Arizona Diamondbacks – going into 2017, cutter is important for Miller

Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Shelby Miller showcased his potential against the Baltimore Orioles. 

It’s no secret that Shelby Miller, a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, recognizes how poor he pitched in 2016. He is not shying away from this fact. At the same time, he refuses to dwell on this season’s results.

“Obviously it’s been a rough year and I haven’t thrown near as good as I obviously would’ve liked to,” Miller said. “There are good games in there and to get a game like this tonight is huge. I want to  just build off this and try to end 2016 strong.”

Miller’s first 18 starts were not pretty. More of the same was expected last Friday against the Orioles.

Instead, he turned in his best performance. For the first time this season, Miller kept the opposition off the scoreboard. He surrendered three hits over six innings. Miller looked confident and it showed.

“I thought his mound presence was as good as we’ve seen all year,” manager Chip Hale said.

The next step is clear. Miller needs a consistent pitch mix.

Sep 23, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller (26) throws a pitch in the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Confident Cutter 

According to Brooks Baseball, Miller threw his cutter 34 percent of the time against Baltimore. Oriole hitters batted .111 off that pitch.

“The cutter was working good,” Miller said. “I didn’t throw many curve-balls. I kind of just stuck with what was working, trying to mix it up and not get in the same repetition of pitches because of these guys, big league hitters, get a feel for that.”

Of the 34 cutters, Miller threw, 22 of them were in the strike zone. When Miller needed a strikeout he went to this pitch.

This pitch is effective against all hitters. It jams lefties and works away from righties. The cutter’s side-to-side movement compromises a hitter’s field of vision. Instead of coming to the plate on a straight path, the cut-fastball breaks late to the catcher’s glove side.

This results in weaker contact. The cutter is designed to prevent the baseball from reaching the barrel of the bat. Softer contact allows a pitcher to get early-count outs and go deeper into the game.

Miller still needs to mix in the occasional change with his curve. After establishing his straight fastball, Miller’s cutter should be his go-to pitch.

As well, Miller can feature a sinker, but he did not throw that pitch against the Orioles. A consistent game-plan should make him more confident. This will simplify his routine and allow him to think less.

In the end, it’s quality always trumps quantity.

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