Myers Rotation Return Should Help Provide Stability
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the 15 newcomers to the 40-man roster this winter and the role they can play moving forward.
By Steve Eby
There is no question which part of the 2012 Cleveland Indians was its Achilles’ heel. If you ask anyone with knowledge of the 2013 Tribe, they too will agree that the starting pitching could be the weak point of the current team as well.
Top two starters Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez combined to lose 32 games last season and the other starting pitchers were nothing special. Zach McAllister was arguably the Tribe’s most consistent starter, but even Z-Mac had a record under .500 and an ERA over 4.00. In an attempt to fix the problem, the Indians signed free agent pitcher Brett Myers to a one year, $7 million deal with a club option for 2014.
Myers was a first round pick in 1999 for Philadelphia and made his Major League debut in 2002 with the Phillies. After winning 14 games in just his second season, expectations were high for the young right hander. Myers did not disappoint, posting excellent numbers in 2005 with 13 wins and a 3.72 ERA. He was the staff ace in 2006, had some legal problems in July of that year, and then was the Opening Day starter for Philly in 2007.
Injuries and three ineffective starts early in 2007 forced the Phils to move Myers to the bullpen, where he became a solid reliever and eventually the team’s closer. Myers saved 21 games in his first season out of the bullpen as he helped the Phillies to the National League Eastern Division Championship.
In 2008, Myers was moved back into the Phillies starting rotation to start the season. Myers had mixed emotions about being moved back.
“I’ll do whatever the team needs,” Myers said in an Andy Jasner article. “Truthfully, I wish I could do both roles, but I understand that’s not feasible. I’ll give them everything I have every time I start.”
As the Opening Day starter for the second straight season, Myers struggled to regain his starting form and was sent down to the minors in July. After four starts at Triple-A, he was recalled and dominated for the rest of the season. In October, he helped lead Philadelphia to a World Series title.
After missing most of 2009 with an injury, Myers signed a one year contract to pitch for the Houston Astros in 2010. Myers had an outstanding season, going 14-8 with a career low 3.14 ERA. He was somewhat of an All-Star snub, getting passed over to represent his team by another future Indian, Michael Bourn. Myers finished 10th in the National League Cy Young voting that season.
Houston resigned Myers after his great season, and Myers struggled somewhat in the 2011 campaign. Due to a glaring bullpen need in Houston, he was moved back to the closer’s role for the Astros in 2012 and posted 19 saves and a 3.31 ERA before being traded to the Chicago White Sox in July. Myers pitched well for the Pale Hose down the stretch, posting a 3.12 ERA out of the White Sox ‘pen.
Now, Myers will be switched back out of the bullpen and into the starting rotation for the second time in his career. The Indians are banking on Myers to be their number three starter behind Masterson and Jimenez and are looking for him to eat up some serious innings.
Myers has pitched over 200.0 innings three times in his career, including his last two seasons as a starter in 2010 and 2011. He has thrown over 190.0 innings an additional three times and the importance of these stats is not lost on his new manager.
“Brett Myers should give us 200 innings,” Terry Francona said in January at Tribe Fest. This is not a stat that should be taken lightly by fans, as what they get from Myers may be similar to what they used to get from another former innings eater.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the pitcher through baseball history that Myers compares most similarly to is former Indian Jake Westbrook. If you take out Myers’ 40 career saves, the comparison truly is a fair one. Both pitchers are workhorse-type guys who eat a lot of innings and consistently get results. This comparison should excite Tribe fans, as consistency is certainly one aspect that the Indians starting rotation has lacked since Westbrook was traded in 2010.
Myers, like Westbrook, features a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, curveball and changeup. Unlike Westbrook, however, it is not Myers sinker that is his bread-and-butter pitch. According to a FanGraphs.com study in 2012, Myers was said to have “baseball’s movingest curve”. The study states that Myers’ “Uncle Charlie” breaks 9.6 inches horizontally and -10.5 inches vertically for a total break of 20.1 inches—best in the Major Leagues. Myers throws his curve on approximately 30% of his pitches, so catcher Carlos Santana had better keep his eye on the ball and his glove in the dirt.
Ultimately, however, the most important thing that Myers brings to the Cleveland Indians rotation is not his wicked curveball, but his consistency and stability in a rotation that has been nowhere near consistent or stable over the past few seasons.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer