Many Cuban-born baseball players have shined over the years. But, few have been pitchers. The Mariners lean left-hander, Ariel Miranda had a September to remember, and it helped keep the Mariners in the playoff hunt. So, could Miranda be the next Cuban pitching sensation to light up the major leagues?
I don’t think the Mariners had any idea that Ariel Miranda would be as good as he was over the past two months. Used by the Baltimore Orioles as a trading piece to acquire Wade Miley, the O’s just kicked Miranda to the curb. Since the trade, Miranda has been pitching like a man with something to prove. Now, the Mariners are reaping all the benefits of that.
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Miranda started off his career in Seattle with a bang. He debuted against the Boston Red Sox and their potent offense. There are few challenges that could be greater for a starting pitcher in his debut, but Miranda was determined to succeed.
Even though the Mariners lost 3-2 that night in an eleven inning thriller, Miranda held the Red Sox to eight hits over six innings. He allowed just two runs -one of which was a home run to Travis Shaw- and struck out five. He would earn a quality start in his first outing as a starter.
Through the rest of August, Miranda would have an amateurish record of 1-1 with an ERA sitting at 5.74. This was just the beginning for Miranda, as the summer began to cool down in September, Miranda started to heat up.
Despite a rocky beginning to the month with arguably one of his worst outings thus far -allowing four runs (a career-high) and three walks- he would win his second game of the season.
This was common for Miranda to win even if he allowed multiple runs. The Mariners backed Miranda up with tons of run support. By the end of the season Miranda would get 5.93 runs from his offense to back him up.
His next two games would put him in the MLB spotlight. He would help defeat two division rivals, the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels.
Miranda shut down the Rangers over six innings, surrendering three hits and fanning four. He would do even better versus the Angels. Again, he would go six frames and allow three hits, but this time around he only walked one batter. In the previous outing he walked three men.
This was Miranda in the best form we saw him all year, but even when he was good, it was more than enough to seal wins.
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He would finish the year with three more impressive starts. Over 16.1 innings, Miranda gave up six runs and struck out fourteen men. One of those starts he mowed down eight Houston Astros, setting a new career-high.
Over the course of the month, Miranda would boast a 2.62 ERA and a record of 4-1. In all of 2016 as a starter, Miranda pitched fifty-five innings over ten games and collected a record of 4-2 with an ERA of 3.44.
With numbers like that, and a excellent debut, where does it all stand up with the Cuban pitching legends to grace the big leagues?
Luis Tiant, the former Cleveland Indian and Red Sox great was superior to Miranda. In his rookie year, Tiant piled up the wins, finishing with a 10-4 record. His ERA also bested Miranda’s. Tiant would amaze in his rookie season, ending with a 2.83 ERA.
Tiant didn’t qualify to be on the stats lists that year, but if he had, he would have had the seventh lowest ERA in all of baseball.
In his career, Tiant would eventually amass two hundred and twenty-nine wins.
Before Tiant, there was Dolf Luque. He was the original Cuban pitch-master. In 1918 (his first year of pitching five or more games as a starter) Luque went 6-3 with an ERA of 3.80 in ten starts. On the surface, those numbers are very similar to that of Miranda, but, Luque would throw nine complete games that year.
As his career went on, Luque would’ve won the Cy Young award in 1923 if it had been created at that time. He had a record of 27-8 with a 1.93 ERA, pitched twenty-eight complete games and added six shutouts. In all, Luque would win one hundred and ninety-four games.
Fast forward many decades, and newer generations remember the Hernandez brothers, Livan and Orlando, as dominant Cuban pitchers. Livan would have a more illustrious career than his older brother. He would win one hundred and seventy-eight games over seventeen seasons. Orlando would win ninety over nine years.
Both impressive in their own right, and both started their big league careers with successful rookie campaigns. In 1997, Livan went 9-3 with an ERA of 3.18. Orlando would outdo his little brother with a 12-4 record and a 3.13 ERA in his 1998 debut season.
Miranda may have had fewer starts than the dominant sibling duos, but his numbers are on par with them.
Of course, we cannot forget Jose Fernandez. He was on track to be one of the great Cuban pitchers to ever take the mound.
He had thirty-eight wins in three and a half years and had a career ERA of 2.58 before his tragic passing last month. In his rookie year alone, Fernandez would win twelve games and have an ERA of 2.19. He was also a strikeout master. In 471.1 innings pitched, Fernandez threw out 589 batters.
So, when we look at all the data, we can see that Miranda holds his own with some of the greatest Cuban-born pitchers to throw in the big leagues. If he continues what he started in 2016, there is no doubt that he will join the discussion as one of the all-time best Cuban hurlers.