Of Myers, Moehler, and the Limits of Snark

In the event that you haven’t heard, the Houston Astros have gone and signed Brett Myers. The deal itself — one-year, $5 million with an option for 2011 — seems entirely reasonable to my semi-trained eye. As our man on the scene David Golebiewski notes, Myers has chronically underperformed his xFIPs, a fact almost wholly attributable to an inflated rate of home runs per fly ball, a fact itself that is likely attributable to Citizens Bank Park. Translation: Provided that he’s healthy — which isn’t a guarantee given his injury problems last year — but given that he’s healthy, Brett Myers figures to post a better ERA than we’ve seen from him in a while.

Here’s the thing, though: the signing of Myers gives the Astros six starters. Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, and Myers himself are likely candidates to fill the first three spots in rotation. Which, that leaves Bud Norris, Felipe Paulino, and Brian Moehler to compete for the last two.

For a number of reasons, those two spots should go to Norris and Paulino. It’s not just that Norris (4.38 xFIP, 4.25 tERA*) and Paulino (4.10 xFIP, 4.07 tERA*) are likely better than Moehler (4.67 xFIP, 4.49 tERA*), but also that, if Houston has any sense of building for the future, it would make a priority of developing the two young pitchers with upside. Brian Moehler is the absolute knownest of the known quantities. It’s not a terrible quantity, but it’s no great shakes, either.

I’m worried, though. I’m worried that the Astros will somehow see fit to go with Moehler. Yes, there’s a chance that they’re creating the illusion of a competition so’s to prevent their young starters from becoming complacent, but I’m worried that’s not the case. I’m worried they like Brian Moehler. I’m worried he’ll be their fifth starter heading into the season.

Here’s how I’ll feel if such a thing were to happen: sad. Not joking-around sad, but legitimately sad. Way sadder than at the end of a Lars von Trier movie, for example. And while I recognize that may sound melodramatic, I should note that I’m not the sort of person who’s otherwise prone to strong emotion. But I care about baseball, and I look to baseball to provide ethical cues for my life. And it frequently does that. Jack Zduriencik? Yes. Andrew Friedman? Yes, awesome. Brian Myrow? Right on. But this particular move — should it occur — will only reinforce for me that people in charge are fallible to a greater degree than I’d care to acknowledge.

Of course, there’ll be ways to deal with it. As Matt Klaassen showed us on Friday, the power of snark is mighty. (I mean, seriously, that post is brilliant.) Fire Joe Morgan raised snark to the level of high art. But snark isn’t an end in itself. It’s merely one way of coping with flagrant injustice or misbehavior. Snark is the mode to which we resort when we are powerless to protest in any other way. It’s fun, sure, but it’s not ideal. Ideally, men in charge — that is, men whose acts are conspicuous and, for better or worse, provide a model for the rest of us — make decisions using the faculty of reason. Ideally, the Astros make Brian Moehler their long reliever. The alternative will be disappointing.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

30 Responses to “Of Myers, Moehler, and the Limits of Snark”

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  1. drew says:

    where do you get tERA from?

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    • Carson Cistulli says:

      Actually, that should be tERA*. It’s the Regressed tRA (tRA*) from StatCorner on an ERA scale. Because tRA* is on the scale of runs allowed — as opposed to earned runs allowed — I’ve multiplied it by .92 (i.e. the percent of runs that are earned in general).

      If it’s wrong somehow, I blame Jack Moore, who turned me on to it. Actually, I blame everything — no matter what it is — on Jack Moore.

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  2. NEPP says:

    Hate to break it to you, chief but Bretty gives up more HRs on the road than at CBP. Its not an issue of his home park…how moving from CBP to Houston’s launching pad is gonna help is confusing anyway.

    Myers HR totals are the result of a mediocre fastball (both 4 seam and cutter) that he likes to “challenge” hitters with. Or its those fun times when he hangs his curve.

