LAKEWOOD, NJ- Atlanta’s Shelby Miller has garnered plenty of attention of late for his losing ways. The 25-year-old former first round pick, has not notched a win in his last 18 starts, losing 10 consecutive decisions over that stretch. The lack of success isn’t Miller’s fault though, as he sports a remarkable 2.63 ERA this season and a solid 3.24 mark during this stretch in the big leagues. In the minors, the Phillies have a poor luck loser of their own.
Right-hander Tyler Viza surpassed his win total with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws from last year with his fourth victory on June 1st of this year. The 20-year-old has not recorded a win since that date over a span of 12 appearances.
Like Miller, Viza’s lack of wins certainly isn’t due to poor output. He has tallied a 3.38 ERA this season through 21 games (20 starts). In his last 9 starts, the six-foot-three 170-pounder has gone 0-7 with a 2.58 ERA. The BlueClaws, however, are averaging just 2.11 runs per game in those contests.
His pitching coach, former Phillies reliever Aaron Fultz, asserts that he feels frustration for the young hurler.
“This year, I mean, it’s frustrating,” Fultz admitted. “He’s been probably our best starter for two months and he hasn’t had a win since June 1st. Like I tell him, as a pitcher, we don’t control that. We can do everything right and get a no decision. We just have to give our team a chance to win and he does that every time out.”
Viza, though, is not bothered by his own lack of W’s and has his mind firmly focused on the bigger picture.
“I would look at it like I want to get my team a win. I’m trying to do my best for the team and I know they’re trying to do their best. When we come out with a loss, it’s harder to take than a win, but I’ll show up tomorrow and do it all again,” Viza said in the home dugout at FirstEnergy Park this week.
Last season, Viza set the single-season loss record for Lakewood, when he posted a 3-17 record over 25 starts in his first full professional season, after the Phils selected him in the 32nd round of the 2013 draft out of Desert Vista High School. His skipper this year thinks last season’s struggles helped Viza, who is now Lakewood’s all-time loss record holder with 26.
“A lot of times you forget how young he is, because he’s very mature for 20 years old,” said Lakewood manager Shawn Williams. “But, what he went through last year and didn’t complain, took the ball every time. It shows this year, my first year around him. He’s, for me, the ultimate competitor.
“You can tell it doesn’t bother him. He’s gonna go out and pitch and he’s pitched even better in the last three months than he did early on and maybe hasn’t had the success in the win column, but he’s been one of our more consistent guys. And he’s improved in all areas.”
Consistent is definitely a suitable adjective for Viza, who is 4 1/3 innings out of the South Atlantic League’s top spot in innings pitched and he’s done that in three less starts than the league leader. He also ranks well among starters in ERA (10th), strike outs (11th) with 94 and complete games (tie-2nd) with two.
The improvements that Williams mentioned were topics that Viza spoke of as well, stating that the pitfalls of 2014 became the blessings of 2015.
“I would throw a lot of strikes and that’s not always the best thing,” a mellow Viza shared. “So, working out of the zone, I definitely learned how to pitch a lot more than I did last year.
“I know this year, I’m a lot more confident in every pitch I throw, making sure that this is the pitch that I want to throw and making sure that I execute that pitch. This year, for me, it was all about execution and getting as many guys out as I can.”
Focusing on ending this year on a positive note for the promising hurler, Williams feels Viza’s future is bright.
“The kind of competitor he is- he’s going to be very successful as he moves up the ladder, once he gets a couple W’s and gets that confidence going.”