Marlon Byrd had one of the most out of nowhere seasons of any player in baseball in 2013. Not only was he good, he was an amazing performer if you factor in his draft day cost (if he was even drafted in a single mixed league of less than 15 teams I would be totally shocked). From waiver-wire addition to every day play, Byrd was on many a championship club this season as one of those who can possibly believe this guy is doing it but he’s performing like an all-star and all I had to do was to pick him up off the scrap heap.
Byrd finished the year with a .847 OPS. That’s two points better than Stanton, four points better than Gomez and .017 points better than Allen Craig.
Add it all up and Byrd went .291-24-88-75 with a .847 OPS. Only eight others besides Byrd reached all five of those categories. That’s right, Byrd was one of nine men in all of baseball who recorded all of those numbers. Here are the other names: Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, Robinson Cano, David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson and Adrian Beltre. To reiterate, Marlon Byrd was part of that group in 2013.
So Marlon Byrd went from the waiver-wire to being one of the best hitters in the National League in 2013. Huh?
Marlon Byrd began playing in 2002. Here are some facts about the 12 year vet who is 36 years old.
In his previous 11 seasons…
Byrd hit more than 12 homers one time (20 in 2009).
Byrd had more than 70 RBIs one time (89 in 2009).
Byrd had more than 70 runs scored twice (86 in 2003, 84 in 2010).
Byrd had an OPS of .815 once (.842 in 2008).
Obviously, with 11 years like that in his background everyone knew he would be a stud in 2013.
And that’s the main problem with Byrd. His 2013 effort was totally out of nowhere with the only other time he performed at remotely similar levels being in 2009. Hell, he had nine homers and 35 RBIs in 2011 and then was able to garner only 153 plate appearances in 2012 with an atrocious .488 OPS. It really looked like his career was over.
So how did he have success in 2013? Oddly, some things didn’t change at all.
Byrd had a 5.4 percent walk rate which was one percent below his 6.4 percent career mark. Byrd also had the worst K-rate of his career at 24.9 percent. How did he do that and hit .291? That .353 BABIP, the second best mark of his 12 year career, certainly helped. His 23.8 percent line drive rate was also the second best mark he posted over a decade. It was also well above his 20.6 percent career rate. Can’t expect either of those numbers to remain at those levels in ’14.
What Byrd decided to do was lift the ball more. After posting GB/FB rates of 1.71, 1.78 and 2.00 the past three years, that number fell all the way to 1.06 in 2013. He produced a 39.2 percent ground ball rate which was only the second time he’s been under 40 percent in his career (the mark was at least 49.6 percent the previous three years). In addition to the all the extra fly balls, he also posted a 16.4 percent HR/F ratio after three straight seasons under nine percent.
I don’t think I need to explain much more beyond what I’ve listed. You don’t play for 11 years and then completely change your approach and have success. You don’t go from being a nearly out of work 35 year old to a 36 year old all-star. Just doesn’t happen. Byrd may end up having a solid 2014 effort but you had better do yourself a favor and make sure you don’t draft him expecting a full repeat – that’s just not going to happen. You would also be smart to head that .488 OPS in 2012, and the decade plus of previous work that warns, strongly, that 2013 was just one of those out of nowhere performances that defies explanation before the player recedes back into the woodwork.
By Ray Flowers