Breakdown: Bryce Miller throws most dominant SP debut in Mariners history

May 3, 2023, 2:22 PM

Seattle Mariners Bryce Miller...

Bryce Miller of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Oakland Athletics on May 2, 2023. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

For the third year in a row, the Seattle Mariners’ top pitching prospect debuted in May. This year, that man was Bryce Miller, who made his first MLB start on Tuesday against the Oakland A’s in a 2-1 Seattle win.

Bryce Miller dominates in debut, Seattle Mariners come back to beat A’s 2-1

Miller’s had an interesting path to his MLB debut as some thought he would be a first-round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, but a 4.45 ERA and 5.9 walks per nine clip contributed in Miller sliding to the fourth round, where the Mariners nabbed the Texas A&M product.

Seattle took the young right-hander and were immediately rewarded as he posted a 3.16 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings between three levels of the minors last year.

On Tuesday, Miller officially made the jump from Double-A Arkansas to The Show. And boy did he ever put on a show.

Miller carried a perfect game into the sixth inning and when all was said and done, he got through six innings allowing just one run on two hits while striking out 10 and not walking a single batter.

In many ways, Miller’s debut was the best of any starting pitcher in team history.

Looking back at every debut by a starting pitcher by the Mariners, the best prior to Miller’s actually came just last year by George Kirby, who spun six scoreless innings and allowed just four hits while striking out seven and walking none.

In terms of game score, Kirby had the best in Mariners history for a starting pitcher’s MLB debut. His was 71. On Tuesday, Miller’s game score was 74, a new best in team history.

Game score is a metric where a starting pitcher starts a game with a score of 50 and gains or loses points due to hits and runs allowed as well as outs and strikeouts recorded among other factors. You can read MLB’s definition and calculation for game score here.

If you’re going by that metric, then Miller had the best MLB debut by a starting pitcher in Mariners history.

Sure, Kirby’s came against a better team and he didn’t allow a run, but by sure dominance, Miller’s was pretty eye-popping.

And if you’re a fan of strikeouts – and who isn’t? – then Miller’s start was certainly for you.

His 10 punchouts are the most of any Mariners starting pitcher in their MLB debut.

No messing around for new Seattle Mariners SP

Prior to the game, I thought Miller’s debut was as soft a landing spot as you could hope for in regards to a pitcher’s first MLB start.

The Oakland A’s are, simply put, a joke. Ownership is bad, the team is on the cusp of moving to Las Vegas and the product on the field is about as poor as it gets at the MLB level.

Miller’s debut came in front of a paltry crowd in Oakland of just over 2,000. To put things in perspective, Miller’s last start in Double-A was in front of a crowd of more than 6,000. And while it’s hard to say any MLB team is effectively a minor league team, if there ever was a major league squad to compare to one, it’s this A’s team.

Miller’s calling card is his fastball, which is exceptional (more on the specifics of that pitch later). And he used the heater 51 times out of 81 pitches, and for good reason.

“I threw a lot of fastballs, and they weren’t hitting them,” Miller said after the game, per Adam Jude of the Seattle Times. “So I kept throwing ’em. Everything felt good. The fastball was good. The change, all the sliders. I was happy with it.”

As noted, the A’s have a less-than-stellar lineup, so leaning on the fastball and having that kind of success with it was just what the doctor ordered. Miller pounded the zone, striking out 10 and not allowing a single free pass, and the fastball was the key reason why.

Advanced metric darling

The box score jumps off the page for Miller in his debut, but looking under the hood, there was plenty more to like.

Miller missed his fair share of bats and barrels on Tuesday in Oakland, allowing just two hard-hit balls (95+ mph exit velocity) while registering 13 whiffs (swings and misses). Of those 13, 11 came on the fastball.

Sticking with the heater, that truly was a special pitch for Miller on Tuesday.

First, the dude throws gas. Miller’s average fastball velocuty was 95.3 mph and he topped out at 97.3 mph.

Miller also had some elite spin with the fastball. Like best-of-the-best spin.

Per Statcast, Rangers ace Jacob deGrom, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, leads all MLB starters with an average spin rate of 2,550 on his four-seam fastball. On Tuesday, Miller averaged 2,576 RPMs on the heater.

Miller’s ability to spin it is part of why he was able to get great rise with the fastball. Per Statcast’s David Adler, Miller’s four-seam fastball had the most rise of any in baseball at 4.7 inches above average, nearly a full inch better than the second-best guy.

Again, it was against a lowly A’s team in a lackluster environment. But Miller showcased some intriguing tools on Tuesday and is shaping up to be yet another young flamethrower in the Mariners’ rotation. With Robbie Ray out and Chris Flexen back in the bullpen, Miller has a chance to emerge as a long-term piece of the Seattle Mariners’ rotation alongside Kirby, Logan Gilbert and Luis Castillo.

More on Miller’s Seattle Mariners debut

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