Braves Journal, The House That Mac Built

I don’t want them forget Ruth; I just want them to remember me. -Hank Aaron

25 Feb

Paul Byrd

Are the Braves a bad organization? One of the danger signs of a bad organization is attempting to “fix” mistakes by bringing back players whom they mistakenly gave up on. However, when they gave up the players were young and cheap; now they’re old and expensive. It’s a loser’s game.

Paul Byrd was with the Braves in 1997 and early 1998. He came over originally from the Mets for Greg McMichael, which really takes me back. He pitched a fair amount as a spot starter and long reliever in 1997, but the team soured on him and let him rot in Richmond in 1998 before waiving him to make room on the 40-man roster for Norm Charlton, of all people. It almost immediately backfired, as Byrd was picked up by the Phillies and pitched exceptionally well. He had a good year in 1999, winning fifteen games and making the All-Star team, before struggling in 2000 and being dealt to Kansas City in 2001. He pitched well again for the Royals and last year was their ace, winning 17 games for a team that lost 100.

The Braves signed him to a two-year contract evidently intending him to replace Greg Maddux, which is something like the Chicago Bulls using Pete Myers to replace Michael Jordan. But when Maddux accepted arbitration, the combination of the contracts of Byrd and Russ Ortiz forced the team to trade Kevin Millwood. Byrd instead wound up replacing Damian Moss as the fourth starter.

Byrd has exceptional control, walking only 38 men in 228 1/3 innings last year. That’s basically his game. He’s not a big strikeout pitcher, he gives up a bunch of homers — the second most in the AL last year — and he allows about a hit an inning. But he doesn’t beat himself and with a good defense behind him he does okay. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher.

Paul Byrd Statistics – Baseball-Reference.com

9 Responses to “Paul Byrd”

  1. 1
    Creg Says:

    Let’s face it, Schuerholz has been hot to get Byrd back since he lost him. That said, if Leo and Maddux can help Byrd become somewhere between the John Burkett of 2001 and the Jamie Moyer of the last several years, I’d be thrilled.

    Byrd did give up a whopping amount of homers last season, but let’s remember that KC has been one of the better hitters parks in the American League for the last few years. I’m cautiously optimistic with Byrd, because pitchers with such low strikeout rates (who thus depend so heavily on defense and ball-in-play luck) are just as likely to suffer a Scott Erickson-esque meltdown as they are to keep fooling ’em.

  2. 2
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Well, Byrd’s only thrown a lot of innings twice, and he was among the leaders in HR allowed both times. His HR allowed rate was actually a little worse for the Phillies in ’99, though nobody noticed because Chad Ogea was on the team too and he was even worse. If Byrd were a ground-ball pitcher like Erickson I’d be more optimistic.

  3. 3
    Creg Says:

    You’re right. But let’s remember that Moyer was pretty much a league-average starter before he went to Seattle (he’d had one good year with the Cubs early in his career and another with Baltimore, albeit in limited innings). And he was 33 then, a year older than Byrd is now. But then, we can’t all be Jamie Moyer.

    I really don’t think Byrd will turn out as good as Moyer, but he’ll be a solid No. 4 if the rest of the guys hold up. Of course, if Hampton doesn’t rebound, Ortiz breaks down and Byrd regresses to the mean (all highly possible), this could be the worst Braves starting staff since 1990.

  4. 4
    Matt Davis Says:

    Check out this nice fluff piece on Byrd in the Sporting News.

    http://www.sportingnews.com/baseball/articles/20030225/459203.html

    (Note of warning: this is one of those “extremely positive spring training profile” whereby all crappy players are reported to be on the brink of a phenomenal breakout year. Still, interesting.)

  5. 5
    Matt Davis Says:

    Oops. I need to proofread these things before I post…

  6. 6
    bledsoe Says:

    Mac, Byrd is my second all-time least favorite ex-Brave, due mainly to his sniping at the Braves after leaving. Seems they didn’t appear to appreciate him as much as some of their other pitchers….

    That being said, I think this is a real pickup. At this point, Byrd resembles a slightly better, slightly younger, much cheaper Glavine. He’s more than a No. 4 starter; I’d put him at No. 2 and Ortiz at NO. 3.

  7. 7
    Colin Says:

    I think the thing that annoys me about the Byrd situation is this – he took less than market to be a Brave. A lot less.

    Now, why, do you ask, is that a bad thing? Well, reportedly, he turned down a 3-year, $21 million offer (r was it $24? I think 21)…from the Phillies!

    So let’s revisit the offseason. Three days before Maddux decides to accept arb, Byrd turns down the offer from the Phils to take $$7m a year of their payroll. four days laterthey decide they have enough payroll room to unburden the Braves of Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada.

    Sigh. At some level this is irrational. It’s not like it’s the case that had the Phils taken Byrd that the braves would still have Millwood ($3m extra payroll this year wouldn’t have cut it), but at least he likely wouldn’t have gone to the main divisional rival. Of course, the Braves would now be without their fourth starter…it’s all so complicated :-p

  8. 8
    Mac Thomason Says:

    Well, even $3 million less might have been enough to convince the suits to at least give JS until spring to clear payroll. Or at least a couple of weeks to find a taker for Millwood rather than doing it immediately.

  9. 9
    Colin Says:

    A good point. It would have given a little more breathing room.

    Here’s the pitching staff payroll breakdown for next year:
    Maddux: $14.75m
    Hampton: $8m ($2m actual, but the Turner Sports chief said they were booking it at the full value divided evenly over 6 years)
    Ortiz: $4.4m
    Byrd: $3m
    Marquis: $368k
    TOTAL: $30.5m booked/$24.5m actual

    Just for comparison, here’s what it would have cost to keep the 2002 staff:
    Maddux: $14.75m
    Glavine: $10.7m
    Millwood: $9.9m
    Moss: $1.55m
    Marquis: $368k
    TOTAL: $37.3m

    So the overall difference is $6.8m there; a large gap to bridge. Me, I like:
    Maddux: $14.75m
    Millwood: $9.9m
    Smoltz: $+3.3m (salary increase for 33 starts)
    Moss: $1.55m
    Marquis: $368k
    TOTAL: $29.7m (actually $39.7m, but I didn’t include Smoltz’s $10m base in the other scenarios).

    Then I’d be moving Spooneybarger into the closer role (because I didn’t trade him for Hampton).

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