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Brett's Maverick 2005
2005-04-27 22:13
by Mike Carminati

Brett Myers pitched seven shutout innings tonight as the Phils topped the Nats, 3-0 with three runs in the ninth. Unfortunately, Myers again got a no-decision, his third in five starts, against a 1-1 record. He did, however, lower his ERA to 1.35, he recorded seven strikeouts in those seven innings, and he allowed only four hits.

This comes after a devastating season in which Myers went 11-11 with a 5.52 ERA, 21 percent worse than the park-adjusted league average. Myers' career ERA was 4.84 (14% worse than average) entering the season though he had a 29-25 career mark.

Now, I am doubtful that Myers can go the entire season with a sub-2.00 ERA, but it is encouraging that he has lowered his ERA by over 6 earned runs from his April 2004 totals (7.36). His ERA so far in 2005 is 4.17 earned runs lower than it was in 2004. He also has raised his strikeouts per nine innings by 3.25 to over nine.

Can a pitcher lower his ERA by over four runs in just a season? Has anyone ever done that, especially at age 24, Myers' age? And what does it mean for his career?

Well, no one has ever come close to lowering his ERA by four runs or even three and one-half. Here are the pitchers who lowered their eras the most in one season Min. 150 innings in each year):

NameYr1ERAYr2ERADiffAge
George Haddock18905.7618912.49-3.2724
Dick Ellsworth19625.0919632.11-2.9823
Kid Gleason18895.5818902.63-2.9423
Pol Perritt19135.2519142.36-2.8921
Roger Wolff19444.9919452.12-2.8734
Esteban Loaiza20025.7120032.90-2.8131
Amos Rusie18895.3218902.56-2.7619
Bert Blyleven19885.4319892.73-2.7038
Darryl Kile19996.6120003.91-2.7031
Red Ehret18956.0218963.42-2.6127
Red Donahue18976.1318983.55-2.5825
Dan Griner19135.0819142.51-2.5726
Ray Benge19305.7019313.17-2.5329
John Denny19824.8719832.37-2.5030
Rube Marquard19154.0419161.58-2.4629
Greg Maddux19875.6119883.18-2.4322
Joe Mays20005.5620013.16-2.4025
Jack Knott19367.2919374.89-2.4030
Bill Bernhard19014.5219022.15-2.3731
Hal Newhouser19414.7919422.45-2.3421

It seems like there are a large number of nineteenth century guys and some from the war years showing up in there. What if we limit it to the expansion era:

Expansion EraYr1ERAYr2ERADiffAge
Dick Ellsworth19625.0919632.11-2.9823
Esteban Loaiza20025.7120032.90-2.8131
Bert Blyleven19885.4319892.73-2.7038
Darryl Kile19996.6120003.91-2.7031
John Denny19824.8719832.37-2.5030
Greg Maddux19875.6119883.18-2.4322
Joe Mays20005.5620013.16-2.4025
Mike Hampton20026.1520033.84-2.3130
Frank Viola19835.4919843.21-2.2724
Rick Honeycutt19825.2719833.03-2.2429
Marty Pattin19695.6219703.39-2.2227
Randy Jones19744.4519752.24-2.2125
Chris Carpenter20006.2620014.09-2.1726
Bob Knepper19875.2719883.14-2.1334
Matt Keough19795.0419802.92-2.1324
Bill Hands19664.5819672.46-2.1227
Steve Trachsel19955.1519963.03-2.1225
Jamie Moyer20005.4920013.43-2.0638
Sam McDowell19673.8519681.81-2.0425
Vida Blue19795.0119802.97-2.0430

Some of those guys are veterans making a comeback (Blyeleven, Loaiza, Denny) and others were younger pitchers coming into their own perhaps like Myers (Rusie, Maddux, Newhouser, all Hall of Famers). What if we limit the results to pitchers who were under 25 in their second year?

