Eric Byrnes to Seattle

According to the Mariner blog site, USS Mariner, the Ms have acquired Eric Byrnes from the Diamondbacks. It seems like a pretty low-risk move, as the Mariners will be paying him relatively nothing. In fact, “the Mariners have no obligation to keep Byrnes if he’s not healthy in spring training, or he looks old, or whatever” stated Dave Cameron of USSM, so this sounds like a sweet deal for the Ms where they could possibly get another platoon option in left field who won’t suck down the team offense.

Byrnes had two productive seasons with Arizona in 2006 and 2007, recording a 0.805 OPS and swiping 75 bases with an 88% success rate. However, his last two seasons can only be described as a catastrophe. Only appearing in 136 games in 2008 and 2009 combined, Byrnes post a sub-.300 OBP and a meager 0.653 OPS.

Besides injury, one possible explanation of his poor performance might be bad luck. Though Dave Cameron cautions against being too optimistic about Byrnes’ BABIP approaching anything near 0.300, a league-average rate, I see no reason that it won’t regress toward his career average of 0.280. BABIP–the percentage of balls hit into play that actually become hits–is largely influenced by luck and randomness, though there are some things hitters can control, such as infield popups (sure outs), infield hits (speed indicator), and line drive percentage (often turn into hits). Byrnes actually popped up slightly less often and beat out infield base hits slightly more often during his recent down years than he did during his peak years (2006-07).

Multiple regression analysis suggests that his recent BABIP in the .220’s is on the very low end of a 95% confidence interval for his true BABIP, and that a more realistic number for a healthy Eric Byrnes would be 0.289. This surge in BABIP would likely lift his OPS into the .760 range, a figure just above the league average. Despite injuries, Byrnes showed few signs of slowing down over the past two seasons. While he attempted to steal a little less often, his infield hit percentage actually increased, suggesting that he still has the speed to beat out ground balls.

Luckily, the Mariners will get a chance to look Byrnes over in spring training before making any decisions. If he looks healthy, I believe he can still produce offensively for Seattle.

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