Trading for Owen Miller is shaping up to be the savviest move by Milwaukee’s amended front office.
The flashiest? Probably not. Acquiring Miller for cash from the Cleveland Guardians signaled the last of six trades that Brewers general manager Matt Arnold swung before Christmas. The returns were highlighted by two All-Stars, catcher William Contreras and outfielder/designated hitter Jesse Winker.
Approaching the 50-game mark in the 2023 season, however, it’s Miller who’s emerged as the top threat.
And not just among the new players in Milwaukee’s clubhouse – but on the team overall. In 32 games, the 26-year-old Miller, who by the way is a Wisconsin native (born in Mequon, about a 25-minute drive from American Family Field), leads the Crew with a .330 batting average and .353 on-base percentage (min. 15 PA).
This month, Miller has really separated himself … as the best batsman on the Brewers.
In 13 appearances from May 3-21, the career .244 hitter went 20-for-49 (.408) with six doubles, two home runs and five RBI. He added a sacrifice fly and sat down on strikes only eight times in that stretch.
Of course, all good things come to an end. Miller finished 0-for-4 with a couple whiffs in Milwaukee’s 12-2 thumping Monday at the hands of the reigning world champion Astros. The uneventfulness terminated two super, season-long runs for Miller – hitting and on-base streaks of 13 and 22 games.
The former, outlined above, rocketed Miller’s average from .273 to .344. The latter, which began April 17 – Miller’s eighth game wearing a Brewers jersey and fifth time in the starting lineup – resulted in a 34-point increase in his OBP (.333-.367), and ranks tied for the seventh-longest streak in MLB this year.
Here’s the group of players with an equal or better on-base jaunt: Yordan Alvarez (36), Jurickson Profar (30), Xander Bogaerts (30), Nico Hoerner (26), Ronald Acuña Jr. (24), Triston Casas (23), Byron Buxton (22), Ketel Marte (22), Whit Merrifield (22). For what it’s worth, Profar’s, Buxton’s and Marte’s are active.
Miller’s 22-game spell wasn’t on the level of 2003 Brewers outfielder Scott Podsednik, who set a club record by reaching safely in 47 consecutive contests. Nor does it rival second baseman Fernando Vina’s streak of 40 games in 1996 or Prince Fielder’s and Paul Molitor’s 39 (a hit streak!!) in 2007-08 and 1987, and so on.
Miller’s recently snapped streak, a personal best in parts of three seasons in the majors, ranks 66th in franchise history. Granted, it’s the longest by a Brewers player in a full season since Christian Yelich made it 90 or more feet without being put out in 25 straight games during the 2019 campaign. Good company.
(Note: Yelich ledgered an even longer on-base streak of 29 games in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.)
The most interesting aspect, perhaps, of Miller’s success at the plate is the effect it could have on Milwaukee’s lineup the rest of the way. His average sits 73 points higher than Yelich, the No. 2 hitter on the Brewers roster. Miller is one of four qualifying players raking above .250. That’s impossible to ignore.
But where exactly does Miller fit? He’s pinch-hit four times and entered off the bench in six games. The utilityman has logged innings at five positions – first, second and third base, as well as left and right field.
He’s also not seen action in 15 of Milwaukee’s 47 games.
Miller’s path to everyday at-bats likely will get murkier once Luis Urias (rehabbing a hamstring injury; eligible to come off the 60-day IL on May 30) rejoins the team and reclaims his spot on the hot corner.
But if we’ve learned anything through the first two-odd months of the season, it’s that Miller has more than earned his plate appearances – and has made Arnold look genius for scoring his skills at a bargain.