So Far in 2010, Marlon Byrd Is the Word for the Chicago Cubs
When your top offseason acquisition is a hitting coach, you know it was a quiet winter.
But Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd is doing his best to get people talking about him—rather than hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
Byrd was overlooked when he was brought into the fold on the last day of 2009. The impending New Year (and an episode of Jersey Shore, as I recall) was on more minds than Marlon was.
Byrd had a very quiet 20-home run, 89-RBI season a year ago, and it was easy to dismiss his signing as "just another guy."
People pointed out that Rangers Ballpark was a hitter's park, and he was hidden—and not taken seriously—in a deep Texas lineup.
He had never previously hit more than 10 home runs in any single year, so it was just another one-year wonder.
But if the month of April is any indication, the Cubs may have found a hidden gem in Marlon Byrd.
Okay, so 32-year-old journeyman outfielders don't find the fountain of youth, and Byrd certainly won't continue hitting 60 points higher than his career batting average (his BAbip of .369 suggests a return to the norm is coming), but Byrd has been one of the unsung heroes of the Cubs in 2010.
Derrek Lee (.203 batting average) and Aramis Ramirez (.150 batting average), the would-be leaders of this Cubs offense, have started the year cold, and Big Byrd (cue the Sesame Street music) has come to the rescue thus far.
Take out his bat, and you're looking at a much different lineup.
The Cubs are currently in the top half (No. 6) of the National League in team batting with a .267 batting average. Byrd's .338 average no doubt is helping to keep that afloat.
Byrd has already batted in five different spots of manager Lou Piniella's ever-changing lineup, yet he hasn't lost his hot bat and continues to get on base (.357 OBP) wherever he is hitting.
His defense and mobility on the basepaths should warrant more at-bats, but the suddenly crowded Cubs outfield is making Lou Piniella think too much—not a good thing.
Alfonso Soriano has rebounded from a slow start, and Kosuke Fukudome is up to his usual April tricks, slugging .574, second highest on the team.
The man that leads the Cubs in slugging percentage is one of the reasons Byrd might find at-bats hard to come by.
Tyler Colvin has picked up where he left off from spring training, slugging a ludicrous .703—not bad for a 24-year-old.
With four quality outfielders, Marlon Byrd might have to go into somewhat of a platoon for the time being.
It's hard to keep Soriano on the bench (not because of his performance on the field, mind you, but rather his $19 million salary), and Fukudome and Colvin provide much-needed left-handed bats in an otherwise right-hand-dominant lineup.
You would like to see more than two walks by Byrd, but you can't argue with any of the other numbers he's put up.
The hope now is that all four outfielders continue to produce, but Byrd is the best option out of all of them to handle center field, and there's no reason to keep him on the bench.
He has already scored nearly one-fourth of his runs total from last season, so something is working when Byrd is in the lineup.
The Cubs will frustrate all season—just look at their recent series against the Washington Nationals for evidence of that—but Byrd has done his part to overturn the Cubs' hitting woes from last season.
It's a long season for Byrd and the Cubs, but so far, so good for the Cubs' newest outfielder.
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