Seattle Mariners Position Battle: Chris Talor Vs. Brad Miller
The Seattle Mariners had a shortstop battle on their hands at the beginning of the 2014 season, created by the signing of Robinson Cano to play second base for the next decade.
It created a battle at short, because the Mariners moved their previous second baseman, Nick Franklin to battle for the spot with 2013 rookie Brad Miller.
The competition was short lived as the now 25-year old Miller (Happy Birthday Brad!) came crashing through the starting gate in Spring Training as he batted .410 with 4 HR and 10 RBI in 21 games. Franklin batted .265 with a homer and 6 RBI.
When the dust settled, Miller was in Seattle at short and Franklin was in Triple-A Tacoma.
But once the regular season started, something happened. Brad Miller forgot how to hit again.
He batted .173 for the month of April and .136 for the month of May. Franklin was called up and given the chance to take the spot back. But he batted .125 in April and .129 in May.
Miller flipped a switch in June. Maybe it was because he was feeling the pressure with Franklin breathing down his neck, who knows. But in the month of June, Miller batted .298 with 5 HR and 12 RBI.
He had another setback in July (.172) before ending the year quietly hitting well (August- .273, September- .314).
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I say quietly because he had been relegated to bench and spot-start duty primarily after Chris Taylor was called up from Tacoma. And many people failed to take notice of Miller’s strong finish to the year.
Taylor made his Major League debut July 24th against Baltimore and was 1-for-3.
He would finish the month of July, 6-for-17 (.353). In the month of August, he saw regular starts and finished the month at an even .300 with 11 runs scored. He tapered off in September as Miller got hot. That could be attributed to the extended season for Taylor (minor leagues end at the beginning of September) or that pitchers were starting to figure him out.
Regardless, Taylor’s emergence means that the Mariners will have another shortstop battle on their hands for 2015. And while some have suggested trading one of them (like the M’s did with Franklin at the trade deadline this year), why don’t we let this play out and let them feed off each other?
I suppose players need consistent playing time to maintain effectiveness, but I would argue that Miller was actually better in his occasional role than he was as a starter.
In the 107 games in which Miller started, his slash line was .219/.290/.358. In 16 games off the bench, Miller’s slash was .267/.250/.533. Now that’s only a 16 plate appearance sample size. In fact, if you take away his six pinch-hit appearances (0-for-6) his slash becomes .444/.400/.889 with 2 RBI and 5 runs scored.
So, why not head into the season with Taylor as the starter and Miller off the bench? See if the stats hold over a larger sample size. Every good playoff team has a go-to guy that can come in late as a defensive replacement and collect key hits. Miller appears, on the surface, to be able to be that guy.
And if Taylor struggles during the season, you can swap them out and ride the hot hand, so to speak.
It will be interesting to see what the Mariners do with their two young shortstops this offseason, and what these two will do come Spring Training.