Hoby Milner and the Worst 20 Game Scoreless Streak Of the Past Decade
Hoby Milner is a great story for the Phillies. He was a 7th round pick in the 2012 draft and washed out as a starter. In 2016 they lowered his arm slot and he took off as a reliever. Despite their need for left handed relievers, the Phillies left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and the Indians selected him. He was back in the Phillies organization by the end of Spring Training. He eventually made his major league debut on June 24. Since then, Milner has a 2.20 ERA over 35 appearances. With all of the talk of the Phillies’ improved bullpen around arms like Edubray Ramos, Adam Morgan, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, and even Victor Arano, it seems like Milner should be a part of the discussion, especially since from July 29 until September 20, Milner allowed 0 runs in 21 appearances out of the Phillies’s bullpen.
There is only one giant problem.
One of these things is not like the others, and we can immediately see why FIP and DRA have a problem. Milner has a 4.7 BB/9, 6.3 K/9, and 1.570 WHIP. Before exploring Milner and the advanced pitching metrics I wanted to know what kind of scoreless streak a pitcher has to put up to still have metrics as bad as Milner’s. So using Baseball Reference’s Play Index I found all pitchers since 2007 that had appeared in at least 20 games in a row without allowing a run.
Immediately it becomes clear that talent does not correlate with doing this. The top five longest streaks belong to Craig Kimbrel (2011, 38 games), Adam Ottavino (2014-2016, 37 games), J.C. Romero (2007-2008, 35 games), Wade Davis (2014, 33 games), and Arthur Rhodes (2010, 33 games). Over his stretch Milner posted this line:
16.2 IP – 16 H – 7 BB – 10 K – 2 HBP – .258/.352/.306
The 16.2 innings jumps out immediately, but that actually is not the lowest total for a player to achieve the 20 game mark, as Milner tiers with Matt Thorton for 28th in innings pitched. The most impressive of the low inning groups is Randy Choate in 2011 who pitched a whopping 11.2 innings over 30 scoreless appearances. So how did the other numbers rank? (out of 150 qualified streaks)
- K/9: 5.3 – 142nd
- BB/9: 3.8 – 125th
- K/BB: 1.5 – 143rd
That is not good, but here is the thing where we can definitively say Milner is the worst.
WHIP – 1.38 – 150th
In other words, Milner allowed the most base runners of any pitcher in their scoreless streak (it gets even worse if you add in HBPs).
Now that we have established that Milner has had the worst 20 game scoreless streak of the past 11 seasons, how are his metrics in such disagreeance and what does that mean?
The big thing is usage. Milner has 70 PAs vs LHBs and only 60 against righties. This makes sense because righties are hitting .392/.483/.620 off of Milner and lefties are hitting .167/.294/.207. Even this is deceptive, because Milner had a 15.7% K% and 8.6% BB% vs lefties. For example those numbers are 42.4% and 4.4% for fellow lefty Adam Morgan. In addition to which batters Milner is being used against he is not being allowed to get himself into and out of trouble. Of his 35 games this year, he has not recorded three outs in 18 of them.
The end result of all of this is a bad pitcher used correctly. In the end pitchers need to get batters out, and Milner struggles with that on a percentage basis. He is better against lefties, but is far from dominant vs them. So far Mackanin has sheltered his ERA, but ERA estimators are less fooled by his talent level.
The Phillies have a set of relievers that are likely to be back next year. The Phillies want a second lefty and Milner’s ERA makes a good case. However, the Phillies are also facing another 40 man roster crunch and we can see that Milner’s talent is very ordinary. Unlike some of the other arms the Phillies have, Milner will also be 27 on opening day. Hopefully the Phillies front office will be able to look past the shiny outer coating.