Astros, free-agent starter Wade Miley agree to deal

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MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 19: Wade Miley #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 19, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 19: Wade Miley #20 of the Milwaukee Brewers throws a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game Six of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 19, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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The Astros have made a move that fans have been crying for to upgrade the rotation.

In a shocking move, the Astros passed on Dallas Keuchel returning and turned their attention to other free-agents. The Astros have signed 32-year-old lefty Wade Miley to a one-year, $4.5 million deal according to Bob Nightengale. While Miley may not be the name that fans were hoping for, many didn’t think the Charlie Morton signing was a good deal either. Morton ended up getting the final out of the first World Series in franchise history.

Like Morton in 2016, Miley missed significant time in 2018, only pitching in the second half for the Brewers. The 2012 All-Star Miley only pitched in 16 games in 2018 but had a 5-2 record with a 2.57 ERA. He appeared to find a fountain of youth or something last year, but he doesn’t fit the mold of your typical Astros pitcher. He only struck out 50 hitters in 80 2/3 innings but limited his walks to 27. Why is that important?

In 2017 with the Orioles, Miley had a season to forget with an 8-15 record with a 5.61 ERA. He also walked a league-high 93 batters while striking out 142 batters in 157 1/3 innings. The Brewers took a shot by signing him in 2018, and he was a key piece to the postseason run and pitched great in the playoffs. The Brewers focused on the cut-fastball to help Miley become an even better groundball pitcher with a 52.8% rate in 2018.

Miley was excellent in the playoffs

Miley missed the first month of the season and had an injured oblique shortly after returning causing him to miss more time. This could have been a blessing in disguise as pitched well in the postseason, including the NL Wild Card game versus the Rockies. While he only lasted 4 2/3 innings, he set a tone for the rest of the night as the Brewers won 6-0. He finished the postseason with a 1.23 ERA with nine strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.

If you were watching the playoffs, you might remember Miley only pitching to one batter in Game 5 of the NLCS but led them to victory in Game 6. The Brewers were confident in their bullpen to hold leads, so they had a quick hook. According to Fangraphs, Miley’s cut-fastball rate increased from 11.5% in 2017 to 41.8% in 2018. Despite not throwing fast, only averaging 90.9 mph on his fastball, he relied primarily on his fastball 58.4% of the time. In 2018, he decreased to 20.1% fastballs and threw more off-speed pitches.

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Just like Morton, pitching under the tutelage of Brett Strom, Miley could thrive again in 2019. He is not known for a high spin-rate like Ryan Pressly, but he’s ranked in the top 100 by Baseball Savant. This is a low-risk signing if he is the fourth starter. Should he struggle, Josh James, Framber Valdez, or Forrest Whitley are capable of starting games as well. They could always upgrade near the trade deadline as well, if needed. If Miley can perform marginally like Morton did, this signing only makes the Astros tougher.

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