Jack Moore of CBSSports.com expressed concern July 17 about Seattle Mariners shortstop Brad Miller striking out too much. At the time, he was batting only .246 with an understandably disconcerting 23.5 percent strikeout rate, and Moore was concerned Miller was overmatched.
Perhaps Moore’s words were prophetic (in a reverse psychology kind of way), or perhaps the All-Star Break did Miller a bit of good. Since the Break, Miller’s strikeout rate has been only 11.4 percent, less than half of what it had been up until the Break and well below the MLB average. His strikeout rate now splits the difference at 16.2 percent — exactly the same as his minor league rate. Meanwhile, his walk rate declined only slightly, from 10.3 to 8.6 percent.
Although Miller has only batted .271 over the same span (raising his season average to .261), his low strikeout rate means he has been putting a ton of balls in play, and his BAbip (batting average on balls in play) is a lowly .275.
Miller’s minor league BAbip? .388. That’s right — .388.
It sounds crazy, and I understand if you are quick to dismiss Miller’s more-than-impressive minor league batting average of .334, but hear me out. His .388 BAbip (and .334 average) is the result of 999 minor league plate appearances — equivalent to, what, a season and a half-worth of MLB games? Not exactly what you’d call a small sample size. Also, players do post crazy-high BAbips. Well, one player does. His name is Mike Trout, and he posted a .383 BAbip in 2012 and a .371 BAbip so far in 2013. I can guarantee you Miller is not the next Mike Trout, but still, it can be done.
At a fundamental level, a sub-.300 BAbip is the norm for power hitters such as Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion, not speedy guys like Miller. If Miller boasts a .330 BAbip for the rest of 2013 and even the rest of his career, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised — and his batting average would greatly benefit from such a massive boost in average on balls in play.
A middle infielder who has 15-homer, 15-steal, .300/.400/.500-slash line potential? Sign me up. I’m in love.
Now, for my favorite part: Brad “The Triple Machine” Miller has five triples in a mere 165 at-bats. Take a look at which hitters have hit triples most frequently this year, in terms of at-bats per triple:
- Brad Miller, 33.0
- Freddy Galvis, 37.5
- Munenori Kawasaki, 45.5
- Carlos Gomez, 46.6
- Starling Marte, 51.4
- Stephen Drew, 52.5
- Will Venable, 54.5
- Mike Trout, 57.1
- Jean Segura, 58.1
- Jacoby Ellsbury, 60.3
Just look at the names on that list. Like I said, “The Triple Machine” is fast — even if he isn’t the most proficient base stealer — and I would hesitate to dismiss his lofty BAbip so quickly.
And I don’t care if “The Triple Machine” doesn’t roll off the tongue. It’s the best nickname. EVER! You can thank me later, Brad.