Why it’s time to sell high on Tim Byrdak

Manager Terry Collins has four guys in his bullpen that he trusts and three guys that he would prefer going to the dentist and having a root canal done with no anesthesia rather than placing those guys into a tight ballgame. Tim Byrdak is one of those guys that he trusts and unfortunately for Collins, it’s time for Sandy Alderson to trade Byrdak for anything he can get.

In the beginning of the year, Byrdak was actually one of the pitchers that had Collins reaching for the antacid tablets. But recently Byrdak has been one of the most reliable relievers on the Mets. That is exactly why it’s time to trade him. Byrdak’s hot streak is a mirage. He has benefitted from an unsustainable mix of batters faced and his results have been the product of luck rather than skill.

In his first 21 games of the season, Byrdak had a 6.00 ERA while in his last 22 appearances that number is a microscopic 1.38 over 13 IP and 55 batters faced. But the ERA is misleading. Here are some more numbers for Byrdak based on the split referenced above:

Split IP Hits Runs ER BB-IB K’s HR ERA FIP BABIP
First 21 12 13 8 8 5 16 1 6.00 3.04 .400
Last 22 13 10 5 2 6 12 2 1.38 4.74 .242

In the beginning of the season, Byrdak’s results were influenced by an inflated BABIP. Here recently, they are also influenced by the same stat, only this time in the opposite direction. While his ERA is much better recently, we see by his FIP that he was actually pitching better in the first part of the year. Byrdak had super-low BABIPs for the Astros in 2008 and 2009. But the other eight years of his major league career, his BABIP has been over .292 each season and he has a .282 lifetime mark in the category.

Lifetime, his ERA is 4.29 and his FIP is 5.03 so while we would expect his ERA to be lower, it’s a bit unrealistic to expect him to finish the year with a difference anywhere near close to the 3.36 spread he enjoys during this current stretch.

Byrdak is a LOOGY, a lefty pitcher who thrives on facing LHB. If we look at his splits this year, Byrdak has limited LHB to a .693 OPS while righties have an .807 OPS against him. This is a smaller spread than typical for Byrdak. In his career, RHB have posted an OPS 203 points higher than LHB.

Most LOOGYs end up facing very similar numbers of LHB and RHB over the course of the year. While the LOOGY’s manager tries to put him in versus only lefty hitters, the opposing manager will often pinch-hit a righty. Here are Byrdak’s L/R splits during his last 22 games:

vs LHB – 6-29 (.207), SH, SF, 4 BB
vs RHB – 4-16 (.250), SF, 3 BB (1 IBB)

He has 35 PA against LHB in this stretch and 20 versus RHB. Byrdak has been extremely fortunate to face this many lefties recently. Also, his performance against the righties he’s faced is completely out of line versus what he has done historically against RHB.

Byrdak deserves praise for how he has turned his season around by performing so well in his last 22 games. But it is important to realize that this is a hot streak by a veteran pitcher. Alderson would do well to trade Byrdak now while his value is highest. Relievers are a valuable commodity at the trade deadline and Byrdak has helped by pitching so well recently. If Alderson trades him now, he would be selling high on this particular “stock” and maximizing Byrdak’s value for the team.

While that may not make Terry Collins very happy, my guess is seeing Byrdak pitch for the Mets in August and September may not make him thrilled, either. That is unless Collins can keep Byrdak facing LHB 64 percent of the time and RHB perform significantly worse against him than they have lifetime. And that seems very unlikely.

5 comments for “Why it’s time to sell high on Tim Byrdak

  1. Metsense
    July 24, 2011 at 11:24 am

    The Mets are at .500. They don’t need a LOOGY. He is 37YOA, is not in the future plans and can easily be replaced in the offseason. Thanks for the statistical analysis to back my gut feelings.

    • Baseball 1010
      July 25, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      What do the Mets have to replace him with? Looking at AAA NOBODY. Over the past 3 years Byrdak has a combined ERA of 3.53. That is not luck or a fantasy number. It’s a fact. His ERA this year is in line with the past 3 years. Also he is inexpensive. Unlike Grabow with his over 5 ERA and over 4 million salary.

      • Brian Joura
        July 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm

        Well, it most certainly is luck. Here are Byrdak’s ERAs and FIPs in the time period you mention:

        2009 — 3.23 ERA, 5.23 FIP
        2010 — 3.49 ERA, 4.48 FIP
        2011 — 3.60 ERA, 3.86 FIP

        He is inexpensive, though. That’s the main reason to think they might get a C+ type prospect if they deal him.

        • Baseball 1010
          July 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

          So he has been lucky at the big league level for 3 plus years! I don’t think we can use luck to trump ERA. Also thank you for being polite in the rebuttal.

          • Brian Joura
            July 25, 2011 at 8:20 pm

            I would say he was very lucky in 2008 (3.90 vs 5.46) and 2009. Pretty lucky last year and right about where he should be up to this point in 2011.

            But he’s a guy who has very limited utility in that he can basically only be useful versus LHB. He can never go more than one IP and it’s not a surprise if he only faces one or two batters. I’d rather have a righty reliever who could go 2 or 3 innings if need be.

            He’s far from the biggest problem on the team but he’s not doing anything to really make the club better, either. Supposedly teams are very interested in LHP and Sandy Alderson should use that to his advantage.

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