Offense, Myers Struggling
The Rays’ offense in 2014 is off to a poor start. Some may say this is the case every year, or every April, but this start is reminiscent of the painfully slow start the team got off to in 2011. Through the first 15 games, this is how the 2014 offense compares to that 2011 start:
This year’s offense is striking out fewer times, walking more, yet is scoring fewer runs. That 2011 team scored 54 runs through its first 15 games, 16 of which came in a single crazy game against Boston in the tenth game of that season. While that 2011 offense did not get shut out until the 39th game of the season, it scored two or fewer runs in 8 of the first 15 contests. This season, the Rays have scored two or fewer runs in 9 of the 15 contests and have already been blanked three times this season with arguably a more talented roster than that 2011 team.
There is plenty of reasons why the offense is struggling, and it does not help that one of its premier bats is currently in the midst of a major slump.
Wil Myers is frustrated, and shared some of that frustration with Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times yesterday:
“Just not getting the job done — swinging at bad pitches, going out of the zone, not staying with my plan….Besides the first game of the year, I haven’t really done too much at the plate. It’s something we’re working on in the cage. It’s just one of those things I’m going through right now. Just looking to get out of it soon….Anytime you’re going through any type of slump, it’s discouraging.”
Topkin went on to report that besides working on his swing, the Myers has tried varying his approach, going from aggressive to patient, and that isn’t working, either.
Since driving in his last run on April 4th, Myers is just 5 for his last 34 (all singles) with two walks and 11 strikeouts in 36 plate appearances. The plan of attack on Myers appears crystal clear – pitch him away.
That heat map looks very much like the one R.J. Anderson wrote about as he described Myers’s struggles in the series against Boston last October:
Teams are pitching him out there because he is having difficulty covering that part of the plate. These are his numbers on pitches on the outer half of the plate in 2014 compared to last season:
Myers has been more aggressive on pitches on the outer half in 2014, but is coming up empty quite a bit when he does swing at those pitches and is struggling to put them in play. Part of that has to do with his mechanics, as Brian Anderson mentioned in the broadcast yesterday.
During the first plate appearance against Miguel Gonzalez, Anderson noted after Myers’s first swing and miss through a fastball up and over the plate that his hips were leaking out. Wieters had called for the fastball to be low and away; Gonzalez missed his location and yet was still able to put a 90-mph fastball right by Myers.
In this particular case, Myers seemed more late on the pitch more than anything. Here is a side by side of Myers hitting nearly the exact same pitch for a double off the wall in the opening series against Toronto’s Steve Delabar.
If anything, Myers looks like he has opened up a bit more on the pitch against Delabar (left) more so than the one yesterday against Gonzalez. Delabar’s fastball was a little lower and came right over the heart of the plate while Gonzalez, while missing his location, still found the outer third of the plate. The Delabar pitch was hit 40o feet while Myers swung underneath the pitch from Gonzalez.
The second pitch of the plate appearance was a breaking ball that started on the outer half of the plate that ended up on the black, low and away and would have been a called strike had Myers not missed it. Myers could not make contact with the pitch, but this time it was due to a lack of plate coverage and not due to being late on the pitch.
Myers has already allowed his hips to leak open as if he were going to turn on a fastball and then tries to reach for a breaking ball that misses the end of his bat.
The at bat ended, just as it started, by Myers swinging under a 90-mph fastball out over the plate. This time, Gonzalez located a bit lower, still missed his spot, but the end result was the same.
JM: I think you can, I really do What I’m talking about is that when you get to two strikes, you go to what I call “The B-hack.” For me, what that means is making a mental alteration as opposed to a distinct physical one. The “B-hack” consists of maybe choking up a little bit, looking away first, and thinking fastball first. I think that too many guys, by staying at the end of the bat, lose control of the head of the bat. I think that by not looking fastball, and thinking soft instead, when you get something hard you basically have no chance. I also think that when you’re looking middle/in, and the pitcher goes away, you basically have no chance. However, when you’re looking away, and he throws it in, you do. So, I’d like to set these parameters for hitters to work with.
We have seen Maddon employ different strategies to heat up cool hitters in the past, such as hitting them lead-off and working on B-hacks. With CC Sabathia on the mound tonight, it would not be surprising to see Myers lead the game off and take some B-hacks in the game to try to shake his way out of this funk at the plate.