Baseball is a game of inches.
One inch here or one inch there can make or break a player. If a pitcher misses his location just barely, a strikeout could turn into a three-run home run. If a batter swings just a fraction of an inch in the wrong direction, he could miss the ball completely. Given how small-scale baseball can be, players are required to make constant micro-adjustments in order to not only be successful, but maintain that success as well.
The sometimes cruelty of baseball applies to all players equally. No player is immune.
As good as he is, the facts of baseball apply to San Diego Padres first baseman Wil Myers all the same. Despite being the most promising young player on the Padres roster, Myers has faced his fair share of adversity early in the 2017 season.
Upon being traded to the Padres from the Tampa Bay Rays in late 2014, Myers was viewed as a potential cornerstone of the franchise.
After the failed season of 2015, and the trade or departure of just about every “star-caliber” player the Padres had on the team, Myers was left as the only man standing. Despite being just 25 years old in 2016, Myers was left as the leader of a team with one of the youngest rosters in all of baseball.
Over the first half of the 2016 season, Myers put on a show, quickly vaulting himself into position as the best player on a bad Padres team. In earning All-Star Game honors, Myers slashed .286/.351/.522 over 379 first half plate appearances, accumulating a .369 wOBA and 134 Wrc+, which placed him among the best offensive players in all of baseball.
However, despite that first half success, Myers quietly struggled in the second half, slashing only .223/.316/.381 over his last 297 plate appearances, accumulating just a .306 Woba and 91 Wrc+ while seeing his strikeout rate jump from 20 percent to almost 28 percent. Obviously this second half collapse wasn’t encouraging, but given it was Myers’ first full season without injury, fatigue could be used as a reasonable excuse for his struggles. Going into 2017, just about everyone in San Diego expected great things from Myers in his second fully healthy season.
So far this season, Myers has been nothing short of a monumental disappointment. Through his first 287 plate appearances, Myers has slashed just .262/.324/.488 with a .342 wOBA and 113 Wrc+. When compared to the start of his 2016 season, Myers has taken a rather significant step back in almost all facets of his game. The power numbers are still there, with 14 home runs so far this year compared to 19 in the first half of last year, but Myers’ total offensive profile has diminished. With less base running value and negative defensive value, Myers’ Fwar sits at just 0.2. Considering Myers put up nearly four Fwar in a full season last year, he is currently well below that pace.
Over the last full calendar year, which covers 676 plate appearances, Myers has slashed just .249/.334/.449 with a 336 Woba and 110 Wrc+. The power has been there, with an ISO over .200, but the strikeout rate sits at over 27 percent during that time. It’s clear that despite a strong start to last season, which seemed to portend great things, Myers has been only a slightly above average offensive player over the last year’s worth of plate appearances.
This weekend, Myers actually put together his best series of at least the last six or so weeks. With a home run on Friday, another home run on Saturday, and two hits on Sunday, Myers at least had some offensive success over the weekend. However, there is still some concern as why Myers has been so ineffective at the plate, and how he can get back to his early 2016 level of performance.
After a big April in which Myers ran a 137 Wrc+, he has cooled down significantly, slashing just .224/.324/.408 with just a 96 Wrc+ since May 1. Myers has also had a sub-.200 ISO during that time period as well as a strikeout rate just shy of 30 percent. Myers has increased his walk rate up above 12 percent during that time, but he just hasn’t been the same offensive player that he was in the first month.
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