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Posted at 11:10AM EST.
7:10 PM EST. Have you seen Oakland’s Jekyll and Hyde act? Well, we have and it’s not pretty. Oakland’s metamorphosis begins as soon as they start packing their bags. They go from a highly competitive team at home to pathetic little mice on the road. Oakland’s 20 road victories in 59 games is the worst mark in MLB. Even the Phillies and South Side have more road victories. Being the worst road team in the league, the A’s will now send out a starter that does not belong at this level.
Chris Smith has been around the majors before. He appeared in 50 games, all in relief from 2008 to 2010. In 2011, Smith did not pitch in the majors but got whacked (6.75 ERA) in 13 games while pitching for Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League. Smith did not pitch in 2013 or 2014 but reappeared as a starter for San Diego’s Triple-AAA affiliate, El Paso in 2015. In other words, from 2010 to 2015, Smith did not pitch in the majors. He ended up with the A’s in 2016 until the present but has spent most of that time in the minors. Dude is now 36-years old and this year he’s started six games and appeared in relief for one other game for a total of 39 innings pitched. In those 39 frames, Smith has walked 13 and struck out 22 with a 5% swing and miss rate. We all know what happens when you cannot strike out Baltimore hitters at Camden Yards. Over his last 26 frames, Smith has walked 10 and struck out 14. We also all know what happens when you walk too many Orioles and can’t strike out any at Camden Yards. The dictionary defines fodder as 1. coarse food for livestock, composed of entire plants, including leaves, stalks, and grain, of such forages as corn and sorghum. 2. people considered as readily available and of little value. Chris Smith fits both definitions.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Wade Miley was one of the least interesting pitchers in baseball. On the stat sheet, his results and peripherals conspired to paint the picture of a steadfast second-division fourth starter, a sacrifice at the altar of the 162-game season. This season has marked the culmination of a life’s work of being Wade Miley, the experience and the attrition. Little, out of hand, has changed: he still throws the same four pitches—fastball-slider-curve-change—the same amount of the time at the exact same speed. He still strikes out a few batters less than average and walks too many. He should be able to keep his head barely above water forever like this, starting the fourth game of the regular season for the 2025 equivalent of the 2017 Padres. Only, Wade Miley has stopped being boring; he’s become interesting in the worst possible way. Wade Miley can’t throw strikes. Well, he can throw strikes but he also can’t. Wade Miley leads MLB in walks issued with 72 in 126 innings. He’s also struck out 112.
Not throwing strikes is what all the cool baseball-throwing kids are doing these days. With power up for whatever reason, the relative cost of the ball in play is equally increased. Extending that logic, pitchers are encouraged to keep the ball away from the bat at all costs; and as hitters grow better at hitting low pitches, pitchers have fled further, to the zone low and outside. Of course, the ideal is just to throw strikes that hitters can’t hit but there are only a few of those. The strike zone has expanded, especially at the bottom of the zone, forcing batters to protect more area than before. They’ve responded to this massive influx of low pitches by being ready for them, proving that a difficult pitch you expect might be easier to deal with than the easy pitch that surprises you. It’s another indication that sequencing, and tunneling, are important assets for a pitcher, to maintain as much of that surprise as possible.
What we’re getting at here is that the Wade Miley of today most closely resembles a very dissimilar pitcher in Dallas Keuchel, who has been largely excellent. Their bond: neither of them throws strikes. According to Brooks Baseball, Miley recently reintegrated a cutter to his menu of pitches, first tried out last year. The one good thing about being a pitcher, after the injuries and attrition and the unconscious expectation of needing to be perfect, is that they’re never quite dead. Wade Miley might be on the rebound in a big way. His groundball rate in his last start was 57%. He’s struck out 25 over his last 28 innings and he’s getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone. His surface stats are awful but his xERA over his last five starts is 3.90. This market thinks Miley is the same stiff right now that he’s been all season long but we’re suggesting that’s not true at all. Underneath the surface, Miley is making massive strides but it’s been so subtle that not many have noticed. We now get him at a reduced price against a team he could very easily make look silly up there. Not throwing strikes might be Wade Miley’s best asset because he’s figured out a way to get hitters to swing at those pitches, at least lately.
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BALTIMORE -1½ +117 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.34)