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Brett Myers' Regression

During the offseason, we took a look at Houston Astros' starter Brett Myers and his success in 2010.  First, his success against right handed batters jumped tremendously.  And second, one of the major contributing factors to this success was how he located his pitches, as well as his improved slider.  Myers was keeping the ball away from the middle of the zone.  Meanwhile, batters were hitting nearly one hundred points lower against his slider in 2010 compared to a year earlier.

This season, however, many of the reasons for Brett Myers great 2011 season have faded.  Let's take his pitch location to start.  Compare his pitch location from 2010 to his current location:

Brett Myers 2011 Pitch Location
(Click image to enlarge)

Myers' is back to throwing to the middle of the zone again.  Opposing RHB aren't hitting Myers much better than last season.  Their weighted on base average is basically the same as it was for the 2010 season.  However, lefties are  crushing Myers this season.  Opposing LHB have a wOBA 87 points higher than last season.  They have hit 10 home runs against him already; last season lefties hit all of 8 against Myers.

And how about that slider? Overall, opposing batters have a .307 wOBA on the pitch this season, compared to .264 from last.  The majority of the damage has come against lefties, who hold a .425 wOBA versus his slider, up from .298 in 2010.

Lastly, Myers has had a rough time pitching at Minute Maid Park this year.  Batters are hitting .270/.332/.540 against him at home compared to .259/.309/.391 on the road.  As evident by the jump in slugging percentage, Myers has yielded more home runs at home; his 6.9% home run rate at home is nearly double that on the road. 

Minute Maid Park ranks fairly high this season on the HR friendly park list.  However, Myers' did fairly well at home last season, as we noted in a previous post.  His location issues are probably more to blame for his troubles this season.  Unless he can begin to locate like he did in 2010, he'll likely continue to struggle.


Daric Barton Baffled by Breaking Stuff

The Oakland Athletics have scored the third-fewest runs in the American League this year, and one of the main reasons is the punchless performance of first baseman Daric Barton. The lefty hitter appeared to break out last season, batting .273/.393/.405 while reaching the double digits in home runs. But in 2011, Barton has a .212/.325/.267 triple-slash. He has yet to hit a single round-tripper, and his .055 Isolated Power isn't far above that of the average pitcher (.040 ISO). Barton's bat has been so bad that the Athletics just sent him to Triple-A to work out the kinks.

Barton is enduring a lost season at the plate because he can't seem to make solid contact on breaking stuff. He was about average against curveballs and sliders last season, posting a .270 wOBA. In 2011, however, Barton has a .100 wOBA versus breaking balls and has yet to pound out an extra-base hit. Only Bill Hall (released by the Astros) and Xavier Paul (designated for assignment by the Dodgers) have fared worse against curves and sliders.

While Barton is known for his superb strike-zone judgment, he hasn't been able to lay off breaking balls near as well this season. Check out his swing rate on curves and sliders thrown out of the strike zone in 2010 and 2011:


  Barton's outside swing rate on breaking stuff in 2010

Barton's outside swing rate on breaking stuff in 2011

Barton chased just 12.6 percent of curveballs and sliders thrown out of the zone in 2010, well below the 31 percent average for non-pitchers. This year, Barton has gone fishing out of the zone 27.4 percent of the time against breaking balls (34.1 percent average for non-pitchers).

If Barton wants to help lift the Athletics' offense and return to the majors, he's going to have to solve his problems with breaking stuff. Otherwise, he could spend his summer helping the River Cats chase another Pacific Coast League title.


Weaker Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez of the Florida Marlins remains mired in a slump.  His .200/.298/.295 slash line pales in comparison to his .306/.379/.506 career numbers.  There doesn't seem to be a change in his approach at the plate or the way pitchers go after him.  Opponents still work him down and away, and Hanley still recognizes balls and strikes as well as he did in 2010.  He simply does not seem to be as strong.

Hanley Ramirez, fly ball distance and line drive rate, 2008-2011.Ramirez suffers from a bad back, and that prevents him from swinging hard.  His average fly ball distance this season stands at 291 feet.  Over the previous three seasons, it came in at 321 feet.  From 2008-2010  he put the ball in play as a line drive about 20% of the time, and hit .787 on those liners.  This season, only 13% of his balls in play are line drives, and he's hitting .667 on them.

The good news is at the end of the graph.  His fly ball rate is spiking upward.  If his back is healing and his strength is returning, Hanley could return to a decent average and help pull the Marlins out of their funk.