In 2010 Marlon Byrd had more plate appearances (630) than any other year in his career. He rewarded the Cubs with a .343 wOBA (107 wRC+), nearly 10 runs worth of UZR and was slightly better than average on the bases. His first season with the Cubs was a very good one. He was worth 4.4 fWAR, which was 1.2 more than the second best season in his career. At $4.5 million per win in 2010, Byrd provided the Cubs with $20.2 million in value. He was worth $5 million more than his overall contract in just the first year of the deal.
Byrd’s 2011 season didn’t start out so great. At the end of April he was hitting just .287/.306/.361. Prior to getting hit in the face by a baseball on May 21st, Byrd had over a .900 OPS in May. A lot of people would hesitate to get in the box again. Many would struggle. Some careers have ended after taking hits like Byrd did, but in his first month back Byrd hit .323/.370/.495.
When Byrd was hit by that pitch it was an ugly scene. You’re immediately just hoping he’s OK and then you’re thinking how he may never play baseball again. It was awesome to see Byrd come back with no fear whatsoever and have the month he had in July.
It was all downhill after that though. In his final 50 games Byrd hit .221/.281/.320. Overall, he posted a .315 wOBA (97 wRC+), had a UZR of 2.2, a UBR of 1.7 and his WAR was 2.0 in 150 fewer plate appearances than he had in 2010. 2 WAR is average so despite missing more than a month and the terrible struggles down the stretch, Byrd was still a league average ballplayer.
Byrd has been worth a little more than $30 million and paid less than $10 million. He’ll earn $6.5 million next year and will almost certainly be worth it. Byrd got picked on a lot this season, which was interesting because he was a fan favorite a year ago. Byrd is what he is. He’s not going to take that many walks. We know that. But he will get hit by a lot of pitches. Hopefully no more in the face. He plays solid to above average defense in CF. He makes little money compared to the value he’s provided. He is everything that fans say they want and then of course don’t when they get it.
On July 24th, Byrd celebrated his 1000th career game by having his best game of the season. His WPA was .473.