The Internet was atwitter today, no pun intended, about the Cubs allegedly intensifying their pursuit of outfielder Marlon Byrd, the free agent from the Texas Rangers. That speculation seemed only natural, with Mike Cameron off the board. As an aside, I think my friends at foxsports.com will be facing serious thumb issues later in life for all the quality time they spend with their BlackBerrys.
Here's what I know: The Cubs like Byrd, but they haven't moved significantly down any road with him (or any outfielder) yet. I see there's been mixed reaction on this blog to the possibility of Byrd in the Cubs' outfield for next year and possibly one or two beyond.
One factor not to forget is the Rudy Jaramillo factor. Jaramillo is the Cubs' new hitting coach, and Byrd enjoyed two good years under Rudy with the Rangers. Would you call 2009 or 2008 a career year for Byrd? Let's look at the numbers:
2009: .283/.329/.479 for an OPS of .808. His OPS-plus was 106, and he had 20 homers and 89 RBI.
2008: .298/.380/.462 for an OPS of .842. Byrd's OPS-plus in '08 was 121, and he had 10 homers and 53 RBI.
His BABIP went from .330 in 2008 to .308 this year, suggesting normal correction. His ISO went up from .164 in '08 to .196 this year, reflecting the greater difference between slugging percentage and batting average. Byrd had 98 strikeouts and 32 walks this year, compared with 62 strikeouts and 46 walks in 2008. The wOBA this year was .345; it was .380 in 2008. Byrd's VORP (Baseball Prospectus) of 27.7 ranked him 81st in baseball, just behind Rangers teammate Ian Kinsler, who was 67th, at 33.5. Byrd's WAR (fangraphs.com) was 2.4.
Byrd is a right-handed batter who performed better against right-handed pitching. His line against righties was .300/.344/.491 compared with .244/.293/.451 against lefties. He hit 13 of his 20 homers against right-handers.
Byrd's batting average dipped in both June and July (the heat in Arlington?), but he rebounded over the final two months.
Defensively, he grades out OK.
For 2010, Bill James projects a line of .279/.340/.438 for an OPS of .778. James projects 14 homers and 64 RBI.
This is one guy who is hard to get a handle on. Byrd is 32. Has he peaked, or does he have a couple good years left in him? It's hard to preach patience with Cubs fans on any topic, especially when the rest of the baseball world (including the Cubs' Chicago neighbors) are busy getting better for 2010. Even though the Cubs insist they can make moves independent of trading you-know-who in right field, things look stymied at this point.