Quick Hits: The Byrd is No Longer the Word

By Danny Abriano

When the Mets signed Marlon Byrd prior to spring training, I figured he was simply AAA fodder.  His atrocious 2012 and suspension for PED use led me to believe I’d be correct, but his hot spring facilitated both his inclusion on the roster and led to him being entrenched in a fairly regular role.  He had a nice start to the regular season, but has since slipped.

Apr 1, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets outfielder

Marlon Byrd

(6) warms up before a MLB opening day game against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Byrd has seen his average fall to .246, and he hasn’t homered in two weeks.  That average from Byrd would be fine if he was drawing walks.  The problem, is that he isn’t.  He has three walks all season, leading to an unsightly OBP of .286.  If you look at his strikeout rate, you’ll realize that Byrd’s numbers aren’t the result of him hitting into bad luck.  Rather, his numbers are due to him often being over-matched at the plate.

Byrd has struck out 13 times in his last 32 at bats (he’s on pace to strike out 178 times for the season).  That simply isn’t going to cut it.  Byrd isn’t alone in his early season struggles (see Ike Davis).  However, what sets Byrd apart is the fact that his poor 2011 and 2012 seasons should lead you to believe that what we’re seeing now is what we’re going to get.  Davis, on the other hand, clubbed 30 homers and drove in over 90 runs last season.  He has rope because he’s still likely a part of the future in Flushing, while Byrd is not.

Lucas Duda has earned the right to start the majority of the games in left field.  The center field starts should go to either Jordany Valdespin or Collin Cowgill.  Right field is a different story.  If Byrd continues to struggle, his starts should go to either Mike Baxter, Juan Lagares, or Cowgill (on days when Valdespin is in center).  There’s a chance that Byrd will discover the fountain of youth and reverse his decline.  Odds are, however, that that isn’t going to happen.  If he continues to struggle, the quicker the Mets end the “Byrd plays almost every day” experiment, the better.

Commentary from Staff Writer Dan Haefeli:

Marlon Byrd has, in all, been a positive addition to the Mets. His hitting skills are clearly diminished (which should push him to the bench), but he’s by all means a solid locker room guy and a good, somewhat versatile outfielder. With that said, the Mets might be leaving their best outfielder on the bench right now. Known primarily for his pinch-hitting prowess (.341/.429/.525 in 56 plate appearances), Mike Baxter is seemingly consistently overlooked. He’s put up a solid line as a Met (.258/.365/.408, 1.3 fWAR in 285 PA) and has exhibited good gap power throughout his career, averaging 36 doubles, 9 triples, and 14 home runs per 650 AA/AAA PA’s – rates he’s nearly matched in the majors (41,7,9, respectively). He also plays a very good right field (+17.7 UZR/150).  He’s not young at 28, and has struggled against lefties (though 31 PA isn’t much of a sample size), but he’s a guy who put up consistently solid numbers in the upper minor leagues (.294/.372/.463, 1637 PA) and has shown a good eye against major league pitching. He may lack the upside of a Jordany Valdespin or Juan Lagares, but the Mets owe it to themselves to see what they have here. The worst case scenario is that Baxter is what he currently is: an inexpensive, solid fourth outfielder. But there’s a chance he can be something more, and that’s a chance Terry Collins should be willing to take.

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