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Preview #93: 7/11 vs. Rockies

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San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS COLORADO ROCKIES
Jon Jay - RF DJ LeMahieu - 2B
Paul Goldschmidt - 1B Charlie Blackmon - CF
Jake Lamb - 3B Nolan Arenado - 3B
A.J. Pollock - CF Carlos Gonzalez - RF
David Peralta - LF Trevor Story - SS
Ketel Marte - SS Gerardo Parra - LF
Daniel Descalso - 2B Ian Desmond - 1B
Alex Avila - C Tony Wolters - C
Shelby Miller - RHP German Marquez - RHP

Shelby Miller will make his fourth start for the Diamondbacks this evening, in the unforgiving location which is Coors Field. Here’s to this one going better than the first three, which have seen him allow 14 earned runs over 14 innings, for a 9.00 ERA. To some extent, he has been unlucky: Miller has a BABIP of .400, despite a line-drive rate which is below league average (20% vs. 24%), and HR/FB% of 20% compared to his career figure of 7.2%. Also safe to say, he hasn’t got much help from his defense. However, Shelby’s fielding-independent ERA is still 5.34, which... isn’t good. We knew it would be a process as he returned from TJ. But this has certainly been rougher than, say, Patrick Corbin’s comeback.

For a neutral perspective, we can turn to John Smoltz. On a recent edition of MLB Tonight, he discussed Miller (above) and explained what Shelby is going through. In the clip, Smoltz says, “I think he’s moments away from getting fastballs up and down, his focus seems to be down with all of his pitches. That’s where the hitters are going with it and I think it’s just a matter of time. This is the downside of recovering from Tommy John: some days you have an explosive breaking ball, some days it rolls, some days you’ve got that good two-seamer... You can see, even though the miles per hour’s nice, it probably doesn’t have the late life that you want - and over time it will.”

There’s no problem with the velocity. Per Fangraphs, Miller has averaged 94.9 mph over those three starts, in line with his career average of 94.5, and virtually where Shelby was in the limited action last year, when he averaged 95.5 mph. But he needs to do a better job getting ahead of hitters. Miller’s career first-strike percentage is right at MLB average, which is 60.3%. But so far, he has thrown strike one to less than half of the hitters he has faced (49.3%), and that makes a big difference. There’s more than 200 points of OPS difference in how NL pitchers fare, between starting an at-bat 0-1 versus 1-0, and Miller needs to be on the right side of that line more often tonight, especially given the location.