Category: MLB

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Mason Miller is as dominant as closers come

One of the worst feelings as a fan is watching your team find themselves down late into a ballgame and realizing that the opposing team has one of the most dominant relief arms prepping to come into the game to convert the save opportunity.

On Tuesday night, Mason Miller once again showed why he is someone to fear when you step into the batter’s box.

The Colorado Rockies saw their lead drift away late into the night as the Oakland Athletics were able to chip away against the bullpen. Holding on to a one-run lead, the A’s were able to deploy the 25-year-old flamethrowing right-hander to make easy work of the Rockies in the top of the ninth.

Facing Jordan Beck, Charlie Blackmon, and Ezequiel Tovar (who had hit two home runs in the game), Miller made quick work of them, striking out the side and securing his ninth save of the season. On the final pitch of the game, Miller blasted a 102.8 mph fastball right by Tovar, inducing a swing on the outside corner for the strikeout.

For Miller, Tuesday’s ninth inning became a historic outing as he became the first reliever since 1901 with a 15-game stretch of no runs allowed with 40-plus strikeouts and fewer than five walks.

One can’t help but feel hopeless knowing that the game is over once a reliever like that is coming into the game.

Drafted by Oakland in 2021 out of the third round from Gardner-Webb University, Miller made his big league debut in 2023 as a starter, making six starts in 10 appearances where he posted a 3.78 ERA over 33 1/3 innings with 38 strikeouts and 16 walks. Right forearm tightness cut his season short, but the evidence was there that he could be a dominant arm at the big league level.

Entering the 2024 season he was moved to the bullpen where he has now thrived and become the most exciting reliever in baseball because of the pure octane he is chucking at the end of the game. Out of all the pitchers in MLB this year, Miller leads all of baseball in 101-plus mph pitches thrown with 94 followed distantly by Justin Martinez with 20. Miller has thrown just 20 1/3 innings this season over 16 games and continues to dazzle with a dominant fastball that is practically unhittable.

His pure dominance predictably correlates with a high strikeout rate. Since his second outing this season, Miller has struck out 59% of the batters he faced with 37 of the 55 outs he’s recording coming via the punchout. In just 20 1/3 innings he already has 41 strikeouts, passing his total from 2023 currently leads the A’s, just ahead of starting pitcher J.P. Sears who has 39 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings. Miller’s 57 K% is the highest in baseball with the next closest pitcher coming in at 43.2%.

Averaging 101.2 mph on his heater, Miller fits the mold of the type of closer most teams can only dream of. In an era where velocity is most desirable and relievers are more valuable than ever, having an arm like Miller can make a huge difference for a team. The ability to turn to someone with a one-run lead and have him be virtually unhittable is a luxury not every team has. In a way, he heralds back to the days of Trevor Hoffmann, Mariano Rivera, and many others that made being a closer notable. Fans will mostly liken Miller to prime Aroldis Chapman who was pumping heat at the end of games for the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, and the Chicago Cubs. While Chapman has definitely slowed down a bit as he’s gotten older, we all remember the fear of seeing the Cuban Missile come out of the bullpen with the game on the line.

What’s been so crucial for Miller is that he has been able to wrangle in his command. While velocity is great, it can be troublesome when it leads to erratic command of the fastball. Miller has managed to hit maximum velocity, and he is generally around the zone. An ability to command the strike zone, or at the very least reliably throw strikes, enables him to develop beyond just a high-octane gas hog but a pitcher with legitimate weapons. To compliment his fastball, Miller is able to slow things down with a biting 88 mph slider, the pitch he used to strike out Blackmon on Tuesday.

There will always be questions and worry about his arm health, that’s the nature of the game at the moment, but having Miller work as a closer could negate those concerns because of the natural ease he has and the fact that he doesn’t necessarily have to work as often throwing those pitches. Making quick work of the opposition is a nice perk too.

He is an electric arm that could end up being a valuable trade chip in the summer months as the A’s continue their annual roster shuffle. Miller is as dominant and closers come and teams can only hope they don’t ever have to face him with the game on the line. It’s okay to fear the Reaper.


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