Might It Get Worse For Wil Myers?

In his first half season in the majors, Wil Myers was impressive. He hit .293/.354/.478 with 13 home runs and five steals, handily winning the AL Rookie of the Year despite not playing a game before June 18.

This year has been a different story for Myers. He’s hitting just .227 with an OBP barely clear of .300. His four home runs and one steal are well short of the paces he set in 2013. His strikeout rate, walk rate, and batted ball profile are very similar to last season. There’s no obvious culprit, but Myers has been bad.

Because of his success as a rookie and because of his former status as one of the top prospects in baseball, many of his owners will be willing to continue to start Myers with the hope he can turn his season around. I would do the same. Even if his vanished power remains a mystery, his .286 BABIP is 76 points lower than it was in 2013, which suggests his batting average, at least, could improve with a change in fortune. However, a peculiarity in his numbers makes me question that assertion.

Myers’ six stolen bases in his short career indicate at least a modicum of speed, even if he has rarely shown it this season. A chance at double-digit steals is a bonus from a player presumed to have 25-plus homer potential, but it hardly makes Myers one of the speediest players in the sport. What’s strange, then, is that Myers already has 11 infield hits this season. That ties him with Brett Gardner and Jose Altuve—both of whom have already reached 10 steals—for the most in baseball this season. And Myers also had 10 infield hits in 2013. His combined total of 21 infield hits over the last year does not quite make him the leader; he’s just two-thirds of the way to Norichika Aoki and Jean Segura. However, it does make him one of the few leaders in infield hits who does not also have a ton of stolen bases.

Most Infield Hits, Last Calendar Year
Norichika Aoki 61.2% 20 33 .293
Jean Segura 60.7% 40 33 .305
Mike Trout 38.2% 26 28 .376
Dustin Pedroia 48.5% 11 26 .305
Adam Jones 48.6% 9 25 .306
Elvis Andrus 57.6% 42 24 .301
Yasiel Puig 49.8% 16 23 .389
Hunter Pence 49.0% 21 22 .310
Brian Dozier 37.3% 22 22 .278
Andrelton Simmons 44.9% 5 22 .257
Eric Young 56.8% 57 22 .297
Wil Myers 46.7% 6 21 .333
Alexei Ramirez 50.3% 31 21 .316
Jose Altuve 46.2% 47 21 .318
Alcides Escobar 44.2% 26 21 .274
Yoenis Cespedes 37.4% 5 20 .280
J.J. Hardy 44.8% 2 20 .298
Emilio Bonifacio 55.9% 35 20 .334

The 18 players who have 20 or more infield hits over the last year have averaged 23 steals over the same stretch. Myers has six. He is one of only six of those players with fewer than 16 steals in that time.

I would not have expected Myers’ string of infield hits to continue, but what may be even stranger than the statistical oddity itself is that the other high-infield hit, low-stolen base guys have made it a trend. Veterans Adam Jones and Dustin Pedroia have recorded six and five seasons with an 8.0 percent infield hit rate or better, respectively. The infield hit rate for all players, not just the slower ones, is 6.4 percent this season. Even J.J. Hardy, who has never stolen three bases in a season, has exceeded an 8.0 percent infield hit rate four times in his career.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of it. Perhaps Myers hustles down the line more often than most players. Perhaps his swing produces more in-between balls on poor contact. Whatever the case, Myers’ career batting average of .268 is 19 points better than it would be if his 11.5 percent infield hit rate was the 6.4 percent average rate. Just this season, a league-average infield hit rate would drop his average to .191. Myers will have to hope that players like Pedroia, Jones, and Hardy provide a template of infield hits that he can follow. Or that he can start to produce like he did in 2013, when a handful fewer infield hits will not be enough to dampen his owners’ spirits.

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Scott Spratt contributes to ESPN Insider as a research analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. He also writes for Pro Football Focus, and he is a Sloan Sports Conference Research Paper Competition and FSWA award winner. Feel free to ask him questions on Twitter – @PFF_ScottSpratt

17 Responses to “Might It Get Worse For Wil Myers?”

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  1. JKB says:

    This is a very optimistic article. His .360 BABIP last season might have been good fortune. It will be interesting to compare James Shields and Wade Davis to Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi after all have had a full year in the majors.

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    • makeitrayn says:

      You just don’t understand surplus value and negative WAR.

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    • Skin Blues says:

      You’d need to compare 7 seasons of Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi, not just one full year, to evaluate the trade. Because that’s what the Rays got in return for Shields.

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    • everdiso says:

      Given that the rays expected to contend this year, they probably could use an ace SP and ace closer over two marginal young (but not that young) players.

      And is 7yrs of average players really better than a couple years of a star?

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      • majnun says:

        When you take contracts into consideration, yes

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      • KK-Swizzle says:

        AND the fact that Myers and Odorizzi have produced at above average rates already, despite being under the age of 25…not exactly “marginal players.” Even if the Royals win the world series this year, it will end up being a steal and a half for the Rays

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    • TangoAlphaLima says:

      When you do that, please also compare the $30 million the Royals paid Shields and Davis over 2013/14 to the less than $2 million the Rays paid Myers and Odorizzi over the same time frame.

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  2. gribo says:

    You mean your first half season doesn’t determine your career path? I don’t get it.

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  3. thomas says:

    Maybe the infield hits are attributable to how defenses are playing him plus his moderate speed?

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  4. Kickpuncher says:

    As an a Myers owner, I was definitely noticing anecdotally a lot of infield hits. I wonder if some of them are balls the shortstop has range deep to his left for? (I assume that any grounder field by an infielder classifies as “infield”, even if played in the short outfield.)

    Also, his HR last night was his fifth, not fourth, unless we aren’t counting the inside-the-parker.

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  5. everdiso says:

    Wil’s career ops is now .768, but with still high .332babip, which is probably explained by those infield hits.

    Both Rest of Season projections have his babip nearer .300, and his ops around .745.

    That makes sense to me as reasonable projection.

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    • pudieron89 says:

      I don’t think you will be accurately projecting his TTL by using one very good half season and one very bad third-season and combining them, weighting them equally. The jury is still out on this one.

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  6. David says:

    The list in this article taught me that Mike Trout is fast.

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  7. Mike Wimmer says:

    Is it fair to consider moving on from Myers this year? I have been offered Torii Hunter and either Khris Davis or Derrick Norris for Myers and Eric Hosmer. Selling too low?

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    • Scott Spratt says:

      I don’t mind selling Myers if you are tired of waiting, but I think you can do much better with a Myers-Hosmer package. I would shoot for a top 50 player.

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    • Rally squirrel says:

      Don’t care for Hosmer, but with Myers you are probably selling low. He says he’s been working with hitting coach Shelton and feeling much better at plate but before last night not seeing the results. Just did the math and over last 10 games GB rate down to .35 vs season .47.

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