By Brent Stecker
It doesn't take an expert to see how bad Mariners shortstop Brad Miller has struggled this season.
The traditional stats certainly aren't in the second-year major leaguer's favor, and his increasingly poor at-bats and periodically worrisome defense are pretty evident when watching the team.
Brad Miller earned the Mariners' starting shortstop job in spring training, but his bat has been an issue as he's struck out 40 times to just 10 walks this season. (AP)
As it stands, his slash numbers of .154/.223/.257 have brought to mind notoriously poor-hitting ex-M's shortstop Brendan Ryan, and the 24-year-old Miller isn't providing defense like his predecessor.
Miller battled fellow prospect Nick Franklin through spring training for the starting shortstop job, and considering his familiarity with the position (Franklin came up as a second baseman before the Robinson Cano signing), he hit just enough to get the gig. But now that he's struggling mightily and Franklin is expected to join the team Tuesday in place of the injured Corey Hart, the calls for Miller to figure out his issues in Triple-A are growing louder.
As far as Grantland baseball writer and noted sabermetrician Jonah Keri goes, it's clear the Mariners need to try something else with Miller, as he told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Wyman, Mike and Moore" on Monday.
"You don't want to overreact necessarily to the Triple Crown stats… (but) he's striking out more than a quarter of his at-bats," Keri said. "He looks lost."
After Sunday's 6-2 win over the Twins, in which Miller finished hitless for the 12th time in his last 15 games, he has 40 strikeouts to just 10 walks in 136 at-bats. That's countered with just eight extra-base hits – three homers and five doubles.
"You have Adam Dunn hit 40 home runs a season, alright, you live with it, it's fine, he strikes out. Brad Miller's not that guy," Keri said. "He needs to get that in order. You talk about four times as many strikeouts as walks, that's a problem. As the sample size gets bigger, yeah you do start to worry about it."
It's unclear whether Franklin, who's been brushing up on his outfield skills, will get a shot at short in place of Miller, but even if he does he's no guarantee. After all, he had just two hits in 16 at-bats during a seven-game stint with Seattle earlier this season.
"It's a funny thing about Franklin and Miller, if you want to throw both of these guys in there," Keri said. "It's like, 'OK, they're good prospects,' you bring them up and well it's not really happening. You send them down and Franklin's gone completely bananas, and of course they called him back up, and Miller was the same thing – Miller had monster numbers in Triple-A before he got the call-up last year.
"I don't want to say that they're Quadruple-A hitters – I think it's way, way too early to say that. These are young, young guys, but it does take some time to adjust to the major leagues and we're seeing it with Miller."