Anatomy of a player: Brett Myers

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**Brett Myers was a better pitcher after returning from the minors** (Icon/SMI)

Brett Myers started three games for the Phillies in the postseason and his team won each time. This was a far cry from the way Myers was pitching before the Phillies sent him to Triple-A at the beginning of July. In his first 17 starts of the season, he posted an ugly 5.84 ERA, with some poor peripherals showing this wasn’t a fluke.

After a few weeks in the minors, Myers was called up and pitched much better, posting a 3.49 ERA with a significantly better walk rate in his 14 starts down the stretch. What did Myers change that made such a difference? Many times you hear a manager say that a pitcher needs to work on a few things, but what really is going on? I’ll shed some light on what Myers was working on and how his stuff changed in his return.

Myers’ stuff

Let’s start with an overview of Brett Myers’ repertoire. Myers is one of the few pitchers in the big leagues who throws (at least) five pitches frequently: four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, curve and change-up. Here is a look at his movement chart.

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Myers’ fastball is very over-the-top, with little horizontal movement but good “rise.” When he is right, he is throwing this pitch in the lower to mid 90s. He also throws a sinker that has better horizontal movement than it actually sinks and he throws this pitch in the upper 80s, touching 90 on the gun.

His main off-speed pitches are his curve and slider. His curve is mostly 12 to 6, with very good vertical drop. Myers’ curve is more lollipop than hard curve: He throws it in the upper 70s. His slider is in the mid 80s with very little horizontal movement but also not a lot of vertical “rise.” Frequent readers can probably guess which of these two pitches I like better, but here goes: Because Myers doesn’t get a lot of movement with his slider, it isn’t going to be a very effective strikeout pitch because he can’t start the pitch on the outer corner and have it tail away from right-handed batters. While his curveball drops off the table, his slider doesn’t slide off it. Myers also throws a circle change-up that is kind of an average pitch around 83 mph with more horizontal movement and less vertical movement than to his fastball.

Now, depending on whom you talk to, Myers also throws a splitter and a cutter. Where are these pitches on Myers’ movement chart? Well, he might have thrown a few splitters this year, but not a lot. If you look at his change-ups, you can a few that have migrated very close to his four-seam fastball. These pitches move more like you would expect a splitter to move and are a little faster than most his change-ups.

But because there are not many of these pitches, my classification algorithm has lumped them in with his change. This seems to fit other reports perfectly as well. The story behind Myers’ cutter appears to be similar to the story behind CC Sabathia‘s cutter: He calls it a cutter, but it behaves like other pitchers’ sliders. So if you hear Myers, or pitching coach Rich Dubee, refer to Myers cutter, it is what others refer to as his slider.

Myers’ start to the season

So what was wrong with Myers in the beginning of the year? After a April 27 start against the Pirates, it appeared to Dubee and manager Charlie Manuel that Myers’ fastball wasn’t as fast as he would like it to be and he was throwing too many sliders (cutters). In fact, that appeared to be a problem throughout the first half. Here is a table of Myers’ pitches and how he used them.








Before Triple-A
TypeMovement in x (in.)Movement in z (in.)Initial Speed (MPH)Number ThrownPercentVersus RHBPercentVersus LHBPercent
Fastball-1.8610.3390.1238223.2419525.4218721.32
Sinker-6.288.3191.0942025.5521127.5120923.83
Curve6.03-9.0178.3328817.5210213.318621.21
Slider2.31.8984.8640824.8222429.218420.98
Change-5.565.9183.271468.88354.5611112.66

You can see that Myers’ fastball was actually slower than his sinker at just over 90 mph. That is extremely rare and not a good sign. To compensate, Myers was throwing a few more sinkers than fastballs and was using the sinker to both left- and right-handed batters. His main off-speed pitch was his slider, which he also threw about a quarter of the time and was willing to throw to both left- and right-handed batters. While you can throw off-speed pitches that break in to a batter, it generally is not done because of the likelihood of leaving a pitch middle-in to a batter. This is especially true of pitchers who throw as many pitches as Myers does.

So how do the numbers look after his stint in the minors? Much better.








After Triple-A
TypeMovement in x (in.)Movement in z (in.)Initial Speed (MPH)Number ThrownPercentVersus RHBPercentVersus LHBPercent
Fastball-0.249.4692.2342336.663205010320.04
Sinker-5.546.4590.6318415.94457.0313927.04
Curve7.84-9.4579.2831627.3814923.2816732.49
Slider3.881.0285.716414.2111818.44468.95
Change-5.435.6284.48675.8181.255911.48

Myers’ fastball is back in the low 90s, with his other offerings staying about the same. Instead of a mix of fastballs and sinkers to both right- and left-handed batters, Myers went to his fastball much more to right-handed batters and his sinker more to left-handed batters. Remember that Myers’ sinker has excellent horizontal movement away from a left handed batter but in to a right handed batter. His fastball, on the other hand, has very little horizontal movement at all. It is a similar story with his off-speed pitches.

After he came back up. Myers’ main off-speed pitch was his curve, with some sliders and change-ups mixed in. He almost completely stopped throwing his change-up to right-handed batters and sparingly used his slider to left-handed batters. His curve, which has great vertical drop, became his strikeout pitch no matter the handedness of the batter. What this meant was that now batters were much more likely to see a ball tailing away from them than tailing in to them. This is a huge adjustment and something I think more pitchers could benefit from.

Conclusions

While Myers’ fastball returned to form after his trip to Triple-A, what really made the difference for him was how he used his pitches. His slider, which doesn’t have great movement, took a back seat to his curve ball, which is an excellent pitch, especially in strikeout situations. While he was a threat to throw any of his five pitches on any count before going to the minors, he kept the ball moving away from batters upon returning.

While hitters had a better idea of what Myers might throw, he was able to beat them with his stuff because he was using his pitches better. By keeping the ball moving away from hitters, he kept them off balance and unable to square him up.

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