2020 Reds,  by Steve Mancuso

Quick Analysis: Reds sign Wade Miley to 2-year contract

Wade Miley is 33 years old. Miley made 33 starts for the Houston Astros last year and threw 167.1 innings. Miley pitched 2.2 innings of relief for Houston in the ALDS and was not included on the Astros ALCS or World Series roster.

This signing isn’t a lot of money, although it’s probably the final starting pitcher the Reds will sign barring another trade, so there’s that opportunity cost. According to MLB.com reporter Mark Feinsand, Miley will earn $6 million in 2020 and $8 million in 2021, with a team option and $1 million buyout in 2022.

Miley checks the “mid-range starter” box in my What’s Next? post this morning. Miley was one of the three pitchers I had scribbled in my own notes, along with Marco Estrada and Tyson Ross for this category. It’s a little more money than I thought they’d have to spend on a starter, but not much.

Quick reaction: Miley had one of the worst strikeout rates for a major league starter. His walk rate is just average. His ERA (3.98) is misleading based on, among other things, a BABIP lower than his career average. A less team-dependent stat is Miley’s xFIP (4.52), which was right around league average. Tyler Mahle is better than Wade Miley. Mahle’s strikeout rate (23.2%) is higher, his walk rate (6.1%) is lower and their ground ball rates are similar. A pitcher coming from the Houston Astros is not a candidate for magical improvement from our high-tech coaching staff. The Astros are the gold standard for that. Ask Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole.

Here are three scenarios for how the Miley signing could play out:

  • If the Reds have an injury to a starting pitcher, they could do worse than adding Miley to the mix.
  • If the Reds end up bumping Tyler Mahle from the rotation in favor of Miley, it weakens the rotation.
  • If the Reds use the Miley acquisition to green-light a trade of one of the current starting pitchers, it would weaken the rotation but improve the offense.

Wade Miley isn’t a bad pitcher. He’s just utterly average with virtually no upside. The Reds had five better-than-average starters last year.

More detailed analysis here on Wade Miley tomorrow.

[Featured image: https://twitter.com/Starting9/status/1156666942171820034/photo/4]

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.


  • pinson343

    Mahle was not a better-than-average starter last year, due to his HR rate: 1.7/9. The season before it was 1.8/9. I’m the first to admit that WAR for pitchers is iffy, but his was -0.1 while Miley’s was 2.0.
    BUT Mahle definitely has higher upside (Miley already reached his) and why was Miley so putrid over the last 6 weeks of 2019 ?
    So my conclusions are about the same as yours.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Mahle was better than average based on xFIP (way better than average there) and xwOBA which are two meta-stats I look at. I prefer FanGraphs WAR for pitchers and they were 2.0 for Miley and 1.4 for Mahle. Difference explained by 25 starts for Mahle and 33 for Miley. I just published a more detailed post on Miley including on the Sept. collapse. Best explanation I read was that batters started looking for his cutter (he was up to 50%) and were pounding it. Yeah, I think we’re pretty much in agreement.

  • Bmblue

    I’d rather they go with Lucas Sims/Mahle/Santillan for the 5th spot. Lodolo May even be ready by year end. Do t like this unless they are trading Castillo for a cornerstone bat or disco in a package. We’ll see.

  • Sean D

    I like the signing, I agree his ERA is misleading but he had a great 2018 and the first 5 months of 2019 were very very good. I could see bumping Mahle but then bringing him back up later in the season when the fatigue sets in on him. I’m one of the bigger Mahle fans out there, he one of my favorite pitchers and while he clearly has more upside he was below average last year despite having signs he could be better.

    • Steve Mancuso

      I agree with that sentiment. I’ve put up a longer post this morning. I’d say Miley had a great half-season in 2018 (only 15 real starts). My only issue – and this is with press reports, not the club yet – is with the insinuation that Miley should be anointed with the 5th rotation spot. I like the idea of competition with Mahle and sort of a shared role over the course of the season.