The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest lie.
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A Star in the Making
Last Saturday, against the Miami Marlins, Braves pitcher Shelby Miller came an out away from a no-hitter for the second time in his young career. It was, incredibly, not even the most eye-opening linescore of his time in the bigs.
— Larry Underwood (@lau56) May 17, 2015
Acquired in an offseason trade with the Cardinals, Miller has done more than finally give us a taste of his full potential; he’s taking over the position of Braves ace, the guy who can be counted on to put in gem after gem, from Julio Teheran. But last weekend’s performance put him on a whole other tier, one which puts the rest of the National League on notice.
— Baseball Tonight (@BBTN) May 17, 2015
Shelby Miller threw his 2nd “Maddux” of the season (9-inning SHO, fewer than 100 pitches)…Rest of MLB has none this season
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2015
Miller sits first in major league baseball in ERA (1.33), ahead of established superstars like A.J. Burnett (1.38), Zack Greinke (1.48) and Max Scherzer (1,67). He also leads baseball in WHIP (0.83), batting average against (.156) and complete games (2) and is a bona fide Cy Young contender in the early going, a discussion that many foresaw when he was with the Cardinals.
Miller spent his first two big league seasons in St. Louis, where he garnered a 3.40 ERA and 25-18 record in 62 starts. That’s not bad for a young hurler getting his first taste of The Show, but issues with St. Louis brass, as well as the need for an upgrade in right field in The Gateway City, led Miller to Atlanta while Jason Heyward was shipped to the Cardinals.
Now, without the chip on his shoulder and on a club working to rebuild, Miller is dominating the opposition in a way that was seemingly inevitable.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Atlanta Braves and their fans, who have had to settle for only one division title in the last 9 seasons after being crowned NL East champions every year from 1991 through 2005, with the exception of 1994.
For the better part of the past decade, the core group of Justin and Melvin Upton, Freddie Freeman, and Dan Uggla couldn’t translate 80-plus win seasons into postsesaon success, leading to the exporting of most of those players and the start of a new rebuild.
But as the organization develops young talent for the big leagues – their farm was ranked 15th before the season began by Baseball America – Miller is giving them some hope for the future of their franchise every fifth day. He is the only Braves starter with an ERA under 3.00, and has at least 6 innings in every one of his starts but two. He has yet to give up more than earned runs in a start, and even then he has only given up that many earned runs thrice.
In addition, Miller is dominant no matter what the situation is. His home and road ERAs are virtually identical – 1.29 versus 1.36, respectively – and he has a 1.20 ERA in day games compared to a 1.38 mark in night games.
Miller is the future of the Braves franchise, that much as been made clear through the first seven weeks of the 2015 campaign. He’s flown under the radar for much of that time, but with his nearly-flawless performance last weekend, the rest of major league baseball has been put on notice.
A Fishy Move
While we’re on the topic of Shelby Miller’s excellent outing against the Marlins, let’s talk about the aftermath: the unsurprising dismissal of manager Mike Redmond immediately following the game.
His seat has definitely been scorching for a while. Two years ago he had been expected to help lead the resurgence of the franchise, and this year was when everything was supposed to come together, what with the established superstar status of 300 million dollar man Giancarlo Stanton as well as supporting players like Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon.
But his 155-207 record in Miami hasn’t amounted to much other than disappointment, and unfortunately home runs hit out of the stadium alone won’t amount to much success.
So while many wondered who would succeed Redmond, some in the media were getting tips that Bartolo Colon would hit a home run before guessing who would take over as Marlins manager.
Ultimately, the baseball world was left incredulous at the announcement that General Manager Dan Jennings would take over managing duties.
— ESPN (@espn) May 18, 2015
Dan Jennings is a very sharp baseball mind, but again, it’s another hire of a white manager with zero experience.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) May 18, 2015
— John Perrotto (@JPerrotto) May 18, 2015
Jennings has never coached in the big leagues, nor in the minors. His experience amounts to four years of coaching at Davidson High School in the ‘80s. He has also never played in a major league game.
In a sense, this is an extremely Marlins-esque move. The organization hasn’t exactly had a stable, successful manager for some time, and this is as perplexing a move as we’ve ever seen them make.
It’s tough to see the pros of this move from owner Jeffrey Loria, and certain figures around the sport haven’t exactly endorsed the move. The only thing I can think of is that Loria and Marlins brass believe Jennings has the ability to instill an enduring culture in the Marlins clubhouse, one set on winning at all cost and utilizing the talent that the club knows they have.
Jennings certainly knows they have it. After all, he crafted this team. Maybe he knows them better than they know themselves. And if not, if the experiment turns out to be a bust, then it isn’t like the Marlins’ championship window is closing.
Heck, it hasn’t even fully opened. Maybe Jennings will be able to show his squad how beautiful it can be outside their ongoing nightmare of underperforming, because right now it’s a storm.
David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.