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Numbers show Myers could be a solid addition for Indians

Numbers show Myers could be a solid addition for Indians
January 5, 2013
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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.

Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffmlbdraft, or email him at jellis121@yahoo.com

User Comments

Tony
January 6, 2013 - 1:10 AM EST
Jack I touch on it in my Sunday column, but shouldn't be an issue with Myers getting to 180-200 innings if he is healthy and performing. Twice before he was gone from 65-70 innings the previous season and thrown for 190 and 223 innings the next seasons in both cases.
Jack
January 5, 2013 - 4:12 PM EST
7 million dollars is SP type money, not middle relievers. I know their plans are to put him in the rotation, but he only threw 60 innings or so last year. What makes them believe he'll be able to give them 180+ this season?

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.
roger
January 5, 2013 - 9:23 AM EST
the 9:22 comment was from me roger not anonomous
anonymous
January 5, 2013 - 9:22 AM EST
i can see a lot of correlation to the myers signing to the signing in atlanta of derek lowe in the 08-09 off season. Not the signing last year by the tribe lowe is 6 yrs older than myers and with a starting pitcher that is serious difference. The nice thing is myers price tag was reasonable for the amount of innings he will undoubtable log. and if it works out we lock him up for 2014 as well at our discretion for only an additional 8 million. this buys us time to develop a pitcher to assume the starter role in 2015 sort of to ripen on the vine. Again kudos mr antonelli for being foresighted. I got hunch that some serious hardware and recognition is headed antonelli's way next off season. BEing executive of the year is more of inside baseball designation and less publicized but it might be the most important award issued after the season. It usually isnt like the 2007 recipient (Mark Shipiro) it usually is the harbinger of good things to happen for the next few years to the gm who wins it.

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