The White Sox declined Brett Myers’ $10 million club option for 2013 earlier this week, instead paying him a $3 million buyout. Now that he’s a free agent, Myers tells Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com that he’s willing to market himself as both a starting pitcher and a reliever this winter.
“I’ve got the mentality, I want to pitch,” Myers said. “Whichever way a team wants me to go I’ll do. I think I’ve proven I can start. I’ve proven I can do both. Hindsight is 20/20. Some teams might like me in the bullpen. Some might like me as a starter. It’s up to the team.”
Myers saved 21 games for the Phillies back in 2007, but was a starter from 2008-2011 before the Astros moved him back to the closer role this year. The 32-year-old right-hander compiled a 3.52 ERA, 19 saves and a 20/6 K/BB ratio over 30 2/3 innings before being traded to the White Sox in July. He then enjoyed success as a set-up man, posting a 3.12 ERA and 21/9 K/BB ratio over 34 2/3 innings. The White Sox considered picking up his option and using him as a starter next season, but they ultimately decided to let him test the open market.
There’s little downside to Myers being flexible about his role, as it will allow his agent to talk to a wider swath of teams before determining the right fit.
“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.
Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:
Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?
There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.
As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.