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Diamondbacks All Time Top 50: #39, Wade Miley

Number 39 brings us a man who gave Bryce Harper a legitimate run for ROY.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 36.68 (12/49/40)
  • Seasons: 2011-2014
  • Stats: 106 games, 102 starts, 638.2 IP, 3.79 ERA, 103 ERA+, 5.6 bWAR

Best season: 2012 - 32 games, 29 starts, 194.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 122 ERA+, 3.5 bWAR

Wade Miley was thrown right into the fire when he was called up in August of 2011. The team was in the midst of an unlikely playoff run, and Miley was handed the unenviable task of trying to bring some stability to the team’s fifth slot in the rotation. While the pressure to perform was high, the expectations were a bit mitigated. After all, that fifth slot had already seen a combination of Zach Duke, Armando Galarraga, and Barry Enright combine to go 7-12 over 24 starts. The team then attempted to fill the slot by trading for Jason Marquis, only to have him provide two poor starts before breaking his leg in his third and final start for the team.

That Miley was able to go 4-2 with an ERA of 4.50 across seven starts while providing 40 innings of work was actually something of a relief. Only in his debut, did he start a game and fail to go at least five full innings. Scattered in among his starts were a pair of outings that also gave a preview of things to come from Miley.

In 2012, Wade Miley was named part of a pitching staff with expectations of returning to the playoffs. Sadly for the Diamondbacks, the team’s number two pitcher, Daniel Hudson was lost for the season after making only a handful of starts. The team’s ace, Ian Kennedy, suffered some heavy regression from 2011. The team’s prized pitching acquisition, Trevor Cahill had a respectable season, but did not provide the hoped-for Cy Young-caliber pitching for which the team parted ways with Jarrod Parker. The team went on to finish with an 81-81 record. However, through all the turmoil that beset the rotation, Wade Miley was an innings-eating machine. After starting the season with some appearances out of the bullpen, Miley was a member of the rotation by the end of April. He never looked back.

By the end of 2012, on the back of a low 90s fastball and a heavy sinker, Miley had put in a workmanlike year that found him finishing second to some kid out of Washington named Bryce Harper in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in what actually wound up being a very close vote.

In 2013, Miley had another solid season, eclipsing the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career while establishing himself as a reliable innings-chewing middle of the rotation arm. Being a mid-rotation arm didn’t stop him from being named the team’s Opening Day starter in 2014. That may not have been the best place for Miley. The 2014 Diamondbacks were a wreck, and Miley was not spared. Despite increasing his strikeout rate, Miley’s walks also increased. As with every other pitcher the team ran out that season, positive results remained elusive, even during good performances. Even with his struggles that season, Miley still managed to eclipse the 200 inning mark for a second year, and still looked like he would be part of the team’s future as a cost-controlled lefty that could be relied upon to go deep into games all season long.

Then the team brought Tony La Russa and Save Stewart on board and things got truly bizarre. It became known in many circles throughout baseball, eventually getting back to Miley, that management seemed to have an issue with his diet and his workout regimen.

Despite pitching three consecutive seasons at the same 220 pound game-weight, only after the poor 2014 season did the team and the trainers suddenly have a problem with Miley’s emphatic reluctance to go gluten-free as part of his diet.

It might work for some people, but I didn’t feel like it worked for me. I did what I felt like I needed to do to pitch every five days.

I might not have a six-pack and be shredded and this and that, but I feel like I eat healthy enough. I’ve made it through three full seasons. I feel fine. My body feels great. I don’t understand why they’d make such a big emphasis on the health part of it.

Before the hot-takes on the story had any chance to cool, Miley had been traded to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, and minor leaguer Raymel Flores. The trade was met with a great deal of skepticism, but was also in keeping with the new front office’s perceived plan to get cheaper and younger and to fill up with high upside lottery tickets. To his credit, Dave Stewart did have this to say when questioned on the Miley trade:

Wade Miley’s diet was never once discussed in our internal decision-making process prior to the trade or since. We made a baseball decision that we felt was in the best interest of the D-backs and we wish Wade nothing but the best.

While there is no reason to doubt the veracity of the comment, Dave Stewart became known for putting lipstick on many pigs through his public comments in his short time in Arizona. Although Miley’s conditioning and diet may not have been discussed, given Tony La Russa’s open disgust for Miley’s diet makes it tough to believe that the issue was not an unspoken factor that played into the decision.

Since being traded to Boston, Miley has had a very erratic career. In 2015 Miley’s game-to-game consistency was hard to find, having both solid outings and outings that were more dumpster fire in their appearance. He did manage to finish his transition to the AL East with yet another solid overall season, getting in 32 starts and pitching to a 96 ERA+. He was then traded that winter to the Mariners, where he failed to find his groove. In a change-of-scenery move, he was traded to Baltimore at the deadline. He then pitched the entirety of 2017 for Baltimore, but was ineffective, finishing 8-15 with a 5.61 ERA before being granted free agency.

Miley’s time in Arizona was marked by both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows for the team. He was part of an unexpected playoff run. He gave Bryce Harper a run for Rookie-of-the-Year. Then he was also part of the last-place finishing squad of 2014. Through it all, Miley’s performance, though not always the results, were a model of consistency. Fans learned to appreciate his jovial nature and discussions about his passion for hunting. As Miley’s beard grew, so did his personality, and the fans’ assurance that every five days they could at least expect the Diamondbacks to be kept in the game for five to seven innings, even if the team didn’t win. Given the unstable trainwreck of pitching that surrounded him in the rotation his final 1.5 seasons, there’s something to be said for that.

Where will Wade Miley be in 2018? No one knows at this point. With poor performances for Baltimore in 2016 and 2017, they couldn’t wait to let him walk away at the end of the season. He’s only 31, and he pitches from the left side. While his days of starting games are probably over, if he decided he wants to keep pitching it is not hard to imagine that some team out there looking to build a bullpen on the cheap will give him a shot. Heck, under the right circumstances, and given how Mike Hazen went about bullpen construction last season, maybe he winds up back in the Arizona system on a minor league deal. Who knows?