Another day, another scoreless inning for Tim Byrdak. So far this Spring, Byrdak has appeared in five games and has 5.1 scoreless IP. Yesterday he even picked up the save, although save chances will probably be non-existent for whoever earns the LOOGY job out of the Mets pen.
Byrdak signed a minor league contract with the Mets in January and now has to be considered the favorite to be the lefty specialist for the Mets. In addition to his solid Spring, he has a long history of getting out LHB in the majors as a reliever, something neither of his other rivals for the position – Mike O’Connor and Oliver Perez – truly have.
The 37-year-old Byrdak made his major league debut in 1998 and has pitched for four different clubs in the Show. Last year he toiled for Houston and in 64 appearances he had just 38.2 IP, giving a pretty solid indication how the Astros used him.
Last year versus LHB, Byrdak had a .213/.271/.373 line over 85 PA. In that span he allowed 7 BB and struck out 19. Conveniently, Brydak also had 85 PA versus RHB last year and let’s just say he did not fare quite so well. Against righties he had a .306/.383/.458 line, with 9 BB and 11 Ks.
In his career, Byrdak has an .886 OPS allowed to RHB compared to a .677 mark against LHB, so last year was not an aberration. Basically, Byrdak should not be allowed to face a RHB if the game is close. Mets fans are familiar with this type of pitcher; he’s Scott Schoeneweis in a different body.
It all comes down to how badly you think the Mets should have a LOOGY on their roster. Byrdak can be very effective in the role as long as you remember that righties are his Kryptonite. While he would be extremely useful versus Ryan Howard, do the Mets really need a pitcher who under the best of circumstances will pitch fewer than 40 innings and stink in half of them, the ones where he races RHB?
The Mets have many relievers having a good Spring and could put together a bullpen without a traditional lefty specialist. Francisco Rodriguez, Jason Isringhausen, Bobby Parnell, Manny Acosta, Taylor Buchholz, Pedro Beato and D.J. Carrasco could be one configuration. That still leaves Pat Misch out in the cold, who while he throws with his left hand does not have any special ability to retire lefty batters.
Byrdak has had a fine Spring and no one should be surprised if he ends up making the roster. But the new front office may not be married to the thought that a team *has* to have a LOOGY in the pen. A creative solution might be to have Byrdak (or O’Connor) ride the shuttle between New York and Buffalo, coming up to the majors only when the Mets take on a team like the Phillies with multiple dangerous LHB who are not switch-hitters.