B.Myers Signs with Astros

The Houston Astros have reportedly signed free agent RHP Brett Myers to a one-year, $5 million deal with an option for the 2011 season.

Myers, 29, missed a large portion of the 2009 season following right hip surgery to repair a torn labrum in late May. He returned to the majors in early September as a reliever. However, a right shoulder strain shelved him for a few more weeks late in the year.

Philly’s first-round pick in the 1999 amateur draft, Myers was a mainstay in the starting rotation from mid-2002 through 2006. Despite turning in a 3.4 WAR season in 2005 and a 3.5 WAR campaign in 2006, the Phillies shifted Myers to the bullpen in 2007. He moved back to the starting five in 2008, and opened 2009 as a starter prior to the hip injury.

Myers has a wide gap between his career ERA (4.40) and his career Expected Fielding Independent ERA (3.90). Over the past three seasons, the dichotomy is even greater: a 4.56 ERA, and a 3.79 xFIP.

In the majors, Myers has struck out 7.5 batters per nine frames and walked 3.14 per nine innings. The wild divergence between his actual ERA and his xFIP can be explained by Brett’s homer-happy ways: he has surrendered 1.35 round-trippers per nine innings, despite generating more ground balls than the average pitcher (his GB% is 47.3). In general, home run per fly ball rates tend to stick around 10 to 12 percent. However, Myers’ HR/FB rate in nearly 1,200 innings is 15.5 percent.

Making 10 starts and eight relief appearances in 2009, Myers posted rates of 6.37 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9. He served up a jaw-dropping 18 dingers in just 70.2 innings pitched (2.29 HR/9). Again, his ERA (4.84) and xFIP (4.32) were far apart, as his HR/fly ball rate was stratospheric 23.4 percent.

In recent years, Myers has relied on his fastball less often. He chucked the pitch between 56 and 63 percent of the time between 2002 to 2005, but has since gone to his heater less than 50 percent. His fastball has been battered for a -0.77 run value per 100 pitches in the majors.

That fastball is pretty straight, tailing in on righty batters just four inches compared to a pitch thrown without spin (six inch MLB average for right-handed pitchers). As Trip Somers’ Pitch F/X Tool shows, that true fastball hasn’t garnered many swings and misses over the past two seasons. Myers’ whiff rate with his fastball since 2008 is four percent, while the MLB average is about six percent.

Myers’ bread and butter is his breaking stuff: an average mid-80’s slider (+0.03 runs/100) and a plus high-70’s curveball (+1.48) that drops off the table. A seldom-used changeup (-0.78) hasn’t been very effective.

Though we’re dealing with a small sample, Myers was more hittable in 2009 than in years past. His overall contact rate was 84.4 percent, compared to a career 80.3 percent average (the MLB average is 80-81 percent). His swinging strike rate was 6.5 percent, well below his career norm.

Moving from Citizens Bank Park to Minute Maid, Myers goes from a venue that increased home run production by 14 percent compared to a neutral park from 2007-2009 to one that inflated homers by eight percent over the past three seasons. Overall, CPB has boosted run scoring by three percent, while Minute Maid has decreased runs by four percent.

CHONE projects Myers to post a 4.79 ERA in 2010, with 7.57 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, and 1.5 HR/9 in 126 innings pitched. He’s worth a late-round flyer, but his uncertain health status and gopher-ball problems make Myers hard to recommend strongly.

Myers’ addition likely means that Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino and Brian Moehler will compete for two rotation spots.

Norris’ control has never been a strong suit, but his low-to-mid-90’s gas and hard slider have missed plenty of lumber. Twenty-five in March, Norris had a 4.38 xFIP, 8.73 K/9 and 4.04 BB/9 in 55.2 IP for the Astros last season.

Paulino’s ’09 results look horrifying (6.27 ERA), but as Carson Cistulli points out, Felipe’s peripherals were far more promising. He punched out 8.57 per nine innings and walked 3.41, also showcasing a mid-90’s fastball and a hard breaking ball. But a .368 BABIP and a 16.9 HR/FB% made him look like a punching bag. The 26 year-old’s xFIP in 97.2 frames was 4.10.

Moehler pitched better than his 5.47 ERA would indicate (4.67 xFIP), but fantasy types should be rooting for Norris and Paulino to win those last two spots.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

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David MVP Eckstein

If only xFIP was weighted somehow based on park (flexible HR/non-GB rate?)

David MVP Eckstein

Also, I would not put too much stock in Myers on the simple fact he hasn’t been “right” in rotation since 2007.