What’s up with Byrd?

On the surface the transformation is startling, Marlon Byrd looks way different from when he joined the Cubs before the 2010 season.  Let’s get this out-of-the-way now, this is in no way, shape, or form an attack on Marlon Byrd, and we can leave the “S” word out of it, because that’s not what this is about.  I think it’s fair to question the drastic difference in his appearance, but I will never accuse anyone of anything. 

2010 Spring Training

2012 Spring Training

What happened?  Again, I’m just being curious as to the change in his appearance, is this a new off-season approach to gain speed/flexibility?  Is this change something that has affected his game?  Out in the field it doesn’t appear so as he is still doing an adequate job of patrolling Wrigley.  In fact I love his hustle, it’s great to see a guy bust his tail off 100% of the time.  It’s at the plate that has me concerned, and really it has nothing to do with his appearance and everything to do with his approach.

Marlon Byrd who is in the lineup today, hitting 8th…. that’s right, he’s hitting 8th in THIS Cubs lineup, comes into the day with a .056 avg with one hit in 18 at bats.  He is swinging at anything and everything that comes close to the plate, sometimes it doesn’t have to even be close.  I can’t help but think that this has something to do with the incident last year.  Everyone remembers it, it’s hard not to, it was terrifying.  On May 21, 2011 against Boston, Marlon Byrd was hit in the face/eye by an Alfredo Aceves fastball (you can see the video HERE ; Warning: Graphic).  Byrd suffered facial fractures as a result and offered this sobering statement, “An inch to the right or left, maybe it gets my full eye,” Byrd said. “As long as I can see and there’s no brain damage, I’m blessed.”  But I have to wonder, was more damage done emotionally than physically?  Consider this..

2011 before being hit in the face
.308 avg / .346 obp / .419 slg   (172 AB)

2011 after being hit in the face
.255 avg / .311 obp / .380 slg (274 AB)

I understand the drop off, he had to come to the plate with a cumbersome face shield, that could not have been easy to get used to or hit with.  But everything dropped, he was no longer taking pitches, no longer working counts, just swinging.  We are seeing evidence of that again this year, very rarely is Byrd in a deep count.  Byrd needs to get back to the basics of an at bat, the quicker he does the more successful he will be, if he doesn’t he will be playing baseball elsewhere or on the bench, regardless of how he looks.

Here’s to a two hit game for Byrd today!

Thanks for reading,
– George Cotugno  

 

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