Miley added to his strong case for the National League Rookie of the Year award in his final start of the season against the Rockies, and he made it in capital letters. Among those who believe the game revolves around the men on the mound, it should be no contest.
Although he was not around long enough to get the victory, Miley deserved it. The left-hander struck out a career-high 10 and did not walk a batter while giving up six hits. The last two ended his night, as Colorado got back-to-back doubles with two outs in the eighth inning to take a 3-2 lead. While Paul Goldschmidt homered to tie the game in the ninth, the Rockies scored four in the top of the 13th to hand the D-backs a 7-5 defeat.
“It was a very fitting way to end a really nice season for him,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Miley.
The Rookie of the Year race probably will be close, and Miley may find himself battling several biases — the hitter/pitcher bias, the contending-team bias, even the time-zone bias.
Nationals cover boy Bryce Harper and Reds hole-plugger Todd Frazier are the rookies with the best numbers offensively, and the Rockies’ Wilin Rosario hit his rookie-high 28th home run in the seventh inning to end Miley’s shutout.
Miley is the leader in at least one clubhouse.
“He just comes after guys. He doesn’t respect any hitter. That’s what I like about him,” catcher Miguel Montero said.
Said Miley: “My mindset is I really don’t care who gets in the box, what they’ve done. I just want to get them out. Whatever it takes to get them out. I go right at guys and hope for the best.”
Miley used that approach to go 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA in 194 2/3 innings, walking only 37. As good as the numbers are, they do not tell the whole story. Miley lost one game in which he gave up one earned run and lost another in which he gave up just one unearned run. He received a loss or a no-decision in five of his 18 quality starts, including Monday’s.
“You show me in history a starting pitcher with close to 200 innings and 16 wins who didn’t start the season in the rotation. I’m not sure you’ll find another one,” D-backs closer J.J. Putz said.
“Frazier has some good numbers and Rosario has some good numbers, and Harper definitely has the hype. Hopefully it doesn’t come down hype.”
Miley made the jump this season after an offseason program that included what he called playing catch with a purpose. He walked 18 batters in 40 innings last year — he remained a rookie this season because he was under the 50-inning limit — and did not like pitching around the clutter. He often pitched out of it, but still …
“It’s a little stressful when you look up and there are bases loaded and one out. It was like, ‘How did I get myself here?’ I feel a whole lot better not being there,” Miley said.
Throwing in the offseason at his former high school or college, or with his cousin in the front yard of their house in Loranger, La., Miley concentrated on hitting the target instead of just casually tossing it around.
It worked. With just 37 walks, Miley ranks in the top five in the league fewest walks per nine innings, averaging a meager 1.7, which puts him in Cliff Lee/Mark Buehrle territory.
“Throwing it here (Miley puts his glove at chest level) rather than just throwing it. If I am looking at his knee, throw at his knee. If I am looking at his chest, hit his chest. Just repeat my delivery. It’s just concentration,” Miley said.
Miley has blown away the field among NL rookie pitchers, leading in victories, ratio of hits and walks per nine innings and the new-math WAR (wins above replacement player). He ended the season with as many victories as San Francisco’s Matt Cain, a better ERA than Atlanta 16-game winner Tim Hudson and a higher WAR than the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, yet another 16-game winner.
It was a year few would have predicted.
“We didn’t count on him to win 16, 17 games,” Gibson said.
“There are always surprises. You are always looking for people who want to come out and be hungry and sustain it. That is what is most important to the organization — if you can sustain it.”