Mets fans have been used to watching Pedro Feliciano dominate left-handed hitters over the past five seasons (and even Hisanori Takahashi last season) but as spoiled as we once were, one thing has been pretty apparent so far in 2011–Tim Byrdak isn’t shutting down lefties. Byrdak’s career .204/.296/.386 line against lefties certainly makes him a great specialist, but Mets fans have yet to see what’s so special. On the surface his .273/.273/.636 line against with 5 strikeouts and 0 walks so far suggests he’s doing a fine job, but the lefty specialist has also surrendered three big hits to lefties in each of the past three series.
The first big hit that comes to mind was to Raul Ibanez on April 7. Ibanez, a left-handed hitter, stepped up to plate with a man on-base, and smacked a two-run shot. The Mets lost the game against the Phillies 11-0, so the homerun was peanuts compared to the other damage, but Ibanez only had a .268/.309/.419 line against lefties in 2010. The next day, on April 8 against the Nationals, after walking Mike Morse (Laynce Nix pinch-ran), Byrdak gave up a line-drive single to left-handed hitter Rick Ankiel. The single put the Nationals in scoring position, and Ankiel eventually scored (along with Nix). Three of the Nationals’ six runs came in that inning. The third hit, which occurred in the last night’s game against the Rockies, was to left-handed hitter Seth Smith, who scorched a lead-off double. Byrdak then walked former Met Ty Wigginton, but luckily got out of his own jam.
Unlike Blaine Boyer, Tim Byrdak has not single-handedly lost a game with his supposed specialist abilities, but these big hits cannot just be ignored. Byrdak did not have much competition in Spring Training for the job, but that hopefully doesn’t mean the Mets couldn’t scoop up someone else if Byrdak’s hittability were to continue. Ron Mahay, I’m looking at you.