Under 25Yr1ERAYr2ERADiffAge
George Haddock18905.7618912.49-3.2724
Dick Ellsworth19625.0919632.11-2.9823
Kid Gleason18895.5818902.63-2.9423
Pol Perritt19135.2519142.36-2.8921
Amos Rusie18895.3218902.56-2.7619
Greg Maddux19875.6119883.18-2.4322
Hal Newhouser19414.7919422.45-2.3421
Frank Viola19835.4919843.21-2.2724
Red Ehret18894.8018902.53-2.2621
Bob Friend19545.0719552.83-2.2424
Early Wynn19425.1219432.91-2.2123
Silver King18873.7818881.64-2.1420
Matt Keough19795.0419802.92-2.1324
Ed Seward18874.1318882.01-2.1221
Gus Weyhing18874.2718882.25-2.0221
Bobby Mathews18715.1718723.15-2.0120
Hal Gregg19445.4619453.47-2.0023
Adonis Terry18874.0218882.03-1.9923
Mark Mulder20005.4420013.45-1.9823
Ernie Broglio19594.7219602.74-1.9724

But Silver King had a 3.78, high in his day, but is it truly comparable to Myers' 5.52 in 2004? OK, now I think I've got it. What if we look at pitchers under 25, who lowered their ERA by at least a run in a season, and had an ERA of at least 5.00 in the first year? This would be substantially less than the 4 runs that Myers has lowered his ERA by this year, but I'm hedging my bets. I bet Myers' ERA will come nowhere near the current 1.35. Let's say he records a more modest improvement of about one run to end up around the 4.00-4.50 range, not far from his career mark. Who else has done something similar? Here goes:

NameYr1ERAYr2ERADiffAge
George Haddock18905.7618912.49-3.2724
Dick Ellsworth19625.0919632.11-2.9823
Kid Gleason18895.5818902.63-2.9423
Pol Perritt19135.2519142.36-2.8921
Amos Rusie18895.3218902.56-2.7619
Greg Maddux19875.6119883.18-2.4322
Frank Viola19835.4919843.21-2.2724
Bob Friend19545.0719552.83-2.2424
Early Wynn19425.1219432.91-2.2123
Matt Keough19795.0419802.92-2.1324
Bobby Mathews18715.1718723.15-2.0120
Hal Gregg19445.4619453.47-2.0023
Mark Mulder20005.4420013.45-1.9823
Herm Wehmeier19505.6719513.70-1.9724
Camilo Pascual19565.8719574.10-1.7723
Bill Magee18975.3918984.05-1.3423
John Healy18875.1718883.89-1.2821
Dick Coffman19305.1419313.88-1.2624
Jeff Weaver19995.5520004.32-1.2323
Jim Britt18725.0618733.89-1.1717
Eric Milton19985.6419994.49-1.1523
Randy Lerch19775.0719783.96-1.1123
Javier Vazquez19986.0619995.00-1.0522

So what ends up happening to those pitchers? What do their careers end up looking like? Let's see (data through 2004):

NameWLPCT IP ERA
George Haddock9587.522 1,580.0 4.07
Dick Ellsworth115137.456 2,155.7 3.72
Kid Gleason138131.513 2,389.3 3.79
Pol Perritt9278.541 1,469.7 2.89
Amos Rusie245174.585 3,769.7 3.07
Greg Maddux305174.637 4,181.3 2.95
Frank Viola176150.540 2,836.3 3.73
Bob Friend197230.461 3,611.0 3.58
Early Wynn300244.551 4,564.0 3.54
Matt Keough5884.408 1,190.0 4.17
Bobby Mathews297248.545 4,956.3 2.89
Hal Gregg4048.455 827.0 4.54
Mark Mulder8142.659 1,003.0 3.92
Herm Wehmeier92108.460 1,803.0 4.80
Camilo Pascual174170.506 2,930.7 3.63
Bill Magee2951.363 742.7 4.93
John Healy78136.364 1,875.0 3.84
Dick Coffman7295.431 1,460.3 4.65
Jeff Weaver6476.457 1,172.0 4.48
Jim Britt2664.289 816.7 4.38
Eric Milton7157.555 1,188.3 4.76
Randy Lerch6064.484 1,099.3 4.53
Javier Vazquez7878.500 1,427.3 4.26
Total28832726.514 49,048.7 3.69

It seems that the guys who just are experiencing a one-year mirage of improvement, wash out of baseball pretty quickly (usually under 1000 innings). But the guys whose improvement was actual growth and maturing, went on to pretty good records.

