Believe In Marlon Byrd
After 47 games (entering Monday) in this up-and-down season, no Phillies regular except for His Holiness Chase Utley has a higher slugging percentage (SLG) than Marlon Byrd. Only The Man and Jimmy Rollins have a higher weighted on-base average (wOBA). Byrd leads the team in RBI, and is tied for second (with the resurgent Rollins) in homers. Of course, you all knew Ryan Howard was going to be the team leader in homers. Byrd ranks favorably among National League hitters in traditional stats, too: 12th in RBI, 26th in hits, and 23rd in AVG.
After the Phillies signed Byrd as a free agent in the 2013 offseason, there were doubts about his ability to be the 2013 version of himself again. The speculation over the acquisition was certainly warranted, after Byrd’s 2012 PED suspension (about which he has been honest) and his seemingly miraculous power barrage in 2013, after a career of being more or less an average player. But is it possible that Byrd has simply adjusted and become a more powerful hitter than the one we knew for most of his career?
The similarities between 2013 and 2014 are striking. Byrd has the same or nearly the same walk rate (BB%), batting average, on base percentage (OBP), and wOBA. His isolated power (ISO), weighted runs created (wRC+), and SLG are down slightly, but are still very good and well north of his historical performance before 2013. It’s clear from even a quick glance at Byrd’s plate discipline that he’s changed his approach in 2013 and 2014 to produce more power. He’s swinging at more pitches both in and out of the strike zone, sacrificing contact for power. For a power-starved team in a league where runs continue to dwindle, the Phillies will take that trade-off.
For $16 million total, it looks like the Phillies got themselves a real power hitter, and with a strong arm to boot, a pretty good ballplayer. Now let’s hope Byrd can keep this up, and his sky-high batting average on balls in play (BABIP), until the trade deadline.