Peak Andrew Miller was amazing. Historically amazing. In a class with some of the greatest relievers ever. That peak lasted four incredible years and included two All-Star appearances, a Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award, and an AL Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Miller announced his retirement earlier this week after 16 years and over 600 appearances. A glance at his career numbers and he comes across as a relatively average reliever with a 55-55 career record, 4.03 ERA, 107 ERA+, and 7.6 career bWAR.
For a period of time, however, Andrew Miller was one of the most dominant relievers of all time.
Miller was a player baseball fans heard about for a long time. After being drafted sixth overall (one pick ahead of Clayton Kershaw) by the Detroit Tigers in 2006, he made his big league debut at age 21 after only three minor league appearances. A couple of years later, he was one of the key pieces in a trade with the Florida Marlins that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit.
Following three years as a failed starter in Miami, he was traded with little fanfare to Boston. It was in his second season in Boston where he became a full-time reliever and he started to piece it all together.
Miller’s ninth season (2014) was also the first season where he spent the whole year healthy and in the majors. Beginning that year and continuing through 2017, Miller pitched 261 innings and compiled an unbelievable 1.72 ERA, 248 ERA+, and 14.5 K/9 against just 2.3 BB/9, good for 11.0 bWAR. He was a full-time closer for one year and the rest of the time, and especially during his time in Cleveland, he often served as the guy who would come in and shut down the opponent in any high leverage situation.
How good was his peak? Only eight relievers in history have ever had four individual seasons in their career where they pitched 60 innings and had an ERA+ of 190 or greater. Only three of those, Miller, Mariano Rivera (1996-1999, 2003-2006, and 2008-2011), and Joe Nathan (2006-2009) did it in four consecutive seasons. That is elite company for sure.
It wasn’t just the regular season where Miller excelled either. He didn’t give up a run in the postseason in his first 24.1 innings and is just one of four pitchers in history to throw 35+ innings in the postseason and have an ERA under 1.00. The other three — Mariano Rivera, Sandy Koufax, and Christy Matthewson — are all legends.
Andrew Miller likely won’t be a Hall of Famer. He did have some good seasons outside of his amazing four-year stretch but, as a whole, those 12 seasons amounted to a 5.09 ERA and a 1.600 WHIP, and -3.4 bWAR. What he’ll be remembered for will be four years where he was one of the greatest to ever do it, no matter the inning or the role.