Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Rotation Thoughts, Part IV: Brett Myers 

I won’t make any comments about the Boston incident other than to say that it doesn’t suggest good things about Brett Myers character. Sadly, character is very little about baseball. Ty Cobb was a miserable human being and he still made the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds’ personality has been radioactive for baseball, but he’s still worth millions to the Giants, even though he treats the fans who pay his salary with contempt and derision.

Brett Myers had a heckuva good year for the Phillies and seems poised to continue to do so for many, many years into the future.

When Brett Myers started as a starter with the Phillies in 2003 he pitched well (14-9, 4.43 ERA), but then struggled in 2004 when the team moved to Citizens. He surrendered 31 home runs that season and got shelled, his 11-11 record not nearly the indication of how awful he pitched: 5.52 ERA. What surprised me about Myers ’04 campaign were those 31 home runs. It was a very Eric Milton-esque performance, but Eric Milton was a fly ball pitcher (0.57 G/F in 2004). Myers was not:

G/F ratio:
2003: 1.85
2004: 1.41
2005: 1.46
2006: 1.25

Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
G/F – Groundball-to-Flyball ratio.
HR/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings: (HR * 9) / IP
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings: (K * 9) / IP
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings: (BB * 9) / IP

In ‘04 I had stated that Brett Myer’s 31 home runs allowed were a fluke. He’d do better than that in 2005, I stated, if he throws the same number of groundballs. I was correct: Brett Myers lowered his home runs allowed per nine innings from 1.59 to 1.30, however my thesis – that the home runs allowed by Myers were a fluke – was wrong. Brett Myers struck out many, many more batters in 2005 than he had in 2004. None of those balls were put into play and thus, none were hit for home runs. The percentage of Myers flyballs and groundballs were virtually identical from ’04 to ’05:

Groundballs / Flyballs
2004: 272 / 193
2005: 278 / 191

As I noted, Myers struck more guys out in ’05: Myers faced 778 batters in 2004 and 905 in 2005, an increase of 127. Myers increased his strikeouts from 116 to 208, so of those extra 127 batters he faced, he struck 92 of them out. The percentage of home runs allowed from fly balls was virtually the same from 2004 to 2005: 16.1% to 16.2%. In fact, it was actually worse in 2005 because he surrendered the same number of home runs in two fewer fly balls. Myers did a better job in 2006, allowing just 29 home runs on 205 fly balls (14.1%).

To give you an idea about how the Phillies other pitchers did: Cole Hamels allowed 19 home runs on 143 fly balls (13.3%). Jon Lieber allowed 27 home runs on 202 fly balls in 2006: 13.4%. When the ball is put into play in the air, Myers is pretty likely to see it sky out of the field of play for a home run. It is a flaw to his game.

As I noted above, Myers became a strikeout artist in 2005. It was a major departure from the norm in his game. In 2003 and 2004 Myers had been a good, solid pitcher who got lots of strikeouts. Suddenly in ’05 and ’06 he became a lights-out strikeout artist:

K/9 - K/BB ratio
2003: 6.67 / 1.88
2004: 5.93 / 1.87
2005: 8.69 / 3.06
2006: 8.59 / 3.00

Myers strikeout rate is a major jump. You can also detect a slight downturn in the number of walks he allows:

2003: 3.54
2004: 3.17
2005: 2.84
2006: 2.86

Myers ability to cut down on the walks and ramp up the strikeouts is very impressive. As you can see, he’s made major strides since ’04:

2004: 5.01
2005: 3.99
2006: 4.17

So is Brett Myers really the Phillies ace? The team is clearly Cole Hamels to lead, but Myers performance the last two years has been very, very good, much better in fact than people generally realized. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see the Phillies find that Myers is their most effective pitcher in 2007, particularly if Cole Hamels were to get injured or if he struggles. Let’s hope Myers head is clear as their season unfolds because he could turn out to be the Phillies biggest surprise in ’07.

Conclusions: I think the Phillies rotation is rock-solid with no holes. Maybe Adam Eaton will struggle a little, but I doubt it. Myers and Hamels will continue to be their dominating selves, and Freddy Garcia is going to be a hard guy to get much of anything off of. Jamie Moyer will continue to dazzle with his off-speed junk, and Eaton will hopefully put together a nice season. I’m not saying that the Phillies will have the best rotation in the N.L. – that is going to be the L.A. Dodgers – but they will have one of the best. Let’s bring on Opening Day!

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