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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Alumni Profile: Eric Milton 

Admit it, you knew I'd get around to this topic sooner or later.

I’ve said that the smartest thing that the Phillies did in the off-season was an omission: namely re-signing Eric Milton. On paper Milton was the team’s ace: his 14 wins led the team, as did his 161 strikeouts. His high (4.75 ERA) was explained away by the fact that he pitched in a hitters park like Citizens.

Bloggers like myself snorted and laid into Milton: his road ERA (5.12) was actually higher than his home ERA (4.40) and he gave up more home runs on the road (23) than at home (20), in eight fewer innings. Worse, Milton benefited from strong defense behind him, so his “fielding independent” stats were much, much worse. I was happy to see him leave, cheered by the Yankees interest in him and dumbfounded when the Cincinnati Reds signed him. Great American Ballpark, along with Citizens, has a reputation for being a hitters paradise. Did the Reds realize what they had done when they signed Milton to their team, I wondered?

Evidentially not.

Eric Milton is a talented pitcher and clearly the Minnesota Twins and Phillies had high hopes he'd develop into a stud pitcher. The Twins and Phillies tried and cut the cord when they could. The suspect the Reds will seek to do the same. To say that Eric Milton is having a rough season is an understatement:

Win-Loss: 3-9
ERA: 7.82
WHIP: 1.71

What is an eye-popping stat to me are his home runs per 9 innings:

2005: 2.78
2004: 1.92
Career: 1.53

That is a tremendous jump. But if you think that Milton's struggles are a product of Great American, check this out:

Road: 10 home runs allowed, 29 2/3 innings (3.03 per 9 innings)
Home: 15 home runs allowed, 52 innings (2.60 per 9 innings)

Again, the argument that Milton is a victim of his environment (namely his ballpark) just untrue. It is a crutch Milton's defenders have falsely relied upon. The interesting thing to me is that Milton isn't pitching that appreciably worse this years rather than last: his FIP is 6.83, about a run and a half higher than last year's FIP.

There you go: the Phillies strongest offseason move was an omission.

I too was glad to see Milton go. His ERA and home runs allowed worried me last year and I was shocked to see the Yankees go so aggressivle after him. Wait, actually, I'm wasn't - they're the Yankees. When he signed with the Reds I was truly amazed.

Unlike you, however, I'm also glad we got rid of Millwood. I won't debate numbers and what makes him a good pitcher or not. To me it was very basic - Kevin Millwood was not worthy of $11 million. Lieber for $7 million or Millwood for the $11 million he was paid last year? No contest.
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