Every old baseball card could tell a story, if you wanted it to. I have thousands of these things sitting in boxes, just waiting for me to pay some attention to them. And many days I have other topics that I’m more interested in writing about. But these things serve as my bulwark against running out of things to say.
Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve never heard of Trever Miller before. I hadn’t either, until I happened upon this card and read the verbiage on the back. The alliterative description of him as a “lanky lefty from Louisville” caught my attention, and so I gave his name a Google. As it turns out, he’s got what has to be the most impressive record that I’ve ever heard of, at least as far as pitching goes.
Trever Miller spent several years in the majors as a LOOGY. It’s a funny-sounding name, to be sure, but it’s also a very important role player for a big league club to have. LOOGY is a sort-of acronym for Left-handed One Out GuY (I said sort-of for a reason). These are guys who come in, late in a game, and face one hitter in order to hopefully end an inning.
LOOGYs–I think that’s the plural of the term– are relief pitchers, but without the dramatic flair of a closer, or even the reflected importance of a set-up man. These guys are like the cardboard sleeve that you put over a hot cup of coffee at Starbucks: unremarkable, and not something you think about very much, but just try getting along without them.
The nature of what a LOOGY does is to plug a hole. And when Trever Miller entered a game in San Diego in early August of 2006, he was just an 0-3 pitcher on an average Houston Astros team. He didn’t win that game, but he didn’t lose it, either.
Over the rest of that season, Miller didn’t lose a single game in which he took the mound. No big thing, really, because Miller’s job is to get outs, not to impact the game in any significant way. But still, every mound appearance is a loss just waiting to happen.
Miller managed to get through the entire 2007 season without taking a loss. And he repeated that trick for the 2008 season, as well. It wasn’t until late in the 2009 season that Miller’s luck finally ran out when he took the loss in a game against Colorado. To borrow a line from Bull Durham, “Some days you win; some days you lose; some days it rains.” And yet for three years, Trever Miller somehow managed to avoid the middle part of that proposition.
The best part of this story is that nobody was even aware of the record, not even Miller himself. It wasn’t until a writer named David Laurila noticed something in Miller’s statistics, and then asked Baseball Prospectus to do some research, that Miller’s record was identified as being a record to begin with. Imagine how it would feel if someone approached you and said you had set some kind of a record, without even knowing you were doing it. It must have been a confusing–and yet also thrilling–piece of news for him.
Spring training 2013 is just around the corner, and Trever Miller– now on the verge of turning 40–could get a spring training invitation from one of the teams in MLB. That’s what happened with the Chicago Cubs last season. But there are no guarantees that the Spring Training invite will lead to anything, either. Miller learned this last year as well, as the Cubs cut him and he spent his first season out of baseball in decades. It must have been an unsettling summer for him in 2012.
I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what happens with Trever Miller this Spring. Hopefully he still has some baseball left in him, but whatever the future holds, he’s got a record that might never be broken. And how many of us can say that?