Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not your old Byrd; Marlon looks to build off his career year

By PATRICK GORDON | Managing Editor
March 30, 2014, 9:00 a.m.
@Philabaseball

Marlon Byrd's career appeared to be headed in a downward spiral, but the veteran journeyman put together excellent numbers last season and now finds himself with a permanent spot in the middle of the Phillies lineup.

The club signed the 37-year-old this off-season to a two year deal worth $16 million. 

Byrd opened last year with the Mets but was dealt to the Pirates at the trade deadline. He played in a career high 147 games and hit 24 home runs while collecting 88 RBIs. His 138 OPS+ marked a career high. 

Marlon Byrd signed a two-year deal with the Phillies."We talked to our scouts and he can bring a lot to this club," Ruben Amaro Jr. said following the announcement of Byrd's signing. "Given our offensive struggles last year we believe he can truly help our club."

Byrd ascended through the Phillies system as a center fielder. He was viewed as a player that could rely on his speed and hit for average. That was is 2002. He stayed in Philadelphia until being dealt to the Nationals in 2005.

"I've changed everything," Byrd said. "From how I've altered my approach at the plate and how I swing, to my overall focus. Everything's changed."

ESPN's Home Run Tracker calculated Byrd's average home run length last year to be 411.9 feet, ranking him seventh in the majors. 

Byrd was suspended in 2012 after testing positive for the usage of performance-enhancing drugs. He knew then he had to alter his game if he wanted to remain in the major leagues.

"I felt terrible," Byrd said. "I was careless and made a huge mistake. At that point, I truly knew I needed to change how I did things."

Byrd's new swing is more efficient and allows for a faster bat through the strike zone. The additional speed allows him to hit more balls in the air, which in turn, allows for better power numbers.

Aside from a new approach, a portion of Byrd's career year last season also can be attributed to luck. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was .353 - and ranked 13th in the majors. A high BABIP often means other numbers, like batting average and on base percentage, are inflated because balls that traditionally would lead to outs were finding their way through for hits. A normal BABIP is around .280.  

Byrd also put together an ISO last season that was 60 points above his career average and a career-high strikeout rate at 24.9%.

"He's going to be interesting to watch, especially in Citizens Bank Park," said on National League scout. "I think, from an offensive standpoint, he's going to dictate how the Phillies do. If he succeeds and replicates last year, I can see the club competing. If not and he struggles, the club is in trouble."

- The Philadelphia Baseball Review is the top baseball news blog in Philadelphia, providing news coverage and analysis of the 2014 Phillies and baseball in the Philadelphia region.

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