Tim Byrdak is pitching great but do Mets need him?

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.

14 comments for “Tim Byrdak is pitching great but do Mets need him?

  1. Arbitole
    March 19, 2011 at 10:16 am

    LOOGY stats against RHB are sometimes a bit misleading because they tend to pitch around righties to get to lefties behind them. Not always, of course, but it’s a factor. Team’s up by 2; LOOGY comes in with one out, gets a lefty, puts the righty on, gets the next lefty to end the inning. Etc.

    • Brian Joura
      March 19, 2011 at 10:32 am

      How much are we willing to accept from this, though? It’s one thing for a pitcher’s isolated OBP to be up because he’s pitching around guys and I don’t think anyone would complain too much about this. But if we assume this is the case, than the real ISO should be lower since the LOOGY isn’t giving RHB anything to hit. But we saw Byrdak’s ISO against RHB last year go up 21 points compared to LHB.

      That’s a rotten job of pitching around guys because it’s not like his ISO was awesome versus LHB at .160 for the year. In 2010, LHP versus LHB had the following numbers:
      .241/.317/.382 for a .141 ISO

      • Arbitole
        March 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm

        Points well taken – it is a fact that he is not as good against RHB and cannot always pitch around them. Pitching around is *a* factor, not *the* explanation.

  2. March 19, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Didn’t Collins just say lately that he wants one LOOGY, and two lefties would be a “luxury?”

  3. baseball101
    March 20, 2011 at 11:08 am

    This may be one of the least knowledgable articles I have read regarding this particular player. No mention of him pitching with a hernia last season. No mention in being in 76 games, 64 innings pitched in 2009. His usage by Houston can only be described as stupid. He faced more RH hitters than LH hitters. In 2009 RH hitters did not hit over .180. The NL East is loaded with LH line ups and Byrdak either makes the Mets or opts out of his contract. Do you think you can shuffle him back and forth to Buffalo and have him clear waviers and accept the assignments. As a guy with over 5 years of service if you call him up his contract is guaranteed so why would he go back to Buffalo?????

    • Brian Joura
      March 20, 2011 at 11:30 am

      Hey baseball101 – thanks for reading and commenting.

      Byrdak is on a minor league deal so clearly not one team was willing to give him a major league contract, regardless of last year’s hernia or previous numbers. Also, name me 5 LOOGYs who faced significantly more LHB than RHB last year.

      Pedro Feliciano faced 141 RHB and 139 LHB. Arthur Rhodes faced 128 RHB and 89 LHB. Eric O’Flaherty faced 97 RHB and 84 LHB. Notice a trend here?

      Ideally they face mostly lefty batters but the reality is that managers pinch-hit righties whenever they can and also the LOOGY will often pitch to more than 1 batter and face righties that way, too.

      Why would he go to Buffalo? Because he has a minor league contract. His choice, at least at the beginning of the season, is go to Buffalo or retire. After he gets called up the first time, then his five year rights would apply. Of course, no one wanted him before, so he would risk never pitching in the majors again if he refused the assignment.

      And 2009 was clearly an outlier in Byrdak’s performance versus RHB. It’s the only time in his career that RHB hit less than .268 against him. His lifetime marks versus RHB are .288/.402/.484 — which is HORRIBLE.

      Better luck next time.

  4. baseball 101
    March 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    First I appreciate a polite comment. Now to the revelant B.A against. Over the past three years which is current and more to the issue R.H. batters hit .254 vs. Byrdak which is no where near horrible. As a comparision R.H. hitters batted .325 vs. Feliciano. Now that is horrible.

    • Brian Joura
      March 20, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      But what he did in 2009 was so out of character for what he’s done every other season that it’s hard to take it at face value. In 2008 he had a 1.011 OPS versus RHB and in 2010 it was .949

      His 2009 season came about because of a completely unsustainable .186 BABIP versus RHB.

      It makes more sense that a pitcher as old as Byrdak would do worse than his career averages in a category, not that he would put up his career-best numbers.

      In the sample sizes that we’re dealing with, nothing is impossible but I’d be willing to wager anything that Byrdak will not come within 75 points of the .640 OPS he put up versus RHB in 2009.

  5. baseball101
    March 20, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Sorry forgot to mention his choice at the beginning of the season is not Buffalo or retire. He has an opt out date at the end of spring training. Saying no one wanted him makes me ask what you base that on. Do any of us know what offers he got and what he based his choice upon? I think that statement is a guessing game.

    • Brian Joura
      March 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      I’ve never heard of someone on a minor league deal having an opt out clause. I searched Cot’s, ESPN New York and mlb.com and nowhere was there any mention of that. Can you provide a link that mentions the clause?

      Why would any player sign a minor league deal if somebody offers a major league one? Maybe you could see that if it was a lousy team that offered the major league deal and a good one that offered the minor league deal, but the Mets finished below .500 last year so that doesn’t seem a likely explanation.

      • baseball101
        March 20, 2011 at 2:14 pm

        Bonser, Boyer, Harris also have opt out clauses. Biemel said he turned down a big league job for Pitts. Not saying Biemel is correct but many players have opt out clauses at the end of spring training.

        • Brian Joura
          March 20, 2011 at 2:23 pm

          link for Byrdak opt out clause?

          • baseball101
            March 24, 2011 at 6:19 pm

            Check Mike Silva’s Baseball Digest

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