Brett Myers has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen over the last few years, and now, as a member of the Cleveland Indians, he'll once more return to starting. While that won't be a new experience, pitching in the American League in this role will be.
Myers has spent all but a brief portion of his carer in the Senior Circuit, pitching for the Phillies for eight seasons and the Astros for parts of three years. A mid-season deal to the White Sox sent him to the AL and his third club, where he appeared in 35 games and tossed 34 innings out of the bullpen. For much of that time, the rotation was his home, with Myers starting 249 games while logging just 128 out of the pen. As a starter, he's been mostly average, putting together a 100 ERA+ (where 100 is average) from 2002 through 2006 in his first stint in the role, then 98 from 2008 through 2011 in his first return to the rotation.
Like any pitcher who has been in the league for nearly 1,700 innings, Myers has had injuries, but he's been generally durable when starting. From 2003, his first full campaign, through 2007, his last before moving to the pen, he averaged 197 innings per year. In 2008, he started 30 games and pitched 190 innings, then threw 223 and 216 frames in the next two years as a starter. The Indians are hoping he can put up those kinds of figures again, giving them 30-plus starts and 200 innings or more.
Will they be quality innings, though? As stated, his performances have been mostly average overall as a starter. The thing is, though, is that he's been far more volatile than that suggests, as evidenced by his ERA+ as a starter year-to-year:
Very rarely has he actually been just average, as he's either been well above, or well below that threshold. Recent work doesn't suggest anything different, either, since his last two attempts at starting resulted in a continuation of that trend. So, what is it we're supposed to expect from Myers going forward?
His strikeouts have lowered consistently since his first return to the rotation and his initial peak years as a starter. He's made up for this in part with his ground ball-centric approach -- while he isn't about to be confused for Derek Lowe or a healthy Brandon Webb anytime soon, getting roughly half of his balls in play on the ground has helped. More of an issue, and the thing to watch out for with the switch to the AL, is on those balls in play that aren't grounders.
Myers has struggled with homers on-and-off in his career, and has allowed 1.3 per nine over those nearly 1,700 frames. You might want to blame the parks he's pitched in for this, but it doesn't fit. Myers, a right-hander, has actually been better against lefties in his career, and left-handers are the ones who get the power boost from Citizen's Bank Park. Minute Maid boosts power as well, but not to the point where it would harm Myers this much. Plus, he's given up the same home run rate on the road and at home in an even split of time, and has overall been a better hurler in his home parks.
The Indians might play in a park that helps Myers negate some of his issues, while Myers' own abilities could accomplish the same goal for Progressive. According to Statcorner, Progressive reduces right-handed batters' offense by 20 percent compared to a neutral park, and a significant part of this is due to homers, which have been reduced by 26 percent over the last three years. While lefties have a much better time of things there, Myers has historically been better against southpaws as the owner of a reverse split. While Progressive could harm that slightly, at least superficially, the nullification of right-handed power should more than make up for it.
This basically means that Myers is worth taking a shot on this year, as he's being setup to succeed both in terms of quantity and quality. You won't have to go crazy attempting to outbid others for him, either, given his lackluster 2011 campaign, and his 2012 spent in the bullpen. Keep him in mind, though, and not just in AL-only formats, as at the right price, he could be very useful.