work for a 12 year veteran. Excitement is generally sparked by Yeli Bombs, Garrett Mitchell defensive highlights, or Sal Frelick hitting performances. But in this case, seeing a healthy and sharp Wade Miley is at least noteworthy for this Brewers team.
Miley's 2022 campaign was derailed by a number of injuries including elbow inflammation and a shoulder strain that lingered throughout the season. Entering his age 36 season, Miley appears ready to put forward a strong campaign as a back of the rotation starter for the Milwaukee Brewers.
You may remember, this isn't Miley's first stint with Milwaukee. Miley put together the best season of his career with the Brewers back in 2018. In 16 starts, Miley had a 2.57 ERA and a WIHP of 1.215. He had an ERA+ of 157 that season and helped put the Brewers one game away from competing in the World Series.
More recently, Miley put together another solid campaign in 2021 for the Cincinnati Reds. He ended the year with a 3.37 ERA and 1.325 WHIP, and posted an fWAR of three wins which was the second highest mark in his career. More memorably, Miley threw a no hitter back in May of 2021 for the Reds. Admittedly, those no-hitter days are probably behind him. But if he can replicate similar numbers to his 2021 output, he could play a huge role in maintaining a nice floor for this Brewers rotation.
Miley isn't the only former 2021 Cincinnati Red on this Brewers roster. Miley finds himself reunited with a number of former teammates from that season, including Jesse Winker, Tyler Naquin, and Justin Wilson. This piece from the Cincinnati Enquirer highlights some fun conversations the group has already had reminiscing back on that 2021 season together.
When looking at his pitch arsenal and the upcoming rule changes, what should we expect from Miley heading into 2023?
Miley doesn't have an overpowering pitch arsenal, especially at age 36. He only sits about 90 mph on his 4-seamer, so he won't be blowing batters away with his velocity. However, his command and approach with his cutter and changeup has led him to be successful in recent years.
The Brewers organization has a history of refining the cutter for pitchers. In some cases, it can rejuvenate their pitch arsenal. For others, it can unlock a new level of potential.
The utlization of his cutter and changeup has really helped him minimize hard contact. While he specialize in striking out batters, he has been successful at allowing low barrel rates and hard hit rates. His career hard hit rate of 33.6% and barrel rate of 5.2% are impressive, and his career average HR/9 of 0.99 speaks to his ability to limit hard contact.
Restricting the shift may also have an impact on ground ball pitchers such as Wade Miley. However, the degree of that impact is yet to be seen and will be fun to track. Generally when a pitcher has a lot of balls in play, they rely on their defense more-so than a pitcher who can overpower the batter with elite velocity. While the banning of the shift may play a role Miley's performance, it isn't the only rule change that could impact him in 2023.
In years past, Miley has worked with a quicker pace on the mound. However, that could change in 2023. When speaking with Bob Nightengale in an interview, he had some interesting comments regarding the pitch clock.
"I always go at a fast pace to keep guys off-balance, which is to my advantage. Now, I've got to slow things up, and change my tempo, just to make sure things are different" Miley says. In general, pitchers will have to speed up their approach to coordinate with the pitch clock. Yet for Miley, it will be the other way around- all in an effort to keep the batter uncomfortable. I'm excited to see how it plays out for Miley this season.
There will be a lot of moving pieces for Miley heading into his 13th season. After considering retirement in the offseason, Miley elected to return to a familiar clubhouse. A full season to recover could do well for the 36 year old southpaw. Miley doesn't need to be an elite starter for Milwaukee, but he could provide valuable depth for this Brewers rotation if he can remain healthy and get back to the 2021 version of himself.