Before and After: Brett Myers
August 24, 2008 1 Comment
When the Phillies
stole acquired Brad Lidge from the Astros this off-season, Brett Myers was told he would return to the starting rotation. Myers did not exactly welcome the move with open arms and seemingly conceded that being in the rotation would help the team most. Many analysts, myself included, felt that adding Myers to the rotation served as a better starting pitcher “signing” than many, if not all, of the free agents available. In an attempt to show the potentially angry Myers that a return to the bullpen was not very likely, Charlie Manuel anointed him the team’s opening day starter.
Myers pitched relatively well in his first few starts but the outlook soon grew bleak. He began surrendering home runs at a rate alarming even to Citizens Bank Park natives; his strikeout rate lowered; and his rate of free passes rose. Unlike last year, when, after a rough start he found himself in the bullpen, the Phillies stood by Myers, desperately hoping he would figure out whatever was preventing him from reaching that all star potential.
Much was researched with regards to his struggles, and it seemed that the bulk of these struggles stemmed from slower velocity, worse location, and much less command (which is different from control). Myers’ velocity ranged from 91.4-92.5 between 2005-07, but is just 90.2 as we speak, or write. Now, pitchers can succeed with an 89-90 fastball, but they have to be more precise in their location and approach. Power pitchers, and flamethrowers alike, can challenge both the inside and outside corners with great success; the slower or average velocity pitchers need to stick to the outside corner to succeed.
As I showed here a couple of months ago, the pitches that tend to get hit out of the ballpark are below the pitcher’s average velocity, and in a location near the vicinity of right down the middle. Myers fell victim to this criteria, which greatly explains his home runs allowed. He failed to change his approach. While he could challenge hitters all over with a 93-95 mph fastball last season as a closer, the drop in velocity should have signaled the need for an approach alteration, but it didn’t. He was throwing 88-90 mph but acting like he threw 93+. An 89 mph fastball middle or middle-in isn’t exactly an intimidating pitch to major league hitters.
It was no surprise then that, prior to his minor league demotion, his average fastball was a mere 89.7 mph. Additionally, his numbers were quite poor: 101.2 IP, 115 H, 66 ER, 24 HR, 44 BB, 86 K. His ERA, FIP, and xFIP were very poor as well. The demotion would hopefully allow him to regain his confidence and work out any potential mechanical flaws. Whether his time in the minors is actually the cause or if it’s just a natural regression (IE – he couldn’t possibly continue to be that bad), he has been very good since his return.
In his six starts since returning to the big leagues, Myers has gone 41.2 IP, surrendering 30 hits, just 2 of which are gopher balls. He has allowed just 9 earned runs, while walking 10 and fanning 32 hitters. His fastball has jumped to a much more lively 91.3-91.5 mph, and his movement has been fairly steady. Sure, two of the three starts came against the Nationals, but what’s wrong with a pick me up game or two when trying to regain confidence? Plus, from the looks of it, plenty of teams would have had trouble hitting him the way he mixed his pitches, hit his spots, and utilized his plus-fastball.
Interestingly enough, even though he gained velocity in these recent starts, and while his movement has been steady, it is actually slightly lower now than before. Prior to the demotion, he threw his fastball with 4.98 horizontal inches and 9.39 vertical inches of movement; after the fact, 3.15 horizontal inches and 9.15 vertical inches. Myers freely admitted frustration at the disappearance of his velocity but, even worse, his offspeed repertoire took hits because they served as functions of the fastball. Without confidence in his fastball, the offspeed pitches were not as intimidating and thus featured diminished effects.
Another interesting aspect is his release point. A standard deviation of his release point prior to the demotion was 0.31; afterwards, 0.21. Take from that what you will, but he has been more consistent lately in where the ball leaves his hand. Myers is not as bad as his pre-demotion numbers would indicate, nor is he as good as these last six starts, but he will likely be a major factor in determining how the rest of the NL East race plays out.