For the Rays to be contenders over the next few years, they really need Wil Myers to be an offensive force, and in 2014 he quite simply was not. The second-year player posted an isolated power under .100 while still striking out more than 24% of the time. That's the batting line of a glove-only shortstop, not a right field slugger. Why did it happen? Will Myers improve?
To answer these questions, we need to understand on a much more precise level what Myers's approach at the plate really looks like. Friend-of-the-site Jason Hanselman broke it down yesterday on his own site, Dock of the Rays.
On the approach in different counts:
Overall we see him starting the at bat by being ultra passive, doing a mostly good job with one strike, and then finishing the at bat being pretty aggressive, though lefties seem to do a good job of freezing him on borderline stuff and getting him to expand on other stuff that is further off.
It’s almost as if he’s operating with a traffic light guiding him. Red light on first pitch, yellow light on second pitch, green light on third pitch. It’s not a bad guideline, especially if you’re trying to help a batter inflate his walk rate, but by being such a stringent rule it leads to the batter becoming more predictable and that’s about the worst thing that can happen with you’re in the box.
On Myers struggling to hit the changeup:
The lefty change up-and-in is a pitch that should just be absolutely murdered, but he’s swinging at that pitch almost 75% or so less often than the league on that pitch. Meanwhile, he’s playing right into their hands by chasing it down-and-away -- both off the plate and down-and-in.
The best way to neutralize a righty hitter is with a good lefty change and Wil looks pretty baffled on this pitch, at least from a swing/take perspective.
There's a lot more information in the article. Like, really a lot -- it will be the starting point when we study Wil Myers for improvement in the early part of next season.
There's also a ton of pictures to illustrate Myers's trends, so be sure to click over and check them out.
It's an open question on to what extent a player can improve his process and plate discipline. As a reason to hope for Myers, I'd like to bring up the example of Sean Rodriguez.
One of the very first things I wrote on DRaysBay was an article about a stat similar but not identical to Jason's "GAGR," that placed S-Rod in the 16th percentile as far as swinging at strikes and taking balls. As Jason notes at the beginning of his article, in 2013, S-Rod had one of the better (as defined by GAGR) approaches on the Rays. So yes, people can learn.
Good hunting, Wil.