The Astros' offseason had people talking this year. Unfortunately for us, it had them using phrases like "don't have a grasp on reality" and "what are they doing?". It had me in an existential funk at moments, but one that didn't leave me cursing the baseball gods for destining me to be a fan of this team was when Ed Wade announced the signing and contract of Brett Myers.
Myers' career path has been interesting for a number of reasons; the on the field reason being that he bounced between starting and closing games from 2006 to 2008. Coming to the Astros off an injury-plagued 2009, he had question marks all over him. In terms of raw statistics, with little attention paid to their context, Myers' FIP to xFIP comparison of 6.14 to 4.32 indicated the gods of random chance had decided to give Myers some possibly due karmic justice in terms of his HR/FB percentage (from 15.6 percent in 2008 to 23.4 in 2009). Anyone who has ever heard of the concept of reversion to the mean could take a look at that those numbers and reasonably estimate that Myers' HR/FB percentage would come back down to earth.
The stats weren't the whole picture, though. As clack so astutely opined, it was reasonable that Myers would return to form from his injury, but the injury concerns lingered. As we approach the halfway mark in 2010, Myers has been a pleasant surprise in the Astros rotation having provided both quality and quantity. Myers' performance is a great story for Ed Wade to complement his offseason pitching acquisitions performing far better than the saber-crowd on the internet all confidently predicted this offseason. But, this is not really what we should be concerned about.
Brett Myers has been stellar so far this season. And he has been stellar in spite of a decline in strikeouts compared to his career levels (6.84 to 7.45 K/9), a continued tailing off of his fastball velocity, a decrease in his LOB% by nine percent, and a slightly above average BABIP (.315). The only place that Myers' numbers have improved is his HR/FB percentage, which is further aided by a decrease in his fly ball rate generally. His HR/FB percentage is a full 50 percent below his career average of 14.9 percent and still well below the typical league average of around 12 percent.
Maybe Brad Arnsberg has helped Myers with his two-seamer or maybe Myers has figured out how to control his offerings better. It is certainly possible. The objective viewpoint inclines one to assume that Myers will perform somewhat more akin to league average or his career average in that department. When/If that happens, Myers' numbers will look less glittery. His FIP (which doesn't take into account HR/FB) is 3.58, but his xFIP (which does) is 3.99. That's certainly nothing to scoff at as his 3.99 mark places him in the top 40 among all starters who have amassed 60 innings pitched thus far.
Brett Myers has been for real this year. He is not quite as good as his 3.20 ERA leaves Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver to believe, but that is not the point.
Rather, it's not really what should concern Ed Wade. The Astros are a bad team. They are actually doing really well being the best at being a bad team, but they're not quite there—yet. Myers represents a true bright spot on the Astros and is only due $1.62 million for the rest of the season as of last night. He is the ideal half season rental for a team that is a starter shy of surviving the divisional series.
He is the ideal trade piece for the Astros, too. The acquiring team is on the hook for chump change with the likelihood that Myers will re-test free agency after this season or can be bought at a discount. That means the Astros can leverage better prospects for a player who is not a hometown hero. Worrying about what Brett Myers' HR/FB regression means to his second half performance is not a discussion that Ed Wade should be having unless he is lying through his teeth to another GM on the phone.
Brett Myers has been a pleasant surprise for Ed Wade, but now it is time for Ed Wade to take house money and let it ride.
**I have noted this once before and I got no acknowledgment of it: Am I the only one who constantly attaches a "y" to the end of Brett when typing Brett Myers. For instance, I literally just typed Bretty instead of Brett right then.**