The Knuckleball: Byrd Is The Word

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The Knuckleball: Byrd Is The Word
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While teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were signing big name stars to their roster to compete this year, the Chicago Cubs’ big offseason acquisition was none other than the mighty Marlon Byrd .

Byrd has been around in the MLB for a while. He has always been a quality player, but he has platooned in various outfields throughout his career so his overall counting stats have lacked. He fills all five categories, he hits lefties and righties both pretty well, and he has a good glove. The thing about Byrd is that he just finally topped 500 at-bats in his career just last season with the Texas Rangers. He did not disappoint, slugging 20 HR and hitting for a .283 average.

Now, you will notice that he hit a considerable amount of his homers at home last year (14 at home as opposed to six on the road). This is concerning at first, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see him hit 20-plus home runs again with the Cubs now that he is starting every day. On top of that, we know how there are times during the year where the Cubs have trouble scoring runs. These are the times where you are going to see Marlon Byrd flash his speed to manufacture runs. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends the season with 12-15 stolen bases.

I think the biggest thing to like about Marlon Byrd is that he’s hitting in the heart of the Cubs lineup, behind the likes of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez . I don’t need to tell you that those two know how to get on base.

It’s safe to expect a line along the likes of .285/20/85/80/12 from Byrd this year. If he gets going and stays hot, he could even reach 100 RBI.

As a fantasy columnist, it would practically be career suicide to be suggesting that you pick up Marlon Byrd for more than a No. 5 OF in deep leagues. He has virtually no upside past the numbers that I formerly mentioned, but you could say his “floor” is higher than a lot of OF. He is the type of guy that won’t carry you to a championship single-handedly, but he complements your team’s “carries” like Hanley Ramirez and Prince Fielder . You can plug him into your lineup and forget about him. Consistency like that is valuable in itself.

So what kind of stuff happened on Thursday? There are a lot of pitchers to talk about…

  • You might not have thought it at first look, but Thursday’s matchup between the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals was a pitcher’s duel. Flame-tosser Brad Penny threw seven solid innings of one-run ball but his team lost after Jason Motte blew the game in the ninth inning. Bronson Arroyo had a tasty fantasy line: 8 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 6K. Arroyo is no doubt a solid pitcher, but I can’t own him on my teams for fear that he will completely blow up in my face . Brad Penny is definitely worth a long-term pick up in all leagues. We all know how Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan can completely revive a career, and my money is banking on Brad Penny rebounding for that reason alone.
  • The only guy hitting the ball harder than Garrett Jones right now is Vernon Wells . I am completely flabbergasted that this guy has four homers already. Wells has started this season at a torrid pace, but there is no way he keeps this pace up. I don’t see him breaking 25 HR this year. In fact, I’d go as far to say that young pitching surprise Randy Wells is going to have a relatively better season than Vernon. Randy Wells keeps surprising people with his ace-like stuff. Today he was lights out against the streaking Atlanta Braves. If you looked at how hard Randy throws, you might not really see why he is talented. His talent lies in his ability to throw the ball exactly where he wants it as well as keep the ball in the park. He only walked 46 guys last season and he only gave up 14 HR. He’s worth owning in all 10-plus team mixed leagues.
  • Frank Francisco blew a save today, and he blew it in fashion. He allowed a cycle to be hit in one inning alone. Francisco is a tough pitcher, but he has to be a little hurt or something. He had a miserable spring and his velocity on his fastball is about three mph slower than it usually is. Sometimes players get hurt and don’t tell anyone, especially if they might lose their job because of the injury. Neftali Feliz is a must own in all leagues that care about saves. He will be closing for the Texas Rangers soon. This is not a guess, it is a guarantee.
  • Is it too early to talk about Garrett Atkins ? He used to be a great producer for the Colorado Rockies, but last year he had an awful year and ended up leaving the team. The Baltimore Orioles signed him hoping he could return to form. After mulling over his stats in 2006-2008, I saw that he actually hit more home runs away from Coors Field. His average did suffer though on the road, being about 40 points lower. A lot of hitters suffer from that problem though, and it can be managed. I’m not saying that you need to go pick up Garrett Atkins right now, but keep a stern eye on him. He could surprise you.
  • UGH! Dontrelle Willis had a good game tonight against the Kansas City Royals. Before you freak out, let me remind you that it’s Dontrelle Willis and that it’s the Royals. He could have just gotten lucky. I also want to mention that his cutter has the life that it used to have back in the days of his dominance. In the past three years, he practically abandoned his cutter. Now that he has that pitch back in his arsenal, he could cause trouble for opposing pitchers. Just…watch him a little more before you go and let him destroy your ERA. He could be back to his dominating form but it’s not worth it to risk it until we see more from him.

Here is a wonderful piece of music for all you romantics out there to listen to while you mull over your fantasy team. This is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which is one of my personal favorites by Beethoven. I could go on and on for another ten articles about how great Beethoven is, but I’ll just let you listen to how great he is instead:

That’s it for tonight! Post some more observations you had on Thursday’s games in the comments below!

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