Numbers show Myers could be a solid addition for Indians
When first I heard that the Indians had signed right-hander Brett Myers my initial response was that he should be a guy who eats innings and not much else. I knew he had been a pen arm all of last year and that did worry me a bit as well, so I headed over to Baseball Reference to do some deeper research on him.
It was there I noticed that he has played in the majors for 11 years – three in the pen and eight as a starter. His first year was only a partial season, so if you eliminate that year, of the seven years he has been a starter he has never pitched less than 175 innings and averaged 201 innings over those years. When you consider just those numbers alone, on the surface the $7 million dollar price tag seems solid.
Even still, there is a lot more to look at.
The next thing I noticed was that the most similar pitcher was Jake Westbrook, which made me wonder just how much of that was because both had spent significant time as a starter and a reliever. Yet when you look at his most similar pitcher by age it was Todd Stottlemyre who was always a starter and a useful pitcher through age 35. Myers by the way is only 32.
The hot stat of the year has been wins above replacement (WAR), so if we look at Myers’ WAR totals he has only posted a negative WAR two times in his career. The first came in his debut season in 2002 when he only pitched 72 innings, and the other came in his third year (2004) which was the worst year of his career. His third worst season came two years ago, which was his last as a starter, but he still posted a positive WAR. For the record not a single Indian starter managed that feat last year as the best pitcher was Justin Masterson who had a WAR of 0, which means he was exactly replacement level.
As for Myers’ best three years WAR-wise, the first two occurred back to back in 2005 and 2006, though oddly the Phillies decided after his best season in 2006 to move him to the bullpen. I know there where circumstances, but a starter is always more valuable than a pen arm, especially a starter who was peaking and only 26 years old.
Myers spent the next three years with the Phillies being moved from starter to pen to starter to pen. His best year would arrive when he got to Houston in 2010, and as a starter he ended up finishing 10th in the CY Young and was a 4.6 WAR pitcher. If we compare that to Masterson’s 3.5 WAR from two years ago, this shows just how excellent Myers was that season.
So the question then becomes what went wrong? Why did Myers go from a top pitcher in the NL to a guy who was barely above replacement?
Well it was a bad combination of Myers’ strikeouts dropping and his hit rate rising. The concern is that his strikeout rate has dropped nearly three strikeouts a game from when he was in top form and about six years younger. The bonus is that during this same time his walk rate has also gone down 1.5 walks a game. This shows us that Myers is learning to adapt to age and a natural loss of velocity.
My gut feeling is that for the price, the Indians decided to go and get an innings eater. Myers has a history of going from a starter to the pen and back and still being able to come back and pitch massive innings. He has rarely been injured as he has missed almost no time to injury in the majors.
When you look at the pitchers left, Myers is the one who is most likely to hit 200 innings in 2013. I think this is what made the Indians chase him as they know there are some major question marks in their rotation, so adding a guy like Myers who they can just pencil in and expect 170 innings is an easy sign for one year at only $7 million. There was frankly not a pitcher left on the market who has a better health record and reasonable price tag. Marcum managed to hit 170 innings only two times in his seven year career, and while Lohse has done it eight time in 11 seasons he would have cost four times as much plus a draft pick.
Myers was a signing I was not a fan of at first, but I was blinded by his time spent in the bullpen. Yet after looking at him, I realized the Indians got a steal. They were able to get a player for one year, who has been consistently able to pitch a ton of innings, avoid injury, and be an average to above average pitcher.
I give the Indians credit for looking beyond 2012, and looking at Myers full resume and realizing this is a guy who can pitch, and should have no problem transitioning back to a role as a starter. As long as he can be a solid number four type of starter this signing is a clear win for the Indians.
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I don't hate the signing, but I don't think it's going to work out like they're hoping. I think he ends up back in the bullpen.