27 July 2017

Trade Retrospective: Wade Miley vs. Ariel Miranda

When Wade Miley was acquired at the non-waiver trade deadline in 2016 for Ariel Miranda, there was legitimate reason to believe the Orioles had not dramatically improved their pitching situation. Miley had not posted an ERA under 4.34 since 2013 and was mired in, frankly, a poor season in Seattle. Miranda, on the other hand, had progressed quickly through the Orioles' farm system after coming over from the Cuban leagues and had put up solid, if unspectacular, numbers at every level. As we know, Miley has been (to be charitable) a low grade tire fire as an Oriole while Miranda has quietly been pretty decent in Seattle, despite a certain blogger arguing that Miley had figured things out in April and May.

It seems to be yet another ill-fated deadline move made by General Manager Dan Duquette, whose history at the non-waiver deadline has been checkered during his time in Baltimore. He infamously traded Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop for Scott Feldman, dealt away Zach Davies (who has become a relatively decent back-end starter himself) for two months of Gerardo Parra posting a .671 OPS, and got 20 lights-out innings from Andrew Miller in exchange for top pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez. This is... not amazing, to say the least. His overall best deal was probably getting Bud Norris for LJ Hoes and Josh Hader in 2013, though Hader is off to a decent start to his career in Milwaukee and Norris had an epic, $8 million meltdown in 2015 after a solid 2014. 

But was this move as bad as it seems? If you go by straight results, the answer is an unequivocal "yes, good lord, yes." Miranda has put up a 4.16 ERA to go along with a 1.145 WHIP for the Mariners, while Miley has countered with a ghastly 5.79 ERA and 1.733 WHIP during his time in Baltimore. If you could do a straight-up swap of those numbers, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that the Orioles would feel significantly better about their 4th starter slot right about now.

Of course, a straight swap is unrealistic for any number of reasons, but most notably that Baltimore and Seattle are not exactly the same in terms of being run environments. Historically, Camden Yards has been a hitter's haven (say that five times fast) while Safeco Field has been more forgiving to pitchers. This may explain the differences in xFIP between the two: Miley has put up an acceptable 4.66 xFIP this year, with Miranda posting a 5.33. 

xFIP grants pitchers a league average home run rate, arguing that year-to-year fluctuations are essentially noise, and in Miley's case this may be accurate. Before coming to Baltimore, Miley was pretty good at limiting home runs. This year, however, Miley has one of the worst HR/9 marks in baseball at 1.43. So, we've solved it! Miley went to Baltimore and gives up a ton of homers, while Miranda got to go to a better park and gives up fewer homers. Done and done.

While that's a convenient narrative, it turns out to perhaps not be so simple. Miranda has somehow been worse than Miley this season, with a shocking 1.73 HR/9 rate. So how is Miranda even above water this season? Well, for one thing, he does a good job of limiting hard contact and having pretty good command. He gives up homers, to be sure, but he doesn't put a ton of baserunners on which limits the overall damage. Miley, on the other hand, is more like Oprah: "you have a walk, and you have a walk!" Wade is walking an almost unfathomable 5.4 hitters per game, which is both far and away the highest in baseball this year and the worst mark of his career. So, Miley lets guys get on base all the time while also allowing lots of homers. That is not a recipe for success. On the other hand, Miley has a better than league average strikeout rate while Miranda prefers to pitch to contact.

So, did Duquette screw up? Yes, but not necessarily because Miranda is actually a much better pitcher than Miley. I think the numbers indicate that, while Miley has better peripheral stats without question, it may be the case that those stats do not tell the whole story. Miranda is, ironically, a guy that seems to have the ability to outperform his peripherals while Miley does not. Miranda would actually fit in perfectly with the O's overall philosophy of "we literally do not care about ERA estimators," while Miley's stat sheet on Fangraphs indicates that he is an okay pitcher getting unlucky. Watching him pitch this year, however, throws about 500 gallons of cold water on that theory. Additionally, Miley consistently underperforms his peripherals and, really, does nothing particularly well other than generating ground balls. So, it's not that Miranda is so much better, it's that Miley is bad, has been bad for a while, and has gotten worse since the Orioles traded for him.

In the case of Miley vs. Miranda, we find in favor of (drum roll)....getting better pitchers! But seriously, folks, those pining for the Miranda who got away probably wouldn't be much happier if he was still here and Miley was not, though he also doesn't cost $10 million. Miranda probably wouldn't be a sub-4.50 ERA guy in Baltimore, but there's also nothing that necessarily indicates he'd be a plus-5.50 guy, either. Miley, unfortunately, is. That's reason enough to say that this deal isn't something Duquette should lead with in his next job interview.


Pip said...

Very much enjoy this article. Couple questions:
In terms of value to the team, even with a bad outfield defense, when one considers the difference in cost, would Miranda have been better kept instead of Miley?
There's a whole Lotta difference between league minimum and $9 million, and Miley has a WAR of about .3.
Do you know how many fly balls that were caught by Seattle outfielders would've been out of the park in Camden?
If ERA isn't a major stat, would FIP be the main one? Dan doesn't seem to pay attention to any stats at all.
Finally, the comment was made at Lookout landing that Miranda had(at the time) had 18 starts including three awful ones that skewed his stats. Subtract those three terrible starts and he's actually been quite good.
Overall, when price and performance are combined, I think we'd have been better off keeping Ariel, or failing that, trading him for someone OTHER than Miley.

Andrew said...

I think that Dan Duquette won't be a gm anymore which would be bittersweet as he traded players to Baltimore who became stars, then with Baltimore traded for players who became garbage for players that were better than they traded for. Bad free agent signings (Ubaldo is enough of a reason). Sad day to be a sox fan knowing the Orioles might get a good gm.

Unknown said...

Great article. Sadly Duquette has not acquired any talent at the deadline, with the lone exception of Miller. The Hader deal is still "in the air", but Norris gave us 1 year. Even in that year he was a 2.5WAR on a team that won by 12 games.

Duquette needs to go and it should have been after that incompetent and "uninterested" 2014-2015 offseason.