Wil Myers and the B-Hack
The Rays are coming off a disappointing road trip, but the performance of 22-year-old Wil Myers was not among the reasons for frustration. Through the first 44 games of his major league career, Myers is hitting .325/.376/.509 with 15 extra-base hits in 189 plate appearances. His prodigious power has produced over a half mile of home run distance. Aside from his feats of strength, he has shown traits of a hitter more mature than the date listed on his birth certificate.
R.J. Anderson put Myers in the national spotlight this morning. Profiling the outfielder in his “Painting the Black” column for Baseball Prospectus, Anderson noted some advanced features of his approach.
In addition to the quality of Myers’ batted balls, the spread in location has also impressed. Rather than going to the plate pull-happy, Myers has shown a feel for the whole field. Of his 55 hits, 22 have gone to left field, while the majority have gone back up the middle. Diversity in location extends to his home runs, too. Four have gone to left field, one to dead center, and three more to right field, including his first—a wall-scraping grand slam against CC Sabathia at Yankees Stadium.
Whatever concern there may have been about Myers’ walk rate earlier in his season has since vanished. He’s shown a solid command of the strike zone, and less swing-and-miss than his early-season strikeout rates portended. In fact, Myers entered Sunday with a 75 percent contact rate, three percentage points shy of the league-average clip, according to Baseball-Reference.
Watching Myers put on a laser show has been a treat, but I share Anderson’s enthusiasm for the right-handers approach. As mentioned, Myers’ overall contact rate is slightly below the league average; however, when he needs to make contact, he has shown the skill to get the bat on the ball.
The league average-contact rate for all batters with two strikes is 77 percent. Myers’ two strike-contact rate is 78 percent with most of those pitches coming on the outer half.
As it turns out a similar batting stance is not the only thing Myers shares with Evan Longoria. Like Longoria, Myers has shown an affinity for the “B-Hack.” The B-Hack approach as Rays’ manager Joe Maddon explains is “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.”
Narrowing down the selection to Maddon’s specifications: two-strike swings on outer-half fastballs, Myers’ surpasses the league average. On these pitches Myers makes contact on 85 percent of his swings. The league average is 81 percent.
Myers is not only spoiling off pitches to keep the plate appearance alive either. He has six hits off the B-Hack including two home runs. Looking at his spray chart, he has shown the aptitude to take the ball the other way in these circumstances.
Recently, I wrote about Myers and the ability to survive and adapt at the major league level. Keeping the B-Hack close should help.
Data and visuals courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info.