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Key Stats: Brett Myers, welcome back to fantasy baseball relevance! A draft day afterthought to many in 2010, Myers was one of the most consistent starters in all of MLB, pitching at least 6 innings in first 32 starts of the season (he pitched 5.2 innings in his final start). So it’s not surprising he had a career year in ERA at 3.14.

So what changed for a pitcher who hasn’t been relevant for 4 years? Two things: he kept the ball in the strike-zone and in the ballpark (as last year marked his season low in both BB/9 at 2.7 and HR/9 at 0.8.)

Skeptics Say: The big question is can he keep these numbers similar in 2011.

Well let’s start with the BB/9. While this was the lowest of his career, in the end it wasn’t too divergent from his career trend in the category.

The HR/9 rate is the key for Myers. Last year’s total was the clear outlier in his career number (0.8 HR/9 last year compared to 1.3 HR/9 for his career.) and that 0.5 difference has a tremendous impact on ERA. The difference can best be explained by a career low 8.5% HR/FB (compared to 14.3% career.)

How can you explain this drop? First, when you look at the difference between Citizen’s Bank Park vs. Minute Made Park (where he pitched in 2010) the Park Factors for HR’s is not that much different. Second, his GB % of 48.5 is consistent with his career 47.5%, so an increased GB rate may not be the answer either.

While the stats do not provide a clear answer into the decrease in HR, it may be as simple as his better control resulting in fewer balls being left over the plate. In any case, you should expect an increase in HR/FB % for Myers in 2010. It’s just a question of how much of one.

Peer Comparison: Since wins are hard to come by nowadays, I think it’s fitting to compare the Astros top two starting pitchers: Myers and Wandy Rodriguez (two of the top pitchers in QS last year with 24 and 23 respectfully). Here are there numbers from 2010:

Myers: 14 wins 3.14 ERA 1.24 WHIP 180 K’s
Rodriguez: 11 wins 3.60 ERA 1.29 WHIP 178 K’s

While Myers and Rodriguez ended with similar numbers, they got to these totals in two totally different ways. Myers was consistent and continued his strong pitching throughout the year. Rodriguez, however, endured a horrible first half with an ERA of 4.97 only to be brilliant in the second half with a 2.11 ERA (with a significant raise in K/9 from 6.8 to 9.7.)

So who is the Houston pitcher you would more like to have for 2011? While Myers was better overall in 2010, my answer is still Wandy Rodriguez who in the second half of 2010 was the pitcher he was throughout 2009 (which means top 20). But remember that Myers is not far behind with his good K rate and regained control.

Team Outlook: With the 28th best offense in terms of runs the Houston Astros offer one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. The bad news for Myers and his teammate Wandy Rodriguez is that it probably won’t get much better in 2011 unless young hitters like Hunter Pence, Chris Johnson and Brett Wallace take big leaps next year.

What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #54 Starting Pitcher & #208 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #27 Starting Pitcher; Tristan Cockcroft from ESPN.com: #40 Starting Pitcher; Couch Managers: #144 Overall

Projection: I am one of the believers in the new Brett Myers and think he’ll be closer to his break-out year in 2010 than his form the few years before.

11 wins 3.75 ERA 1.25 WHIP 180 Ks in 218 innings

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