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Brett Myers is a Starter Again

The “will he start or will he relieve?” game continues on as Brett Myers is once again moving back into the rotation. This time, he heads to Cleveland after apparently agreeing to a one-year deal yesterday. Myers began his career in Philadelphia as a starter in 2002, then became the team’s closer in 2007, returned to the rotation the following year, then was forced back into the bullpen after returning from injury in 2009, rejoined the rotation as a member of the Astros in 2010 and 2011, then pitched in relief all year once again last season, which included his move to Chicago. Phew. Let’s figure out how he might before as a starter again with the Indians.

Here are the relevant 2012 park factors:

Progressive Field 109 99 91 100 97 99 74 121 80 103
Minute Maid Park 108 101 103 106 97 96 109 106 96 98

Both ballparks inflate strikeouts for right-handed batters while having no effect on lefties. Myers used to be a pretty good strikeout pitcher, but back then, he was averaging 91-92 miles per hour with his fastball. His velocity has declined significantly since then, as it sat at just 88.4 miles per hour in 2011, his last time in the rotation. It did rebound to his peak average this past season, but that was in relief where a pitcher’s velocity is nearly always higher. This will also be Myers’ first time starting for an American League team where strikeout rates are lower. Given his poor strikeout rate in relief which matched up with a below average SwStk%, he might not push his strikeout rate above 6.0 again.

Control has always been one of Myers’ strong suits. Now, he’s moving to a park that suppresses right-handed walk rates. He’ll have a good chance to once again post a sub-3.00 BB/9.

Myers has never had BABIP issues despite being a ground ball pitcher. Both parks slightly reduce singles, so he shouldn’t experience much change here based solely on park fingers. However, the Indians finished dead last in UZR/150 and seventh to last in BABIP last season. Their outfield defense should be better with the additions of Swisher and Stubbs, but their infield defense won’t change much, aside from Reynolds’ presence at first. Given Myers’ ground ball ways, he might soon despise his infielders.

The biggest benefit Myers will enjoy is Progressive Field’s home run hampering ways against right-handed hitters. Myers has struggled with the long ball his entire career and sports a robust 14.2% HR/FB ratio. It will be a great test to see whether park factors have significantly affected him or if the majority of his issues have stemmed from his pitching style.

Not surprisingly after learning of the difference in home run park factors, Progressive Field is much more pitcher friendly than Minute Maid Park has been. Myers may post an even better walk rate and should have much less trouble with home runs. Unfortunately, a lot of that boost from park effects is going to be cancelled out by the league switch. As a result, he should have limited value in standard 12-team mixed leagues and should only be considered in leagues with deeper player pools.