Wil Myers Can’t Keep Disappearing on the Road in 2017

<![CDATA[The 2016 season was one Wil Myers and the San Diego Padres had been waiting for.

After failing to play in more than 88 games during each of his first three MLB seasons, the outfielder turned first baseman suited up for a career-high 157 ballgames and earned his first-ever All-Star selection last year. It seems as though this kind of performance took forever, but that happens with top prospects — we hear about them for so long that we forget how young they actually are.

Myers is a perfect example — he’ll be just 27 years old on Opening Day with the sky being his limit as he prepares to embark into the physical prime of his career. San Diego is very much in the midst of a rebuild after selling off most of their MLB talent, but the front office wants to build around their first baseman.

At least, that’s what it seems like after the two sides agreed on a six-year, $83 million extension this past winter instead of going through the arbitration process.

But while his overall stats from 2016 make it appear as if he’s arrived, it wouldn’t be telling the whole story.

Those Overall Stats, Though

Finally healthy enough to put together a full season’s worth of plate appearances (676), there’s no denying Myers’ production. The .258/.336/.461 doesn’t look all that elite, but everything else was great — especially considering the situation he ended up finding himself in.

Myers finished 2016 with 28 homers, 29 doubles, 94 RBI, 99 runs scored and 28 stolen bases, all of which were easily new single-season career highs. It was even more rare considering the position he manned throughout the year.

Since 2002, there have been four total instances where a primary first baseman (no, Todd Frazier in 2014 doesn’t count) hit 20-plus homers and swiped at least 20 bases.

Player, Year PA HR SB wRC+
Paul Goldschmidt, 2016 705 24 32 134
Wil Myers, 2016 676 28 28 115
Paul Goldschmidt, 2015 695 33 21 163
Derek Lee, 2003 643 31 21 133

Not bad company to be in. Just imagine where his numbers would’ve ended up if he showed a little more consistency in certain areas.

The Disappearing Act(s)

Looking at Myers’ splits from last season brought a couple of immediate thoughts to mind:

1. My Lord, he hated hitting on the road.

2. Jeez, he disappeared after the All-Star game.

Check out how night-and-day his home/road splits were.

2016 PA OPS ISO BB% K% wOBA wRC+
Home 304 .954 .263 11.5% 19.8% .401 159
Road 295 .633 .139 8.5% 27.7% .278 69

It was like manager Andy Green had two completely different hitters depending on where the Padres were playing.

At home, it was like he was Joey Votto (158 wRC+ in ’16). On the road, though? It was like penciling Alexei Ramirez (63 wRC+) into the lineup…which San Diego was already doing for a majority of the season.

It’s basically the same story when we compare his first half to his second half. It wasn’t as pronounced, but it’s still quite noticeable.

2016 PA OPS ISO BB% K% wOBA wRC+
First Half  339 .873 .236 9.5% 20.6% .369 134
Second Half  260 .697 .158 10.8% 27.6% .306 91

So, even though 2016 was easily the most successful of his career, it was far from complete.

Wil Myers Can't Keep Disappearing on the Road in 2017

What the Heck Happened?

While both situations are concerning, we’re more apt to shrug off the second-half slump than the stark home/road splits. After all, as we mentioned earlier, this was the first time he’d played more than 88 games at the big-league level. He’s racked up 120-plus games played three times as a pro, but it last happened in 2013 and he was an outfielder in each case.

Myers moved to first base on a full-time basis last year, and while it’s not the most demanding position on the diamond, there’s a little more action than playing a corner outfield spot. So, combine those two factors together with not having Matt Kemp protecting him in the order any longer and we could at least draw some conclusions as to why the second-half swoon happened.

What’s truly mind-boggling is how much better he was at Petco Park than everywhere else — especially considering the reputation this park has built over the years.

Since 2014, though, Petco has increasingly become more of a fair place to play in, and has even turned into providing a slight advantage to right-handed hitters, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Keep in mind that a 100 rating shows there’s no advantage, 100-plus gives the edge to hitters and below 100 favors pitchers.

Year Runs Factor HR Factor
2014 90 88
2015 98 105
2016 103 102

It’s no longer like it used to be, when a hitter heading to play for the Padres sounds like a complete death sentence to their offensive stats. Despite that having it be so different for Myers is pretty wild.

Sure, his BABIP took a huge nosedive (.341 at home, .265 on the road), but that’s because his hard-hit rate dropped 10 percentage points (from 38.2% to 28.2%), his line-drive rate took a nearly identical dip (25.6% to 16.6%) and the frequency in which he hit ground balls spiked (41.6% to 48.3%).

Reasons to Be Optimistic

Could this be a trend? That doesn’t seem to be the case, which is encouraging.

Myers has played the same number of games at home as he has on the road (196) during his career and has produced a similar OPS (.797 at home, .722 on the road). Also, what he did with the Padres in 2015 in this situation was the exact opposite of what he did in 2016.

The sample size is obviously much smaller (253 total plate appearances), but he produced just a 98 wRC+ in 122 plate appearances at home, compared to a 135 wRC+ in 103 plate appearances on the road.

And you know what else is encouraging? Playing in the National League West. Chavez Ravine and AT&T Park both favored pitchers last year, but Coors Field and Chase Field were among the top three places for runs and homers with regard to right-handed hitters. Now, if he can get some protection in the lineup, he could be in business.

The 2016 season was a re-breakout of sorts for the former AL Rookie of the Year. A couple of concerning trends showed up, but there are reasons to be optimistic about his chances of building upon his most recent performance going forward.

That’s what the Padres are hoping for, at least.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Advanced statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to jumpstart your sportswriting career and aren’t sure how, check out my eBook. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter so we can chat about baseball: @mmusico8

Wil Myers Can't Keep Disappearing on the Road in 2017About Matt Musico

Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball, contributes to The Sports Daily and is also an editor for numberFire. In the past, he has also worked for FanDuel and Bleacher Report. He’s a lover of all baseball, especially the Mets.

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