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?

Season Team G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
2013 NYM/PIT 147 579 24 75 88 2 5.4% 24.9% .220 .353 .291 .336 .511 .364 136 4
2014 Phillies 47 193 6 18 29 0 5.7% 28.5% .200 .387 .289 .337 .489 .358 126 0.6
Total Career 1298 5006 112 618 562 51 6.4% 18.4% .147 .327 .280 .336 .428 .334 102 19.3

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.

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9 comments

  1. Francisco (FC)

    May 26, 2014 10:17 AM

    The Byrd is the Word.

  2. Dan

    May 26, 2014 10:39 AM

    One thing I noticed about Byrd is his very high BABIP this year. Through his early career, it was in the low 300s but the last few years it’s crept up above 350 consistently. This year, it’s approaching 400, which obviously isn’t sustainable, but can his hitting approach change generate such an increase in BABIP? It’s not like he’s a speedster who can generate a lot of infield hits to inflate the BABIP.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      May 26, 2014 12:36 PM

      Yeah, his BABIP is very high right now. It’s going to come down.

  3. adam

    May 26, 2014 10:44 AM

    loved the last sentence..i was thinking that the whole time. lol

  4. John

    May 26, 2014 11:42 AM

    Kinda disappointed that you failed to mention his use of PEDs.

    • NavyJoe

      May 26, 2014 11:47 AM

      Dude, he both mentioned it and linked to an article discussing it.

      • Richard

        May 26, 2014 12:13 PM

        Maybe it would have helped if the link was bright red or something.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      May 26, 2014 12:19 PM

      I guess I should have pointed out that in the season of his positive test (2012) he had the worst stats of his career. Would that have helped?

  5. GB

    May 26, 2014 12:42 PM

    Byrd’s start has certainly been encouraging…we’ll see how he does up until the deadline and if we can get something good for him. I doubt we’ll get great value since I expect a drop-off of Byrd’s production and a trip to the DL at some point, but in a season of continued mediocrity being passed off as “contention” some hope has to exist.

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