To say 2009 is a defining season for Brett Myers is quite the understatement. The right-hander, drafted by the Phillies and seasoned to be an ace, has fallen somewhat short of those expectations, defined more by his personality and off-the-field moments than his pitching prowess.
For a time, that prowess was completely gone. Than it almost magically returned — all it took was a month and a couple minor-league starts. Seriously, that was it?
Why is Myers so mysterious?
“I knew it would come down to who would make the first mistake and unfortunately I made it.”
“You can write I stink if you want. I feel like that was my best pitch to get Cliff (Floyd) out right there. He didn’t swing at it and it got past Carlos (Ruiz). … Nine times out of 10 Carlos blocks that ball.”
“I can’t put together back-to-back good starts and I don’t know what the problem is. That’s frustrating. I don’t know. I made some good pitches they hit, I made some bad pitches they crushed. I don’t know.”
“I got no excuses. I flat-out stunk. It’s frustrating. I feel I’m not myself. I feel I lost that Rottweiler aggression. I’m pitching like a scared dog. I’m sorry the fans had to watch that. It was terrible.”
The weird thing? Most of those quotes are from before 2008.
Brett Myers has always played head games with himself. He’ll question his pitches, shake off his pitches, think about his pitches, then get frustrated, then rear back and fire. When he reared back and fired in 2008, he got crushed. Crushed hard.
Before his demotion, Myers barely threw his best pitch: the curveball. According to the Hardball Times, he threw the curve 13.3 percent of the time to right-handed hitters and 21.2 percent of the time to lefties. After his demotion? 23.3 percent of the time against righties and 32.5 percent of the time against lefties.
What did he stop throwing? His slider, which is barely a slider and moves more like a horizontally-tailed fastball. Clocking it at under 90 miles per hour, it’s a hittable meatball. When Myers was most successful he was primarily tossing the fastball and curveball, throwing in sporatic sliders, sinkers, changeups and cutters to mess with hitters.
Most of all, Myers positioned his fastball to the outside corner against right-handed hitters, while keeping the curve to the outisde zone against lefties. As we know, hitters’ timing is affected greatly when battling against outside pitches.
Interestingly, reports from spring training indicate Myers is throwing his cutter a lot. That pitch is practically his slider.
If Myers wants to be successful in 2009, he’ll figure out the effectiveness of his slider and cutter quickly. If they don’t work, he must banish them and stick to a fastball-curveball-changeup repertoire. If they are working, however, look the heck out.
Basically, Myers is capable of two possible lines (completely guessing) in 2009:
Best: 20-7 / 3.04 ERA / 232 K / 61 BB
Worst: 8-13 / 5.32 ERA / 119 K / 92 BB
The difference between those lines is his critical thinking. Ironically, that’s what gets him in a mess. Bottom line? How Myers pitches in 2009 will determine the remainder of his baseball career.