To say Marlon Byrd has resuscitated his career in New York would be a gross understatement. Byrd was supposed to be a small piece in a puzzling outfield situation. But instead, he has become one of the top run-producing outfielders in the National League.
After a grand slam on Tuesday and a two-run homer in yesterday’s sweep-completing victory over the Giants, Byrd now has 15 home runs and 49 RBI, making him the team leader in both categories. In addition, Byrd’s 15 homers are tied for sixth-most in the N.L. and his 49 RBI are also the sixth-highest total in the Senior Circuit.
The only National League hitters with more home runs and runs batted in than Byrd are Carlos Gonzalez (24 HR, 63 RBI), Domonic Brown (23 HR, 64 RBI), Carlos Beltran (19 HR, 52 RBI) and Jay Bruce (18 HR, 62 RBI). Justin Upton’s 16 homers are one more than Byrd’s total, but Upton only has 44 RBI – five less than Byrd. Similarly, Michael Cuddyer’s 52 RBI are three more than Byrd’s output, but Cuddyer is tied with Byrd with his 15 homers.
In case you didn’t know, Gonzalez, Brown, Beltran and Cuddyer are all going to be at Citi Field on Tuesday as members of the National League All-Star team. Byrd, who plays half his games at Citi Field, will not be joining them. But it’s not as if he hasn’t earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as those fine players.
Marlon Byrd’s most productive season in the majors occurred in 2009, when he swatted 20 homers and drove in 89 runs for the Texas Rangers. Naturally, it was in that campaign that Byrd achieved a career high in RBI before the All-Star Break, with 44. The following year, as a member of the Chicago Cubs, Byrd was selected to his only All-Star team. At the break, he was hitting .317 with 27 doubles, nine homers and 40 RBI. The nine homers were a career-best for Byrd at the midsummer hiatus.
Those career highs in homers (9) and RBI (44) by the break have been wiped out, courtesy of Byrd’s unexpected first-half performance for the Mets in 2013. And Byrd reached his new highs in homers (15) and RBI (49) in fewer at-bats (265) than he needed to achieve his previous career highs in those marks (287 AB in 2009, 331 AB in 2010).
As seen in the chart below, which details Marlon Byrd’s first-half performances since his first full season in the majors in 2003, Byrd had never been much of a run producer in the season’s first half. His 2009 and 2010 campaigns were the only ones in which he hit more than five homers and drove in more than 25 runs. You can now add the 2013 season to the short list of All-Star caliber first halves for Marlon Byrd.
Marlon Byrd is not going to the All-Star game this season. In fact, Byrd wasn’t even one of the top 24 vote-getters among National League outfielders. Players such as Jason Heyward (.221, 7 HR, 21 RBI in 249 AB) and Gregor Blanco (.274, 1 HR, 27 RBI in 263 AB) received more support from the fans than Byrd did. Even B.J. Upton, who had an Ike Davis-like first half (.179, 8 HR, 20 RBI in 273 AB) got more votes than Byrd.
Byrd might not have the name recognition or track record that Heyward and Upton have in Atlanta. He also doesn’t play for a team that has won two of the last three World Series, a la Gregor Blanco. But there’s no denying that he has put up the best run-producing first-half numbers in his career. And there’s also no denying that he has quietly become one of the best run-producing outfielders in the National League. But he’s also performed well in clutch and late-inning situations.
Going into the ninth inning of their game on June 16, the Mets were down 3-0 to the Cubs and were three outs away from having a 24-40 record. As many Mets fans know, Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ three-run walk-off homer gave the Mets an unlikely victory at Citi Field, but it was Marlon Byrd’s homer to start the inning that set the stage for Nieuwenhuis’ game-ending heroics. Byrd’s blast was the catalyst for the Mets’ resurgence over the last month, as the team has gone 16-9 since the morning of June 16.
Byrd’s ninth-inning shot on June 16 should come as no surprise to fans who have been Byrd-watching all season. Of the 29 extra-base hits (14 doubles, 15 homers) collected by Byrd in 2013, more than half of them (eight doubles, seven homers) have taken place in the seventh inning or later.
The Mets are 10-4 when Byrd hits a home run and they are 18-12 when he drives in a run (10-4 when he drives in more than one run). That means the Mets are 14 games under .500 when Byrd doesn’t produce a homer or RBI.
Marlon Byrd may have been overlooked as an All-Star, but he has certainly not been overlooked by his teammates, his manager and by those who have a vested rooting interest in the team. His teammates know how instrumental he has been to their recent success. His manager can’t take him out of the lineup (Byrd has played in each of the last 40 games). And his fans go crazy on Twitter after every big hit or RBI (“Byrd is the word”, “There goes another Byrd dropping in the outfield seats”, etcetera).
Byrd is most definitely the word. And those words are part of wonderful narrative for a career that looked dead after the 2012 season. Byrd may not be an All-Star this year, but he’s certainly been one of the most productive outfielders in the league in 2013. Word.
For more on Marlon Byrd, please check out Byrd’s interview with our very own Daniel Nelson.