So which one is Myers? I guess that remains to be seen along with whether his early-season success is a fluke or not. However, he'll probably pitch around 200 innings this year barring injury leaving him at around 650 for his career. That leaves him little over a season to become a washout if the 1000-inning ceiling holds true.

Comments
2005-04-28 07:17:14
1.   Murray
Mike, isn't your penultimate paragraph an exercise in question-begging?

You conclude that when guys in your ultimate data sample have a good year and go onto good careers, then the leap forward signalled development, but was otherwise just a fluke for the rest of them. That's the same thing as saying that when guys who had good careers turned in their first good seasons, it meant they were going to have good careers.

The conclusion that I think you need to draw from the list is, "The careers of guys who fall into the class I've identified in this sample is all over the map, and it doesn't tell us enough to know what to make of a season like the one Myers might put together, but that doesn't disprove the hypothesis." Maybe you want to study it over a two or three year period after the "leap forward" to see whether that tells you something more meaningful.

Myers is one of those pitchers who has vexed me for years in fantasy leagues. He should, by all rights, be better than he has been, but the results aren't there to substantiate the hunch.

2005-04-28 09:17:27
2.   Mike Carminati
Murray,

I think that they tend to take two divergent paths, towards utter failure (Lerch, Keough, Magee, Britt) or success (Maddux, Wynn, Rusie, Mathews). But it's open to interpretation. Either way, even if Myers continues with his one-year renaissance, it doesn't mean that he's turned his career around.

2005-04-28 15:03:29
3.   Murray
Rusie is a weird one. Rusie's ERA dropped by half in 1890, but that was a season in which Rusie pitched in the NL but much of the top baseball talent of the time played in the Players' League. When the players returned to the NL in '91, he was just as effective. You know this stuff better than I do, but when did they next move the mound back--1892, right?
2005-04-28 18:12:52
4.   Mike Carminati
Murray,

No, 1893. Here are the years in which the mound changed from "Zoning Out" (http://mikesrants.baseballtoaster.com/archives/006299.html):

Pitcher's Mound

1845: The pitching distance is forty-five feet, marked by 12-foot line.
1865: The pitcher's box appears: 12' x 3' box. Must pitch within box.
1866: The pitcher's box enlarged: 12' x 4'.
1867: The pitcher's box: 6' x 6'.
1868: The pitcher's box: 4' x 6'.
1869: The pitcher's box: 6' x 6'.
1881: The pitching distance: 50'.
1886: The pitcher's box: 4' x 7'.
1887: The pitcher's box: 4' x 5.5'.
1893: The pitching distance: 60'6" (present distance). The pitcher's box replaced by the rubber (12" x 4").
1895: The pitcher's rubber: 24" x 6" (present size).
1904: The height of the pitcher's mound established at no higher than 15".
1950: The height of the pitcher's mound exactly 15".
1968: Pitcher's mound: 10".

2005-05-02 08:14:56
5.   PhillyJ
Myers has looked very good - not sure if its attributable to mechanics as he indicates or not. He had an interesting quote from his last outing against Loiaza - "Our hitters were saying how hard it was to see the ball so I decided to pound the strike zone."

So poignant - yet so novel in regard to throwing strikes...he needs to throw and knock off the Greg Maddux cerebral approach...

Would love to know your thoughts on Lieberthal and his talent - or lack thereof of calling a game...

Lastly, this response was going to be one of my "What, no Randy Lerch" but alas, on the list...

2005-05-02 18:13:20
6.   Mike Carminati
PhillyJ,

I agree: Myers, or more precisely his head, is his own worst enemy. The less he thinks the better.

I can't say that I'm crazy about Lieberthal's gamecalling ability. I can't think of one pitcher he's helped shepherd along. I guess he's competent, more of the Bo Diaz rather than the Bob Boone school.

Who imagined the impression that Randy Lerch would leave on the Philadelphia sports fan's psyche. I have yet to recuperiate from Steve Jeltz, myself.

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