Astros hope Wade Miley will be next pitcher they elevate to an elite level

Mark TownsendYahoo Sports Contributor
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/houston/" data-ylk="slk:Astros">Astros</a> sign veteran left-hander Wade Miley, who’s coming off surprisingly solid season with <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/teams/milwaukee/" data-ylk="slk:Brewers">Brewers</a>. (AP)
Astros sign veteran left-hander Wade Miley, who’s coming off surprisingly solid season with Brewers. (AP)

Did the Houston Astros just find their newest pitching success story?

That will be their hope after Wade Miley, a left-handed veteran who finally found consistent success with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, was signed to a one-year $4.5 million deal.

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The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal was the first to report a deal was done. ESPN’s Jeff Passan adds that Miley can earn up to $500,000 in incentives.

Astros rotation needed a boost

The Astros are looking for rotation help after losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the season to Tommy John surgery and Charlie Morton to the Tampa Bay Rays in free agency.

Dallas Keuchel could be gone too. The former Cy Young award-winner is still a free agent, though there have been rumblings of the Astros trying to re-sign Keuchel. It’s unclear if Miley’s arrival will impact that pursuit.

On his own, Miley fits the bill as a decent upside replacement based on his performance in 2018. The 33-year-old was coming off a string of disappointing seasons, but bounced back with the most effective season of his eight-year MLB career. In 16 starts, Miley posted a 2.57 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

Miley did have two extended stints on the disabled list. He missed the first five weeks of 2018 with a groin injury, and another two months with an oblique strain. Upon his return in July, Miley made 14 straight starts without allowing more than three runs.

Taking pitchers to another level

Miley might not be the most exciting signing, but it will be interesting to see if he’ll become Houston’s newest success story.

The Astros have earned a reputation over the last few years for helping previously successful pitchers rediscover their dominance, and for helping to elevate those who were a few adjustments away from truly breaking through. Miley still qualifies for the latter category. Prior to his strong 2018 season, he posted consecutive seasons with an ERA well north of 5.00. A little Astros “magic pitching dust” couldn’t hurt.    

Pitching coach Brent Strom deserves the bulk of the credit. Under his watch, Justin Verlander bounced back from tough times toward the tail end of his Detroit Tigers tenure to dominate down the stretch in 2017 and finish second in the AL Cy Young voting in 2018.

At the same time, veteran Charlie Morton struck out 200 batters for the first time in his 11-year career, while earning his first All-Star selection. Then there’s former No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole, who went from a solid ace with the Pittsburgh Pirates to a truly elite starter in his first season with Houston.

The Astros’ focus on analytics has also been a key factor in honing in on their own strengths and the weaknesses of opposing batters. That’s why it’s not just overpowering pitchers like Verlander and Cole who have benefited from moving there. Miley will never be confused with either of those pitchers, and while his upside might not be as high, his outlook just took an interesting turn.

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