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Astros Starter's Week: Brett Myers

We wind things down with the newest Astro, Brett Myers. He caused a mini firestorm of interest here at the site when he signed, but Myers has been nothing but dependable in his starts with Houston.

The biggest question with Myers was his injury history. The 29-year old made 10 starts and 18 appearances in 2009 after injuring his hip in late May. Myers made a few appearances in September, but wasn't fully healed and didn't perform well. There were even significant questions about his health entering the 2010 season, which is why Myers was signed for a fairly rock-bottom price of 5.1 million for one year. (with a mutual option of 8 million for 2011). He was also signed on January 12th, less than a month before pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report.

Astros fans were optimistic that Myers could be a solid No. 3 starter, but I think we've all been pleasantly surprised by his performance. In 54 innings over eight, Myers has given up 60 hits and 24 runs (22 earned) while striking out 39 and walking 16. His 2-3 record belies just how effective he's been, but his 3.67 ERA and 3.83 xFIP show just what the Astros lucked into with Myers.

The fact that will immediately jump out about Myers' stats is his hit total. Remember, though, that he offsets it by a very low number of walks. He also gets an incredibly high percentage of ground balls at 50 percent. Only Roy Oswalt has allowed fewer walks per nine innings than Myers and only Wandy Rodriguez induces more ground balls. His hit rate is interesting, especially when you pair it and the grounders with his BABiP of .323. That's a very reasonable number, right in line with the league average. Still, league average with as many chances as Myers gives up means quite a few find their way for hits.

More encouraging is the fact that his ground ball, fly ball and line drive rates are all basically at his career averages, give or take a few points. That means Myers isn't doing anything differently and hasn't been lucky or unlucky. Basically, he's been pitching to his true talent level pretty neatly. The one shocking stat that probably won't continue? Myers hasn't induced one infield popup yet. Not one. He's one of 4 pitchers in the majors with at least 40 innings that hasn't gotten an infield pop. The other three are Florida's Chris Volstad, Cleveland's Jake Westbrook and Atlanta's Derek Lowe. All four throw fastballs in the 88 to 91 MPH range and all four have ground ball rates above 50 percent.

I don't know about you, but I didn't really think of Myers as being a ground ball pitcher. He's not really a sinkerball guy, nor does he have a great curve like Wandy's. No, Myers gets it done with his slider. Myers has the second-highest run value for his slider in baseball right now at 6.5. When you adjust per 100 pitches thrown, Myers drops down to the Top 10 and falls behind Westbrook. The interesting thing here is that Lowe and Volstad don't show up on this list. While the slider is both Myers and Westbrook's best pitch, it's not common for ground ball specialists to also excel with the slider.

Though Myers' best pitch might be the slider, he does a great job of inducing them with all of his pitches. Of the 82 ground balls he's gotten this season, none of his pitches account for more than 30 of them. His two-seamer has gotten 27, his four-seamer has 21 while his slider and curve both have 17. No wonder he's so good at giving up hits...(thanks to Joe Lefkowitz's Pitch F/X Tool for this data).

I'll spare you the extended Pitch F/X data on Myers this time, since we've gone through that with him this season already. However, I will point out in closing that Myers has a WAR value right now of 0.8. That means he's already been worth 3.2 million dollars on the open market, assuming a win is worth 3.5 million in free agency. Since his base salary is 3.1 million this season, it's safe to say the Astros have already gotten their money's worth.