Wade Miley: security blanket turned no-hitter pitcher

When Wade Miley was awarded a two-year contract worth $15 million on Dec. 19, 2019, the Cincinnati Reds believed they were bringing in a security blanket. 

This was strictly by design, of course – with Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray battling for the recognition of being the staff ace, it only made sense to nab back-end starter that could sponge up innings and reinforce the trio as the fourth or fifth starter. 

In theory, the Southeastern Louisiana Lion alum was to pitch in (no pun intended) when needed and soak up innings when necessary. 

While this was the theory, this was not necessarily the reality. Through a collection of injuries and inconsistencies, Miley’s 2020 bottomed out to a whopping 5.65 ERA in six games played (four games started). Even his game played total had to be taken with a grain of salt – he only pitched in 14.1 innings, and in those innings, conceded 15 hits, nine walks and 10 total runs (nine earned). 

Talk about a lost season. 

And so, the 2021 season came along, and even with Bauer taking his talents to the West Coast, Miley was still expected to be that back-end starter. 

Again, in theory. 

With Bauer gone, Gray still healing up from a back injury and Castillo struggling to find location with his killer changeup, it has been up to the now-34-year-old Miley to keep Cincinnati afloat in the National League Central through the early portion of the 2021 campaign. 

The Reds have not only reaped the benefits of Miley’s work through early May, but have also been able hang their cap knowing they have another no-hitter under their name. After all, it is their 17th no-hitter in franchise history and their first since July 2, 2013 against the San Francisco Giants (Homer Bailey). 

Even against a Cleveland Indians offense known for their offensive struggles, Miley trekked onto the mound on May 7 at Progressive Field with the same mindset he had up to this juncture of the season: mix it up, but locate in the lower quadrant to get ground balls. The reasoning was simple – heading into his start against Cleveland, Miley’s 54.9 ground ball percentage (GB%) ranked 16th out of 131 starters to pitch a minimum of 20.0 innings pitched. To say this was the way Miley needed to succeed would be a drastic understatement. His 6.33 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (K/9) ranked 123rd out of all starters within the same 20.0 innings pitched threshold. 

Over the course of the game, Miley stuck to his bread-and-butter cutter and changeup, as both of these down-and-away pitches combined to retire 21 of 27 batters (10 were retired by the changeup and 11 were retired via the cutter). The infield was bustling with play after play, as Miley compiled 15 groundouts to only one flyout. 

While Miley was able to uphold his significant strength, he surprisingly contradicted his weakness – while he was not seen as a strikeout pitcher, his eight strikeouts over the course of the game were not only a season-high (his next highest total was six on Apr. 6 against the Pittsburgh Pirates), but a high that has not been matched since Aug. 19, 2019 (he struck out eight against the Detroit Tigers) or eclipsed since May 29, 2019 (nine against the Chicago Cubs) when he was a member of the Houston Astros.  

The individual in-game accomplishments are certainly impressive when simply concluding that a supposed back-of-the-rotation starter did it.

How did Miley’s no-hitter stack up against other individual franchise no-hitters, though? 

Per Baseball Reference, Cincinnati has accumulated 14 individual no-hitters since 1901. Of those 14 no-hitters, Miley’s eight strikeouts are tied for fifth-most (Hod Eller on May 11, 1919 against the St. Louis Cardinals). Additionally, Miley’s is the first to allow one walk or less since Bailey in 2013. 

When digging deeper, Miley’s no-no stands out even more in terms of the franchise and in the entirety of MLB history. Miley’s no-hitter is the fifth in Reds’ history to be thrown by a southpaw and the first since Tom Browning’s infamous perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sep. 16, 1988 at Riverfront Stadium. 

How the no-hitter stacks up in the MLB history books is also impressive, to say the least. While left-handed pitcher John Means of the Baltimore Orioles pitched a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on May 5, Miley’s no-hitter is the first by a pitcher 34 years old or older since 36-year-old Justin Verlander picked one up against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sep. 1, 2019. 

When looking at no-hitters by southpaws 34 years old or older, Miley is the first to twirl one since May 18, 2004, when someone by the name of Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game as a 40-year-old against the Atlanta Braves. To top everything off, Miley is now one of only five left-handed pitchers 34 years old or older to pitch a no-hitter. The other four? Johnson, David Wells (May 17, 1998 against the Minnesota Twins), Warren Spahn who did it twice (Sep. 16, 1960 and Apr. 28, 1961 against the Philadelphia Phillies and Giants, respectively) and Mel Parnell (July 14, 1956 against the Chicago White Sox). 

That’s it. 

There was a time Miley traveled across the league as a journeyman of sorts. When the Reds swooped him up in free agency, they wanted a back-of-the-rotation asset that could reinforce an elite three-headed monster atop the starting staff. 

Instead of getting dependable innings, Cincinnati has received top-of-the-line innings, lost 2020 season aside. When the “Big 3” in Bauer, Gray and Castillo either left, were injured or did not perform, Miley was there, and is still there. 

He most certainly was on May 7. Simply ask Cleveland. 

Security blanket? 

Maybe just in theory. 

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