In the fifth game of the 2009 season, Brett Myers finally gave the Phillies a starting pitching performance good enough to earn a win: seven innings, four hits, four runs, a walk, six strikeouts. The downside of the outing, of course, was the three home runs Myers allowed, for the second straight start; he’s now surrendered six on the season, two more than runner-up Ted Lilly of the Cubs. To be fair, the guys at the top of the homers-allowed list also include Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jesse Litsch, John Lannan, and Roy Oswalt, each of whom has allowed three; most clubs would take that sextet of starters. Still, that Myers alone has allowed more bombs than half the clubs in the majors isn’t a good thing.
That’s pretty unlikely to continue, of course, but it’s not crazy to think that Myers could pace the majors in home runs allowed—or even take a run at Bert Blyleven’s major league record of 50 gopherballs set in the 1986 season. In 2008, Myers surrendered 29 homers, tied for 8th in the majors, in 190 big-league innings—a rate of about one every six and two-thirds innings. But through June 27, his last start before going down, Myers had surrendered 24 home runs through 101.2 innings over 17 starts—one per about every four and a third innings. Blyleven’s record pace? He threw an American League-leading 271.1 innings in 1986, or a homer about every five and a third. If Myers had continued on his pre-demotion rate and thrown 215 innings, he would have given up 51 home runs and written his name into the major-league record book—albeit not really in a way that any young pitcher grows up dreaming about.
Through two starts in which he’s allowed six homers in 13 innings, Myers is well ahead of his first-half pace from last year—balls have left the yard at about twice that frequency. His total of six in the two games matches the most of any two-game stretch from Blyleven’s 1986 campaign (which was low-lighted by a five-homer performance against Texas on September 13). Yet the two Myers starts have been unquestionably the best two efforts of any Phils starter in this young season, and strange as it is to say, he’s picked his spots: four of the six have been solo shots, and the other two were two-run blasts. Myers hasn’t allowed any runs not generated via the longball. There's some Phillies tradition for this: Hall of Famer Robin Roberts led the NL in homers allowed in four straight seasons from 1954-57, while leading the league in wins the first two of those years and racking up 75 over that span. Curt Schilling was prone to the big fly as well, allowing 347 in his career, and he's a pretty good bet to join Roberts in Cooperstown. (For that matter, many of us hope to see Blyleven enshrined one day as well.)
And this is why it’s not impossible to imagine Myers making a run at Uncle Bert: despite his souvenirish tendencies, the great curveballer had a fine season in 1986, winning 17 games with a 4.01 ERA, 1.178 WHIP and league-best strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.71. He was even better, by ERA+ at least, the following year when he again paced the AL with 46 homers allowed but won 15 games as the Twins took an improbable world championship. The Phillies certainly would take that in seven months’ time—and for now, they’re probably just wishing the other three starters who have taken the hill thus far had done as well as Brett Myers.