19 July 2017

As Wade Miley Falls into the Abyss, Should O's Should Let Him Go?

At the halfway point, the Orioles were in a fix for starting pitching.  Feel free to copy that onto your clipboard for any retrospective application to the Duquette dynasty, a bit before, and likely into the perceptible future.  The Orioles always have seemed to be in a bit of a quandary when it comes to the rotation.  Even in 2014, the first half's rotation was a bit squirrelly with collective memory bronzing the dominant second half collective sub-2.50 performance delivered by Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Wei-Yin Chen.  Gausman and Norris back filled sun-4.00 ERAs as well.  Those indeed were the salad days.

Last year was not that.  Last year saw some struggle.  Of course, those struggles look pretty cheerful now with a rotation that is currently the worst in franchise history.  Anyway, the club spent all of July looking for another starting pitcher and wound up looking at Wade Miley.  It would be the second "proven veteran" for "journeyman minor leaguer" the Orioles and Mariners arranged for the 2016 season.  The first one sent Twitter aficionado and Arrieta trade return Steve Clevenger for 1B/DH/?RF? Mark Trumbo.  That one worked out pretty well for the Orioles.  This second one with aged Cuban prospect Ariel Miranda for better-on-paper Wade Miley has been much more uneven.

Better-on-paper is a good way to describe Wade Miley.  He gets ground balls, he strikes out batters, and allows few walks.  However, what the Red Sox and Mariners found out was that he also tends to have problems elevating his pitches.  It could make him homer prone at times.  Also, the recent trend to try to uppercut pitches is not as well spread a thing as the media would have you believe, but it is enough of a trend to drastically impact pitchers who heavily really on sinking action.  A pitcher like Wade Miley, who employs heavily a good but not great sinker, is often presenting a pitch on the same plane as a batter who is trying to uppercut the ball.  His career home runs per fly ball norm of around 10% jump to 16% last year and now sits at 20% this year.  League norm is around 10%.  This has been somewhat devastating to Miley.

In turn, it has made Miley more skittish around the plate.  Longer innings and longer fly balls have turned into a sky rocketing walk rate.  In part, this walk rate has been negatively impacted by Welington Castillo's pitch framing butchery, but that does not seem to explain all of it.  Regardless, the home run rate and walk rate have sputtered a solid, if unspectacular, four slot pitcher into a fringey more back end arm.

This October, the Orioles will be staring at a choice.  Should they pick up Miley's option for a final year at 12 MM or should they pay him 500k to depart.  Miley appears to be a degrading commodity.  Two heavy analytical groups (Boston and Seattle) quickly gave up on an arm typically appreciated by more analytical types.  I wondered what exactly would my BORAS model think of Miley now.  Last year, the BORAS model once again nailed pitching contracts (though, admittedly it was terrible at position players unlike previous seasons where the model did well for both).  Last year, the model saw Miley as a 3/36 player if he was on the free agent pile last year.  Now? It pegs him as a 2/16 player.

What I want to use BORAS for though is to compare what pitchers are similar to the 11.5 MM cost of Miley and also who does BORAS consider similar to Miley's 8 MM projection.  First, BORAS thought no one would see a one year contract above 7.1 MM (Francisco Liriano).  To expand that to two years just to have some names to throw around: CC Sabathia (11.1 MM), Scott Feldman (10.7 MM), and Clayton Richard (10 MM).  Those three are older pitchers, who have performed about average recently.  Does it make sense to lock in a second year for one of those pitchers at the same cost?  I would argue no.  I think Miley is just as likely to put up a 2 WAR season as any of those guys, especially Feldman or Richard.

So what level of performance does BORAS think Miley is at?  Similar pitchers would be Yovani Gallardo (2/14), Tyson Ross (2/13), Liriano (7.1), and Hector Santiago (2/11).  All of these pitchers fit the same mold, two years ago they were pretty decent.  They are the inverse of Feldman and Richard.  And this is where the conversation gets interesting.  Is Miley worth a 3 MM premium on his services or do you role the dice on two lesser projected arm like Brett Anderson (1/6), Derek Holland (1/5), Miguel Gonzalez (1/6) or Chris Tillman (1/5.5).

In the end, my considerations are this: Miley is a one year contract for a player who is healthy, has shown an uncharacteristic walk rate, and whose alternatives are not clear improvements or represent big savings.  Two rough seasons in a row is not a good look.  It is concerning.  However, this club has few options in the starting rotation.  Sinking in similar money for a long contract FA option like Marco Estrada (3/34) or Andrew Cashner (3/38) seems to be poorer options.  Going with Mike Wright or Tyler Wilson also seems to be inadvisable.

So, picking up Wade Miley's option looks like the best of poor options.  He is young.  He has pitched well before.  It is only a one year endeavor at this point and looks similar to the 1/10.5 contract the Rangers inked Cashner to before this season.  Those attributes might push Miley up to a similar deal given how thin starting pitching options are almost every year.

