Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wil Myers' Plate Discipline

Overall, through 96 plate appearances, Wil Myers, the big piece in the James Shields trade with the Royals, has a 119.7 OPS + (using Baseball America's park factors of just his home park versus league average) in AAA. The Rays are apparently keeping him down for financial and player control issues (so that he may avoid gaining "Super 2" status for an extra year), as Myers could probably help the Rays offense right now. However, after watching a lot of Myers over the past couple of seasons, I've always thought the thing that he needs work on offensively is his plate discipline. In fact, at times it has looked bad enough that I have wondered whether or not he can be a consistent contributor at the big league level.

According to Minor League Central's gathering of GameDay data, Myers is seeing 3.85 pitches per plate appearance so far this season, right at league average of 3.86. He is seeing strikes a little less than league average, as you would expect (60.3 % versus 61.9 %). He is responding to this by swinging less than average (41.6 % versus 45.1 %), also below average at swinging at pitches outside the zone and inside the zone), but he is also making much less contact than average (67.1 % versus 76.3 %). His strikeout, walk, and groundball ratios are all well above league average (he also has a .434 BABIP, inflating his numbers).

I wanted to get a little bit of a further look at Myers, so I decided to chart his International League at-bats so far. I only looked at home games because no one else (except Lehigh Valley where he hasn't played yet) has a constant broadcast gun for most games. I obviously didn't include the ones that didn't. I also didn't include the intentional walk. Overall it is 176 pitches, not a large sample size, but an okay data set. Obviously it is somewhat selective, but we have to work with what we can in the minor leagues. If you want, you can view the spreadsheet here.

I classified the pitches as simply as I could, and here is how Myers was pitched in the sample:

Offspeed: Changes, Splitters, etc. 27 total
Breaking: Sliders, Curves, etc. 57 total
Fastballs: 4-seam, 2-seam, cutters, etc. 92 total

Obviously some of these classifications are going to be wrong, especially since I am not familiar with every pitcher. For example, some sidearmers were throwing 84-85 MPH. Is that their fastball or their offspeed pitch? Sometimes it was hard to tell. Also, when you aren't familiar with them, you might confuse a breaking pitch with an offspeed pitch.

Myers saw 11 fastballs at 95 MPH to 97 MPH (that's the hardest he saw), but he swung at just two of them, fouling one off and whiffing at one. This obviously doesn't us much. Myers had 18 whiffs, which is about average, a little over 10 percent of the time.

Here are his whiff locations by chart:

He was missing more pitches low and away than any other pitch, but I think we will see why that is below.

The two homers Myers hit were on pitches I classified as fastballs, but at 84 MPH (a lefty sidearmer) and 87 MPH. One was on the middle of the plate, and the other one was low and away.

The breaking pitches were strikes 61.4 % of the time. Considering breaking pitches usually aren't thrown for strikes that much, it suggests that he is probably chasing a lot. This was the pitch he swung and missed at the most, but he did at least put 6 of them into play. He put 4 offspeed pitches in play, whiffing on just 3.

I broke down pitch locations really simple (because when you are watching the game and stringing them yourself, they are going to be inexact), but Myers saw just 53 pitches that were in the middle of the plate or up. He hit 3 for flyballs, one for a line drive and one for a grounder. He whiffed at 5 of them, meaning on pitches up, he doesn't really whiff less, but probably makes a little more contact. Pitchers in the International League obviously seem scared to throw it up to Myers probably based on his reputation as a power hitter. Low and away (72 pitches) was obviously the place Myers was pitched the most. He hit 5 flyballs and 5 grounders, showing that he can make contact on these pitches, only whiffing at 6 of them. This appears to be a Myers strength zone, meaning he has good plate coverage and probably should be pitched inside more. He also held his own on low middle pitches, but swung at just 4 low and in pitches, fouling off 3 and whiffing at one, putting none in play.

Something should be said about the quality of competition he is facing. That is one of the reasons I put the velocity of the pitches as well. The average fastball he saw, relievers and starters, was 90.27 MPH, which is about a MPH and a half slower than the average big league fastball (relievers and starters combined had an average fastball of 91.7 MPH in 2012). This actually isn't bad, but Myers didn't do extremely well with fastballs 91 MPH or over, whiffing at 5 of the 45, and putting 4 of them in play. On the other hand, he saw 45 fastballs that were under 91 MPH (not counting the two 84 MPH fastballs, a convenient split, with both being equal). From my count, he made contact with 9 of these, whiffing at just one.

So overall, I found some things I didn't expect. He had a huge fastball velocity split, hitting soft fastballs easily, and much less effective against average to plus fastballs. Obviously you would like to see him get more plus fastballs so we can get a better determination of whether this is "real". Myers actually handled breaking balls and pitchers going away better than I expected in our sample. 


  1. CALL HIM UP!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I've heard similar treatises lately. Stating the Rays are keeping Myers down for financial, service time reasons. And then go on to explain some of his deficiencies. Any chance you think the Rays are thinking or seeing the same things? Maybe he's just not ready. He's average defensively and offensively needs more seasoning. So, no, there really isn't a great reason to bring him up right now.

  3. Personally, I've thought Wil Myers has been overrated for the past couple of years. He is a corner player that isn't going to have a ton of value with his speed. He really has to hit, and he raked in some really run friendly environments last year. I am sort of alone in this category, but I don't think he will be any kind of star.

    There are a lot of holes. He has to hit and his plate discipline looked awful at times last year, it looks a little better now, so we will see. He could turn out to be a 30 home run a year guy with a plus OBP and make me look stupid, I've just never been as big of a fan as others have (though I still didn't love the trade from the Royals perspective).