    Also, his velocity is not nearly the same as it was early in his career…it also declined well before the hip was an issue. He’s not that 23-24 year old that threw in the mid-90s and he hasn’t been in a very long time.

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  3. Ron says:

    Please stop needlessly preceding titles with “of.” You’re a real Artist, we get it–is it not enough to express that via, say, shoehorned-in references to Lars von Trier?

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  4. NEPP says:

    Myers HR Splits:

    Home – 34 IP, 7 HR
    Road – 36.2 IP, 13 HR

    Home – 98.2 IP, 13 HR
    Road – 91.1 IP, 16 HR

    Its not the park.

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    • Carson Cistulli says:

      Well, see, now you’re complicating things by introducing “facts” into the equation.

      Wow, that’s a lot of home runs, isn’t it?

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      My analysis shows that Myers pitched an unusual number of games at CBP with the wind blowing in from centerfield at a considerable velocity.

      Joking of course, but with such a small sample size (10-15 home games), anything is probable.

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  5. NEPP says:

    Yes, yes it is. As a Phillies fan, I’m not sorry to see him go. The guy was a HR machine.

    Once he lost his fastball (around 2006/2007) his chances of being an above average starter were gone. His curve is great but he needs to be able to set it up.

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    • pounded clown says:

      That stint in the minors in ’08 (was it then or ’07) seemed to do him some good but he never returned to what he once was which was a mecurial above average at best. If someone could turn him into a decent sinkerballer, that curve would be pretty brutal.

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  6. MDS says:

    his HR/FB rate was huge last year…

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  7. Edwincnelson says:

    Myers is going to serve up some gophers no doubt. That being said if he can increase his K rate just a little more and limit the walks there is no reason he can’t be a good 3rd starter, or better, in the John Danks/Joe Blanton sort of way.

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  8. vivaelpujols says:

    For a number of reasons, those two spots should go to Norris and Paulino. It’s not just that Norris (4.38 xFIP, 4.25 tERA*) and Paulino (4.10 xFIP, 4.07 tERA*) are likely better than Moehler (4.67 xFIP, 4.49 tERA*).

    The fact that Norris and Paulino were better than Moehler last year does NOT necessarily mean they are better going forward. FanGraphs will be a much, much better place when people stop quoting single season numbers as evaluative or predictive.

    That being said, I agree that Moehler should be eschewed for those two.

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    • Carson Cistulli says:

      I felt comfortable citing only the single year in this case on account of (a) Paulino and Norris have basically nothing else besides those 2009 numbers in terms of MLB production, (b) I was pretty careful to mitigate the importance of the numbers by using the word “likely,” and (c) it was a sufficient sample for the rather modest point I was trying to make.

      Your concern about the weight attributed to single season numbers might be legitimate — I’d be open to hearing more about it — but I’m quite sure this is the wrong article on which to grind that particular axe.

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  9. Gilbert says:

    Seeing that a non-contender often shuts down a young pitcher with 150 IP or so in Sept when they get a bit of inflammation or lose a bit of velocity, it wouldn’t hurt if one of the younger pitchers had been eased (Joba’d?) into the rotation. Of course there is a good chance that with 6 pitchers one leaves camp injured.
    The other case to use Moehler is that if he is the expendable pitcher, you want him to have shown he is at least at last year’s level so you can get something for him if he is and your other pitchers are healthy.

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  10. gary says:

    Taking the snark out of sabermetrics is like taking a fish out of water. Sabermetrics has become a tiresome combination of snark and math.

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  11. Bob says:

    So the fish is the snark then?

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  12. gary says:

    I guess a better way of saying would be to say that snark is the oxygen of the sabermetric flame.

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  13. Matt says:

    This article’s assertion about Myers is based on the idea that his HR/FB will go down because Myers is away from CBP to be more inline with xFIP expectations of 10-11%. But, from Fangraphs own spiffy new “Splits” tab: Myers Career AWAY HR/FB is 14.8%. Sabermetric anomaly anyone?

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