Tylor Megill And The Darvish Dilemma

Tylor Megill is a talented pitcher, but he's doing too much.

Ask any baseball fan who their favorite pitcher is and you’re likely to get a hundred different answers. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by Yu Darvish. His ability to throw so many different pitches well has captivated my mind for years in a way few other pitchers ever have. There are a handful of pitchers capable of something close to his level, Chris Bassitt for instance. This is a rare occurrence though. Most pitchers simply do not have the aptitude to throw so many distinct pitches with good shapes. Tylor Megill has half of the equation solved. He throws seven different pitches, all of which are theoretically worth using. So why isn’t it working?

His potential is obvious. That’s not the point of this article. Everyone knows what he could be, and that’s why year after year we wait for him to take the next step. Year after year, we are disappointed. Megill is taking a different approach this season. After previously working with mostly four pitches with some variation, he came with everything including the kitchen sink for 2024. In theory, this should be great. Having so many different options as a pitcher already known to have plus stuff should be exactly what he needs. But not everyone can be a Darvish.

A Plethora Of Good Pitches

For the sake of brevity, I’ve put most of the relevant metrics for Megill’s arsenal into a table. The following is a brief rundown of each pitch and why it should/could work if he were using it well. If I were to dive deep and explain all the merits of each of them individually like I usually do, only to then get to the real point of this, we’d be here for 4000 words. I’m not putting either of us through that.

His fastball, while somewhat generic in its shape, is elevated by the fact that he is a 6’7” pitcher with a release lower than you’d expect for his height. This phenomenon is difficult to put into numbers, but it’s been seen with pitchers like Eury Pérez, Tyler Glasnow, Bailey Ober, etc. Tall pitchers who release the ball around where everyone else does have an added layer of funk that can confuse hitters. It increases the relative effectiveness of their fastballs. It also helps that he nearly leads the league in extension, contributing to a flatter plane for his fastball. 

His cutter is theoretically fine, if a bit hittable. If he could run it in on lefties more consistently, it could work. His slider has a strong combination of power and depth, giving it a bat-missing shape that should work against either handedness. 

His splitter, nicknamed the “American Spork”, is a devilish pitch with a frankly ridiculous shape. This is a baffler that hitters just aren’t used to seeing due to its uniqueness. What it potentially lacks in spin deception it makes up for in being nearly one-of-one. If it’s anywhere near the zone it will perform.

His curveball is easily the weakest pitch in his arsenal from a stuff standpoint. Its positive quality is that it rarely misses in the middle of the zone. This is not to say he has great command of it, it frequently misses by too much to be tempting, but as a change of pace pitch that he can usually keep out of trouble spots, it’s acceptable.

His slurvy sweeper is a pitch he’s only thrown a few times so far and is a new addition for him this year. It’s not terribly interesting from a stuff standpoint but it should be able to get some chases and whiffs from right-handed hitters when thrown well.

His changeup has been made somewhat redundant by his splitter, but for what it is it’s still a really solid pitch. The spin axis is close to the fastball while separating itself both with velocity and vertical depth. With how different it is from his splitter, he doesn’t necessarily need to scrap it.

Why Isn’t It Working?

With all these pitches, he should be nigh unhittable. Yet this hasn’t been the case. The reason behind this is twofold but we’ll start with the more prevalent issue. Simply put, Megill doesn’t have command over all of these offerings. The only pitch he truly seems to trust is his fastball, and even that one’s locations are questionable. It’s not a pitch he should be throwing 50.8% of the time, but that’s where he’s at. Yes, he throws seven different pitches, and one of them makes up more than half of all his pitches thrown. Even if his fastball was better than it is, that’s pushing the limits of viability. 

More importantly, all those other pitches are thrown so sporadically and with little control over where they wind up. The changeup is the only one that finds the zone at a higher-than-average rate. Ironically, this is probably the only one you would want to be below average rate. His first-strike rate is terrible because his fastball is the only pitch he can reliably attain them with. As a result, he frequently has to work from hitter-friendly counts.

