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The Byrd is Now the Word

Marlon Byrd was just traded yesterday from the Mets to the Pirates. The 35-year-old is having a resurgent season which may end up being a career best. He has made some swing changes to help maintain some consistency for the rest of 2013 and hopefully into 2014.

I am not going to even try to guess if he is taking some form of PEDs, even though he was caught with them in 2012. He served a 50-game suspension and is being tested more since he is an offender. He will have a cloud over him, but I will base my analysis with the assumption he is clean.

Marlon Byrd has completely changed his approach in 2013 with good results. He believes he has a good swing at times, but lost focus in the past. Here are some quotes on the turnaround.

Byrd said his turnaround came from efforts to fix his swing, not steroids. (source)

“I was just so lost in my swing last year,” Byrd said. “I couldn’t get it right. What I learned over the years, if you’re scuffling and you can’t get it right in spring training and you go into the season you’re in trouble.” (source)

“We knew all along that he was a quality Major League player; his past says that,” Collins said. “Whether or not he still had that, we had to find out, and I think he’s proved to everybody that he’s still got plenty left.”

It all starts with the hips, the part of the body Jaramillo seems to always come back to when he talks about swinging.

“He was just not getting his hips in position consistently,” Jaramillo said. (source)

First, he is trying to swing harder. The harder contact can be seen in career highs in ISO (.233) and home runs per fly ball (17%). Also, his batting average on balls in play (.350) is his second highest ever. The increase in power lines up with an improvement in HR and fly ball distance.

Season: HR/FB distance
2011: 270 ft
2012: 252 ft
2013: 286 ft

Additionally, he is hitting more fly balls (40% in 2013, 25% in 2012). When paired with the increase in HR/FB%, he is showing a career high in home runs (21) with still a month to go.

Looking at 2014, I just don’t see him maintaining the high HR/FB ratio, but I could see him keeping it around 10% to 12%. We may not see the 25 HR level, but the middle to high teens is possible.

The increase in power has come at a price: increasing strike outs. His swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) has increased over the past three season and his K% has followed.

Season: K%, SwStr%
2011: 16%, 10%
2012: 20% 10%
2013: 27%, 15%

A nearly 30% K% can put his AVG at risk to high fluctuations because of a small sample controlled BABIP. This variation can be seen with a .257 BABIP and .210 AVG in 2012 and a .350 BABIP and .285 AVG in 2013. Here are some possible AVG given different BABIP levels.

Assumptions: 600 PA, 18 HRs, 5.5% BB%, 25% K%

0.250: 0.202
0.275: 0.219
0.300: 0.236
0.325: 0.253
0.350: 0.270

A BABIP even near .300 would be a huge drain on his AVG with the new higher K%.

I find Byrd an interesting player. No one really gave him a chance except himself. He has now proceeded to become more than a serviceable fantasy option. His value will be determined by his ability to keep his HR rate and BABIP high. If they drop, his fantasy value may be worthless, again.