Mariners starter Ariel Miranda has held the rotation together over the past month. Is he a long-term answer?
The Mariners won their third-straight game yesterday behind an admirable effort by Ariel Miranda. Pitching at Coors Field at altitude for probably the first time in his life, Miranda held the NL-leading Colorado Rockies to two runs on three hits over five innings, earning his fifth win of the season.
If you own Miranda in fantasy (maybe you’re in a super-deep league, although I wouldn’t start anyone at Coors if I could help it), you probably weren’t blown away by his final line: 5IP, 3H, 2ER, 4BB, 1K. But a win is a win. In real baseball, all you have to do as a starter is keep the opposition under four runs in five or more innings. And at this point in an injury-riddled season for the Mariners, manager Scott Servais doesn’t much care how Miranda gets through five innings of two-run ball.
Miranda’s performance was the fourth start in a row in which he lasted at least five innings while allowing two runs or fewer. Is the former afterthought Oriole and seven-year veteran of the Cuban leagues getting by on smoke and mirrors, or is he for real?
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Miranda’s ERA stands at 4.17, which is slightly under his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) mark of 4.72, suggesting he’s been helped by his defense. But there are several encouraging signs when comparing the 58 innings he tossed for Baltimore and Seattle last year and the 58.1 innings he’s pitched so far this year.
For one, even though Miranda only struck out one Rocky yesterday, his Ks per 9 inning (K/9) average stands at 8.02. That’s up from the pedestrian 6.83 K/9 mark he had last year. Not surprisingly, he’s getting more hitters to swing and miss more often. His Swinging Strike percentage (SwStr%) has risen 1.3% from last year.
Miranda currently allows a .255 batting average on balls in play, which is actually up from his .222 mark last year. He’s allowing fewer line drives, which is helping keep opposing run production down despite a bloated walk rate this year compared to last.
It appears that Miranda’s stats are sustainable for the Mariners, who begin their return tour with James Paxton taking the mound tonight at Safeco. He is benefiting from good defense behind him, but that’s the idea Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has tried to implement in Seattle. As long as he can avoid walks and keep the ball in the park (10 HRs allowed so far this year), Miranda could be exactly as advertised: a mid-rotation starter with potential for more.