Milwaukee Brewers: Wade Miley experiment worthwhile

SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 29: Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell looks on before Opening Day against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on March 29, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 29: Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell looks on before Opening Day against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on March 29, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

Wade Miley may not work out for the Milwaukee Brewers, but left with the choice to experiment or lose him, they wisely decided to see what happens.

While hopes for a splashy starting pitcher faded long ago, the Wade Miley experiment is ready for launch for the Milwaukee Brewers. He will start Wednesday’s game at the Cincinnati Reds.

When the Brewers signed left-handed starter Miley in February to a minor league contract, it merely registered as a blip on the radar for a team that still was poised (and expected) to make a significant, big-money addition to its rotation.

In March, Jake Arrieta signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and Alex Cobb with the Baltimore Orioles, and the Brewers rolled into the season with much less-heralded “reinforcements” to the pitching staff then was widely speculated.

That risky plan might be OK, for now.

Newcomer Jhoulys Chacin has been mediocre at best, giving the Brewers short starts, unhealthy FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) rates and an ERA around 4.50.

Hopefully, Miley, 31, can improve on those numbers even though he’s not a flashy pitcher or an extremely hard thrower. Nevertheless, after watching him during spring training it was clear via the eyeball test that he has some effective movement on his pitches and can make hitters look bad when he can control his stuff enough to find the strike zone or get hitters to chase.

Adding Miley, who has been out since the end of spring training with a groin injury, pushed fellow southpaw Brent Suter to the bullpen and will likely lead to other roster machinations.

But rather than lose Miley to free agency, the Brewers are wise to give him a try in the rotation and see if they can catch some of the good vibes he has sometimes provided in his career.

He has looked good in his rehab starts after pitching well in Arizona this spring. In recent years in the major leagues, he’s posted some ugly numbers with Baltimore and Seattle, but he has had some notable past success in the National League.

Miley had a nice three year stretch with the Diamondbacks from 2012 to 2014, when he not only pitched nearly 600 innings over 95 starts but also kept his ERA under 4.00.

That’s the kind of productive and durable pitcher the Brewers rotation could use as it attempts to tread water in the ravenous waters of the NL Central.

It’s Still Early (Very Early)

The Brewers reportedly preferred a more flexible roster makeup this year not only with the starting staff but also the position player group. But right now, no pitcher in the minor leagues is knocking down the door to an imminent promotion.

Plus, it’s only May. The team needs to cover innings in the majors as they test their current rotation depth.

Hopefully, those innings will increasingly be shared by the starting rotation to avoid burning out the bullpen, despite manager Craig Counsell’s focus on “outs” from his rotation, rather than innings or pitch counts.

The flexible nature of the Brewers’ roster allows the club to move pitchers like Brent Suter, Junior Guerra and Brandon Woodruff in and out of the rotation and up and down from the minor leagues when it suits them.

As a result, giving Miley a chance to produce at a reasonable salary makes a lot of sense. If Miley is unable to find his previous form, he could be designated for assignment without much damage to the bottom line.

The same cannot be said for big-money pitchers the Brewers could have signed in free agency.

Looking Ahead

The Hot Stove League inaction on the team’s part when it came to starting pitching was both disappointing and intriguing.

While it meant there would be no new obvious hero candidate taking the mound every five days, the decisions made this winter revealed that the Brewers were truly willing to go into the season with a work-in-progress rotation.

The rotation could be in a constant state of transformation and evolution all season, potentially leading to catastrophic or illuminating results. Who knows?

That mixture is intoxicating in its unstable character as well as its potential to surprise.

The latest foray into the unknown comes Wednesday when Miley will try to stake his claim to a long-term hold on a starting spot for Milwaukee.

Next: The Brewers are best in the clutch

He isn’t the pitcher fans had hoped for this winter, but in an era of self-confident exploration, he is well worth an experiment, particularly early in the season.