Muller banking on revamped delivery for success in '24

February 27th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

and his 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame are easy to distinguish whenever he takes the mound. Once you see him throw a pitch, however, he is hardly recognizable from last year.

Coming off a down 2023 campaign, Muller revamped his delivery this offseason by raising his arm slot and adjusting his windup rotation from east-to-west to more of a north-to-south motion. The change came on the suggestion of the A’s baseball operations department.

The mechanics are similar to the ones Muller employed while in the Braves’ Minor League system in 2022. He switched up his delivery after joining the A’s last offseason as part of the return from Atlanta in the Sean Murphy deal.

“Our baseball ops group and Kyle were in contact starting in November,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “There was some arm angle difference for Kyle last year. I think he’s really worked hard on getting back to the slot he was in, and has a lot of confidence in that right now, so it’s exciting to see what it looks like.

“Every bullpen he’s thrown, all the numbers have been more in line with the numbers from [2022], both velocity and fastball efficiency.”

Muller was receptive to the idea and has been implementing the new approach on the mound all spring. Debuting it in his first Cactus League game in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, the left-hander worked two innings of one-run ball with three strikeouts.

“I’m getting behind the ball a lot better,” Muller said. “I was very pleased with the fastball. … I think I got more swing-and-misses on my fastball [Sunday] than I did in any game last year, so that’s encouraging.”

Muller is hopeful that the changes can help him distinguish his slider and fastball again, which he said he felt were starting to blend together last season and led to a lot of his ineffectiveness. After being named Oakland's 2023 Opening Day starter as a rookie, Muller posted a 7.60 ERA in 21 games (13 starts).

“There wasn’t a whole lot of separation between the two pitches,” Muller said. “Going into the offseason, the goal was to really try and get both of those pitches back to where they’ve been. We put in a lot of good work and it’s been a great adjustment.”

Kotsay liked what he saw from Muller’s revamped look on the mound.

“Good downhill action and a little bit of a different arm angle,” Kotsay said. “He got a lot of swing-and-miss [potential] against lefties. … Overall, I thought that was different than what I saw last year. He mixed all his pitches, too, which was good.”

Muller finds himself in an interesting predicament this spring. He is out of Minor League options, which means that if the 26-year-old does not make the Opening Day roster, he must be placed on waivers and become available to the 29 other Major League clubs.

“It’s definitely different,” Muller said of his situation. “The only options you have are either to be on the team or go somewhere else. But I want to be here. I want to be with this team, with all these guys. … I want to be here and help this team win.”

Muller is part of a large group of starters vying for the A’s final rotation spot. Kotsay also mentioned him as a candidate to join the bullpen as a long-relief option should he come up short of a spot in the rotation out of camp.

The competition is stiff, but Muller firmly believes that if he can get back to his 2022 form, when he was rated Atlanta’s top overall prospect, he has a strong chance to earn a spot.

“I’d be the first to say that last year was a bad year and nothing I expected,” Muller said. “If I make the adjustments that seem to be working and get back to being the guy Oakland traded for, I know when I’m at the top of my game, I’m pretty good. I just want to get back to being that guy. Wherever they want me to be, I’ll go throw.”