Below are the current BORAS contract projections (7/18):

   Age     Yr        Total
Yu Darvish 31 6 118
Jason Vargas 35 4 80
Jake Arrieta 32 3 45
Alex Cobb 30 4 53
Lance Lynn 31 3 42
Jaime Garcia 31 3 42
Trevor Cahill 30 3 47
Tyler Chatwood 28 4 57
Andrew Cashner 31 3 38
Marco Estrada 34 3 35
CC Sabathia 37 2 25
Scott Feldman 35 2 22
Clayton Richard 34 2 22
Jhoulys Chacin 30 3 28
Jeremy Hellickson 31 3 31
Yovani Gallardo 32 2 14
Wade Miley 31 2 16
Tyson Ross 31 2 13
Francisco Liriano 34 1 7
Hector Santiago 30 2 11
Miguel Gonzalez 34 1 6
Brett Anderson 30 1 6
Derek Holland 31 1 5
Chris Tillman 30 1 6


Ace said...

1)You take Chris Tillman on a 1 year deal for 6 million and cut Miley. You roll the dice with Tillman in this situation. This should be a no brainer.
2)The Chris Davis deal is looking worse and worse

Jon Shepherd said...

Re: Ace. So, what is the downfall of rolling with Tillman. Well, so much depends on that shoulder and what the value of a healthy shoulder is. Miley is healthy and Tillman has some question marks. I would also think that if Tillman is strong this second half or. at least, can show his shoulder is strengthened then you are more likely to see a 1/10 year deal for him because of his track record.

However, if his shoulder still looks off. Do you go 11 MM on the healthy guy or 6 MM on the guy who looks like he will fall apart? That seems like an easy decision to me if we are talking playoffs, but a more difficult one if we are just talking about innings consumption.

Ace said...

How about Alex Cobb at 4/53? His health may be a concern but he probably has the most upside after Darvish. I'd consider Cobb as he could be the O's version of an Ace for what they paid Jimenez for. Its a bit risky but its not a deal that would sink the franchise financially if Cobb craps out. When you are in the O's position with starting pitching, you have to take these type of risks. The potential reward is pretty high here.

Also, Arrietta's projection seems to be under valued.

Jon Shepherd said...

Arrieta's projection does look low. BORAS is looking at his performance collapse over the past two years and thinks clubs will do the same instead of focusing on his 2015.

But, yeah, that is one I could see as winding up much higher.

Pip said...

Isn't giving 11 million to Miley throwing good money after bad?
He's terrible, but his comps are all terrible as well. Why would we want any of them?
Wright/Wilson/Generic PTBNL Type are terrible but CHEAP.
Why advocate giving 11 million to a guy who is currently worth .5 WAR and trending backwards? Why suggest that he is worth the money because he was good once upon a time and can be again, though he has been neither good nor worth his money in his Oriole past?
"Because there are no other options" is neither true nor a logical reason to throw away 11 million.
That was Dan's reason for signing Jiminez and Gallardo as well as for trading for Miley. Bad reasoning indeed.
The best option is not wasting money, especially on a known bad pitcher whose style wears out bullpens and defenders.
Next year we have-currently very bad-Gausman and-very overworked-Bundy.
Neither can be counted on.
Wright/Wilson/Waiver guys will give replacement level or better for next to nothing.
The only Money should be Atlanta-style, cheap one year contracts to guys who might develop into a trade piece next July.

Pip said...

I cannot fathom most of the people on this list getting their projected salary. We should meet back here in January and find out how accurate this stuff was.
Gallardo getting 14 million? Vargas getting 80?
Hopefully not from us.

Jon Shepherd said...

Feel free to go back and look at past years. Keep in mind that BORAS does not know about Gallardo's shoulder.

Again...I thought I addressed these issues, but it comes down to this. The club effectively has few options (see: 2017). In these cases a club will sign veteran pitchers to fill up space. It is usually preferable to only be locked in one year instead of two. Miley has about a 20% projection as a three slot pitcher. That is pretty decent as one year deals go.

And I imagine few people thought Cashner would get what he got. Again...go back to last year and the year before. See what pitchers got.

Jon Shepherd said...

I expect Vargas' number to decrease. His first half was stunning. I doubt he can repeat it.

Pip said...

Jon, I appreciate your point, but I think that money spent on Miley would be money wasted.
He hasn't been good with us except for a brief smoke/mirror period.
He is worth a fraction of a WAR but is being paid for approximately 1.5 WAR.
He hasn't given any reason to think he'll suddenly become anything different.
We can get replacement level players who won't be worse and could be better for league minimum.
Next years rotation isn't looking good. No reason to waste 11 million on it.
Lots of teams picked up inexpensive guys who have done acceptably this season. Dan should be able to do the same.

Jon Shepherd said...

You have a point, but you are overselling it.