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2021 report card: Brad Miller

The Phillies asked too much of Brad Miller in 2021 – and exposed his flaws in the process – but he still ended up with a solid season.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

I really like Brad Miller. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since this is my third time writing about him in the past six months.

In May, I wrote about just how good Miller had been over the past few years. At that time, his 123 wRC+ since the start of 2019 ranked second on the team, behind only Bryce Harper and ahead of guys like Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto. My point was not that Miller was actually a better hitter than Hoskins or Realmuto, but that he was a lot better than your typical bench bat.

In August, I looked into why Brad Miller had been slumping since pretty much the exact day I published an article about how good he was. I came to the conclusion that Miller was pretty much the same as ever, but that the Phillies were letting him face left-handed pitching far too often, and it was dragging his numbers down.

Now, with a full season’s worth of data to delve into, I’m excited to take one final look at Brad Miller.

2021 stats

140 games, 377 PA, 20 HR, .227/.321/.453, 105 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR

The good

When it comes to Brad Miller, it’s pretty easy to identify the good and the bad. What’s good are his numbers against right-handed pitching. In 2021, Miller posted an .842 OPS and 123 wRC+ in 297 PA against righties. He hit 16 of his 20 home runs against right-handers. His walk rate against righties was a stellar 14.1%. To put all this in perspective, Rhys Hoskins has a career .836 OPS, 122 wRC+, and 13.7% walk rate. When he’s facing RHP, Brad Miller is a carbon copy of our slugging first baseman.

The bad

Against left-handed pitching, Brad Miller hit .169/.200/.338 with a 39 wRC+. His strikeout rate was 40%, and his walk rate was 3.8%. Joe Girardi did try to limit Miller’s plate appearances against lefties, but it wasn’t enough. Miller faced left-handed pitching in 80 out of 377 PA, which is 21%.

By September Girardi finally seemed to realize that there was absolutely no point in letting Brad Miller hit against southpaws, and Miller only record 7 PA against lefties from August 31 through the end of the season. By that point, however, the damage had been done.

The future

Brad Miller is complicated. He hits so well against righties that it feels like he should get the opportunity to be an everyday player, and then he goes and hits so poorly against lefties that he might as well not even step up to the plate.

All in all, Miller is a great bench bat, and there’s really no reason the Phillies shouldn’t bring him back next season. By this point, Joe Girardi should be very familiar with Miller’s limitations and his strengths, and should know how to use him accordingly. And with the emergence of Matt Vierling as a solid right-handed option off the bench, the Phillies can certainly afford to carry a hitter like Miller.

The final grade: A-

Brad Miller did exactly what was expected of him as a bench player signed to a $3.5 MM contract. His final numbers look worse because he was forced to hit against too much left-handed pitching and he was also forced to play too much outfield, but that shouldn’t be held against him. As a left-handed bench bat who primarily plays first and second base, Miller did an excellent job.