In case you have not yet heard, the Phillies optioned struggling starter Brett Myers to Triple-A Lehigh Valley yesterday. The move followed a very disappointing more-than-start to this season in which expectations were quite high. In light of this development I decided to take off my unbiased analyst cap and discuss this from my perspective as a Phillies fan. Quite simply, in terms as layman as layman can get, I think this is stupid. I feel the Phillies have completely mishandled Brett Myers since signing his three-year/25-million dollar deal following the 2006 season.
This wouldn’t even be the first time they have mishandled a player in the last few years either, as both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were brought to the bigs later than they should have been. As it stands, both of these stars are currently approaching 30, rather then the perhaps 26-28 mark fans might expect given their service time. With Myers, however, it all started last year, with his shift to the bullpen. In 2005 and 2006 he posted the numbers below, more than proving he was a well above average major league starter:
2005: 3.72 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 215.1 IP, 68 BB, 208 K, 3.06 K/BB, 1.21 WHIP, .289 BABIP
2006: 3.91 ERA, 4.14 FIP, 198.0 IP, 63 BB, 189 K, 3.00 K/BB, 1.30 WHIP, .309 BABIP
He got off to a bad start last year, when, in 15.1 innings he allowed 16 earned runs to the tune of a 9.39 ERA. The strikeouts were still there at 19 but he had surrendered 5 home runs and walked 9 batters. Unfortunately, with Tom Gordon‘s injury, the Phillies panicked and moved Myers to the bullpen. While there he actually performed quite well: 53.1 IP, 46 H, 17 ER, 4 HR, 18 BB, 74 K, 2.87 ERA. Despite the relative success this was a terrible move for Myers in the long term considering what he had proven himself capable of and how quickly the move was made; a drastic move like this should not be done after just three starts.
Myers then fell in love with the bullpen, where he could really let loose and throw his plus-fastball without having to pace himself. A combination of adapting to this new hard-throwing environment and perhaps being used too much resulted in an injury last May. Upon his return he continued his success and his love for the crucial moments grew, almost becoming addictive to Myers. It came as no surprise, then, that he did not welcome a move back to the rotation this season with open arms. In acquiring Brad Lidge the Phillies found a closer and could move Myers back to the rotation, where he truly belonged. Never one to shy away from his feelings he admitted how much he enjoyed the bullpen and his hesitancy to become a starter again. In fact, I can recall working in the television truck with my father during a Ricky Bottalico rehab start a while back in which Myers verbally expressed anger at Bottalico pitching the first couple of innings, delaying his (Myers) start to the game.
To show Myers how committed they were to him as a starter they even handed him the ball on opening day. He has not come close to expectations this year, posting a 5.84 ERA/5.71 FIP, 1.56 WHIP, and a league high 24 home runs surrendered. His K/BB has dropped to 2.00 as well. Plenty of us analysts have attempted to deduce the reasoning behind his struggles, finding that he has lost velocity and has struggled with location, but the Phillies are 4-13 in his starts (1-11 in his last 12) and his 3-9 W-L record is actually very indicative of his performance level so far.
The Phillies again found themselves in a Myers dilemma because he was hurting more than he was helping but another move to the bullpen could perhaps typecast him in that role. Essentially, because they miffed a decision last year, it is truly coming to haunt them this season. Perhaps a move to the minors can fix his mechanics or whatever the actual cause of his struggles is, but if Myers cannot rebound from said struggles, the blame from this Phillies fan goes towards their management for truly mishandling the situation. I personally felt the solution posed by Mitch Williams was better than a minor league demotion: lock him in a room somewhere or leave him in an empty clubhouse and just let the hot-headed guy go crazy, breaking things, and hope he gets that bulldog mentality back. The club went the other way and I am not too optimistic. I surely hope I am wrong though.
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