His reliance on his fastball could theoretically make his other pitches perform better. The more you throw a singular pitch, the more hitters expect it, allowing the others to shine because hitters aren’t geared up for them. Megill hasn’t been able to take full advantage of this due to his lack of command. He runs pretty high whiff rates on his secondaries, but too often they’re in locations that hitters can still work with. Even if you’re not expecting a non-fastball, if it’s down the middle or in the dirt, it’s easier to adjust to.

So we’ve established that Megill doesn’t command his pitches well. The other potential problem worth mentioning is pitch blending. This is when pitches move too similarly and start to look more and more like each other. This is bad for the pitcher, as it can take some of the guesswork out for hitters. The balance between pitches that are distinct enough to be separate while not being too distinct to give themselves away is a fine line to walk. 

Cutters and sliders tend to be a problem area for some pitchers who throw both, and that’s where Megill’s issue lies. His other pitches are largely well-enough separated. His slower breaking balls are a bit similar, but there’s enough difference to avoid it. When he throws his cutter too slow, or his slider too hard, they begin to morph into the same pitch. That in-between area is something hitters can take advantage of. These being his most-used secondary pitches this season exacerbates the problem.

The Unfortunate Solution

As I said earlier, not everyone can be Yu Darvish. Rather than try to develop the command of all of these different pitches, it would probably be wiser to make some cuts from the arsenal and focus on a few pitches to improve. It’s not fun, and the baseball lover in me is dismayed at the thought of removing such a cool novelty from his game. The analyst in me, however, understands that it may be a necessary step for Megill to find success.

There are factors in this process that I can’t account for. I don’t know which of Megill’s secondaries he’s most comfortable with beyond their usage rates. Leaning into a pitcher’s feel is almost always a good idea. That said, if it so happens that the splitter is the one he likes throwing the least… he should probably keep it anyway. Working from a pool of seven solid pitches, only one of which is a fastball, there are several ways to build a cohesive, pared-down arsenal. He could scrap the slider, curve, and changeup, using his cutter to bridge the fastball and the sweeper, with the splitter as a go-to strikeout pitch. He could drop the cutter and sweeper, trusting the slider as his primary breaking ball, having the curve in his back pocket, and using both the changeup and splitter.

What combination would work best for him is beyond my knowledge, but he needs to find something to focus on and chase after that. We’re in year four of the Tylor Megill experience, and while he’s very different than he used to be, he’s not any more effective. His current form has discovered a dual-edged sword in his impressive aptitude for different pitches. It’s just too much to expect a pitcher to be able to use all of them to their fullest ability as he’s getting used to them. When they all exist together in a developmental state, they hold each other back. He can’t dedicate enough time to the progress of all of them, he’s stretched too thin. The initial results of him attempting this have gone as you’ve seen this season.

Rather than hoping for the 100th-percentile outcome of him being able to use all of these pitches in somewhat equal measure and to their best, I believe a change should be made. He’s been given a gift many pitchers dream of. A wide variety of pitches that he can throw with an effective shape. In the interest of getting the best out of them, he needs to just pick some of them to go forward with. I’m not opposed to him continuing to use the entire group for a while to see which ones he likes the best and can use in tandem. But I have my doubts he’ll find consistent success until the change is made.

I don’t want to end on such a negative note. Again, Megill is immensely talented. He has the pitcher’s equivalent of the wall of paint sample cards at a home goods store. It’s up to him to create a cohesive color scheme without doing too much. With his penchant for tinkering and raw skill, I wouldn’t bet against his ability to figure it out eventually.

Jack Foley

Jack is a contributor at Pitcher List who enjoys newfangled baseball numbers, coffee, and watching dogs walk by from the window where he works. He has spent far too much time on the nickname page of Baseball-Reference.

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