Seasons With Braves: 1997-2002
Stats With Braves: 75-46, 3.73 ERA
The selection of Kevin Millwood as the fifth-best pitcher in Atlanta history seems odd at first glance. However, I chose him after careful consideration using my usual standards:
1. Runs Saved Above Average: Millwood’s RSAA is the highest of any Atlanta Brave except Niekro and the Big Three.
2. Wins: Millwood is eighth in Atlanta history in wins with 75, fourth in a five-man group with 83 to 72.
3. Duration: Millwood pitched 1004 1/3 innings in a Brave uniform, ninth on the Atlanta list.
4. Contribution to winning teams: Millwood had five seasons and part of a sixth in Atlanta and the team won the division every year, of course. In 1999 he led the starters in ERA, one of only two times since 1991 that the leader has not been Glavine, Maddux, or Smoltz.
I’m pretty comfortable where he ranks among the pitchers. He maybe should rank lower overall. The difference between the fourth-best pitcher and the fifth-best is immense.
Millwood was an eleventh-round pick out of high school in 1993. His numbers in the minors really aren’t anything special until 1997. That year, he was 3-5 with a 4.11 ERA in Greenville, but was striking out a man an inning and earned a promotion to Richmond. There, he went 7-0 with a 1.93 ERA and the Braves called him up to pitch for the big club. Because of injuries to Smoltz, Millwood was able to stay in basically a regular rotation most of his time in Atlanta, where he went 5-3 with a 4.03 ERA.
In 1998, he was again usually used in a regular rotation (Smoltz was limited to 26 starts) and went 17-8, albeit with an ERA only a little better than the league. I do not think it a coincidence that Millwood, the one Braves prospect pitcher to make it as a starter with the club during the nineties, was the one who was able to stay in a regular rotation early in his career. A lot of promising pitchers got put in that fifth starter spot and spent two years sitting in the bullpen unused much of the time. Millwood got to pitch.
In 1999, Kevin had his best year as a Brave by far, going 18-7 with a 2.68 ERA. He was third in the Cy Young voting and second in the league in ERA. He pitched well in the Division Series and LCS, but was knocked out of the box in his World Series start. For the next two seasons, Millwood was an ordinary pitcher, largely because of arm problems that were often blamed on heavy use in 1999. My recollection is that Millwood beginning at this time fatigued easily, and Bobby wasn’t always ready to catch it, leading to a lot of good starts blown.
In 2002, Millwood rebounded to 18-8, 3.24. Bobby had learned better to regulate his workload, but also he was finally healthy. Still, his peripherals were not all that much better than in his previous full season, 2000. Trading him at that time might have been a wise choice. The problem was trading him in the division and for a seemingly low return.
Millwood was adequate for the Phillies in 2003 (though he did throw a no-hitter) poor in 2004. The Indians picked him up cheap, and he won the AL ERA title in 2005. (How come those people who say that the NL is inferior because an AL washout like Jeff Suppan can pitch well never mention this?) He signed a big free agent contract with the Rangers, but was ordinary again last year. I should point out that his similar pitchers list has a lot of the same names as Tim Hudson’s — Jack McDowell, Dennis Leonard.