Saturday, April 14, 2007

Still Raw After All These Years

When the Phillies drafted Brett Myers they probably told themselves they had a young, raw talent who would mature into a front line pitcher. And when he debuted at Wrigley Field in July, 2002, against another highly touted young hurler, Mark Prior, and won 4-2, they must have congratulated themselves on their good fortune. No doubt they still saw Myers as young and raw, but he was on his way.

Well, five years later Myers still has raw talent but he hasn't harnessed it . Worse, he never will. This is a guy whose stuff everyone falls over himself praising. "Best stuff on the staff," more than one scout, pitching coach and manager has been heard to say. Yet, Myers remains an unpredictable and unreliable force. He is just as likely to go out there and surrender home runs in bunches as he is to blow away batters. He can be handed a lead and give it back the very next inning. He can lose focus in the blink of an eye. He can try to out-muscle a guy with his fastball when something off-speed or breaking would be a better, dare we say, wiser choice.

I'm sure his teammates are getting tired of the roller coaster ride of playing behind him. I can imagine Chase Utley, who even when he struggles with one part of his game picks up the other parts, said to himself, "here we go again" when Myers was handed a 3-0 lead like last night and gave it up in the next two successive innings.

Myers was the putative ace of this team. He was handed the opening day assignment probably more as a confidence-booster than a reward. He was coming off a very so-so 2006 season in which he had serious off-field problems as well as his usual Jekyll and Hyde on field performances. Long criticized for his poor conditioning, Myers arrived at Spring Training a lighter man by 30 pounds and armed with a new contract. Moreover, he felt grateful for the fan support if not forgiveness he perceived following those off-field troubles.

All of that good will amounted to a respectable opening day start against Atlanta in which he blew the lead with two outs in the eight inning when he tried to sneak just one more fastball by Edgar Renteria. In his next two starts, against Florida and Houston, he was bombed. It wasn't even close against Houston. His teammates have struggled badly since Opening Day and desperately needed a stopper, but instead they got an implosion. They'd be well-advised not to count too heavily upon him going forward because while Myers may possess that raw talent, the Phillies never know which pitcher is going to show up on any given evening.


RickSchuBlues said...

You really need to capitalize Putative Ace. I've become very fond of this description of Myers.

I have grown a bit more hopeful of a better future for Myers with the emergence of his split-fingered fastball. It gives him three plus pitches as well as a decent slider. It's usually a matter of command, location, and pitch selection with Myers - although, then again, that's most of what the problem's always been. I don't disagree with you that the Phillies were typically misguided in projecting him as the next Schilling - or that it's unlikely he'll ever really become a true 'ace'. Hopefully, Hamels will emerge and displace this expectation before too long.

Chris said...

He's still between the top 10-20 in ERA in the NL. I'll take it for hte next 2 seasons while it's still a bargain. The 3rd year of his deal is when we start giving him double digit millions.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

Knew this post was coming . . .The telling difference between him and oswalt on a cold night with somewhat tight strikezone was the homeruns he gave up. You'd be tempted to say our offense could have done just the same against Oswalt, but brett seems to have done the same thing so many years that it felt like his control mistakes were just *worse* than oswalt's.

I'm happy with him as a number two, and to be honest, out of our current top 3 pitchers, right now I'd still pick him no.1 in the rotation. but you know he's keeping it warm for hamels (if hamels steps up), and then he'll be back to our ever-so-slightly-unreliable number 2.

I posted elsewhere that I thought, ironically, with the year he's had behind him, instead of blaming everyone else I see a pattern emerging where he'll now just blame himself. This is equally unproductive unless he's working out what he did wrong. No point saying 'i was terrible' unless you know *why*. sigh.

RickSchuBlues said...

Oh, he knows why - because he was a Chihuahua and not a Rottweiler. This is clearly a pitching coach in the making.

kuff6 said...

For some reason, I usually defend Myers (for his on-field performance). I can't do it this time. The most telling thing of the last outing was after giving up the slam to C Lee and finally getting out of the inning, he starts the next inning be walking Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus, who are likely the two worst offensive regulars in the entire National League (as long as C Guzman is still on the DL, of course). Just awful and inexcusable.