It goes without saying, this is a wild time to get worked up over stats and the numbers we‘re seeing after five games.
José Ramírez is some sort of mega-god. Stephen Kwan is either Ted Williams, Ty Cobb, or someone’s create-a-player in MLB The Show that has Showtime unlocked every single at-bat. It’s the noisiest time of the year, rates-wise. All that being said, we’re seeing something really neat from Owen Miller, and if there’s any semblance of reality to it, it’s just what the Guardians ordered.
Last year was nothing short of hideous for the Guards’ one-time 13th-best prospect. Across 202 plate appearances, he hit .204/.243/.309 with just twelve extra-base hits. This after he spent three seasons and nearly 1,100 plate appearances hitting .305/.368/.450 across the minor leagues after slashing .345/.383/.511 in college. By all rights, he profiled like, well, every one of Cleveland’s top 15 or so hitting prospects. Good bat-to-ball, gap-to-gap hitting, doubles power with some room to grow. It just didn’t happen for him, which was nothing to get mad over. Last year was a depressing season in a ton of ways for the Guardians, and admittedly they had to see what they had. In Miller, it looked like they had a tremendous Quad-A player with no defined position. In essence, a death knell for any of his major league hopes.
It helps to get a second shot when A) the team’s best prospects are still a year or so away, and B) you hit the piss out of the ball in spring training after spending the winter apparently overhauling your approach. There was talk during some of the broadcasts about how MIller worked with the G-Men’s new hitting coach Chris Valaika before the lockout kicked off, and there was a desire for him to pull the ball more. Which made sense — the approach that got him to the majors was evident in its not working, so something had to be done. Plus, a right-handed pull hitter is inherently in a better situation than his southpaw counterpart, since you still need to have a first baseman at first to make outs. Plus, with the changing rules next year, defenses are going to be laid bare much more often.
The results, at least in the early goings, and if it’s all real, are pretty damn awesome. After going 11-for-33 with three homers and three walks in 36 PA’s in Arizona, once he got a start Miller has made himself indispensable. With five doubles in just five games played and an OPS north of 1.400, he’s helping the team win and making that lineup miles longer.
Sure though, of course, it’s probably not real. Why should I look at these 17 plate appearances, and just assume they discount more than 10 times that amount from a year ago? By that same token though, do those 202 PA’s force us to ignore the hundreds and hundreds from his other levels of competitive ball? Yes. Or no. Or, of course, who knows?
There are some things we do know though. For one, last year it took Miller 22 games to get to eight hits, whereas we see him after just five, and he basically didn’t play in the first two. It took him 44 to get to five doubles. He’d also hit four home runs in that stretch, but that will come for Miller in 2022. After all, his first two games played were in Kansas City, and at least one of those batted balls would have been a homer in about half the parks. On top of that, only two of MIller’s hits have gone to the opposite field, a double in KC and a double on Monday in Cincinnati. On top of that, it’s not even like they’re meatballs he’s bopping.
Here’s where he’s hitting pitches so far:
And here’s where he’s doing damage so far:
Specifically, those pitches up and in on him. He’s turning these pitches on his fists into two bases with regularity. These are bigtime, high 90’s fastballs he’s not only getting to, but getting up into the air (not for home runs, but for bigtime expected batting average) and getting to the fence. This all seems pretty cool.
Again, it’s hella early. Noise, noise, overreactions, and noise, that’s all I’m seeing. There’s no reason to think he won’t collapse back to earth and re-assume his old ways. But for now? He’s covering the plate, doing damage on pitches he can get to, and getting results. That is transferred so seamlessly from the oceanic outfield of KC to the bandbox of Cincinnati means it’s not all just lucky bloops, he’s driving the ball with some kind of authority.
This kind of hot start is vital for a young guy to get comfy. I don’t expect him to hit 150 doubles, that would be silly. But if he becomes a productive player, can lock down that fifth or sixth spot in the lineup, and help move the offense along, I’m here for it.