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Remembering Paul Byrd

In honor of Paul Byrd's shutout performance against the Twins last night, RR presents a post from October of 2005...

Last season, as the Red Sox completed a comeback that launched a thousand books, Johnny Damon almost single-handedly won Game 7 of the ALCS himself. Damon's 2nd inning grand slam made the game 6-0, and his two-run shot in the 4th pushed it to 8-1. It was, perhaps the best moment by a former-Royal of the twenty-first century. Of course, at the very same time, Carlos Beltran - a much fresher ex-Royal - was on his way to a .435/.562/1.022 post-season line, topped off with 4 HRs and 4 stolen bases.

Tonight, former Royal Paul Byrd had a real chance to step up into post-season history, given a 5-0 lead against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Instead, Byrd didn't make it out of the 4th inning, despite getting Gary Sheffield with two men on to end the 3rd. Seemingly throwing slower with each passing moment and allowing single after single. Opportunity lost. Nevertheless, without much of a contribution from Byrd, the Angels found a way to prevail, 11-7. I blame Arod, he only went 2-4 with a walk. His unclutchness continues to shame this noble country.

Last season, making $7 million to pitch for the Braves (there was a reason why he's a former-Royal you remember) Byrd appeared in two games in the NLDS against the Astros, posting a 6.35 ERA in 5.7 IP. Byrd's had a typically Byrd, typically Angel season in '05: boringly effective.

Thinking of Byrd, from a Royal perspective, its really all about the halcyon days of 2002. You remember 2002, the final days of the Muser Era. The Royals lost 100 games for the first time, finishing with a clean 62-100 record. What a lineup that team had: Brent Mayne, Carlos Febles, Neifi Perez, Chuck Knoblauch, Mike Tucker... Kit Pellow, Donnie Sadler, the worthies on one team. Despite all that, Byrd went 17-11 in 33 starts on the strength of a 3.90 ERA. All this was during the early-00's period when the K was playing as the best hitter's park in the American League.

Byrd found his way to KC after being a curious All-Star selection (aren't so many pitchers years later?) in 1999 with the Phillies. Yet it was only in 2002 that Byrd vaguely jumped onto the national radar on the "good pitcher on a horrible team angle". Byrd finished first in the American League in Complete Games with 7, 2nd in shutouts with 2, and 5th in strikeout to walk ration (3.39). A competent version of what Zack Greinke might become, Byrd gave up a ton of homers that season (36), but walked no one and kept the hits allowed to a minimum by... by... well, by doing something good. As in tonight's ALDS game, its hard to distinguish successful Byrd from bad Byrd, since he allows so many balls in play. With a few innings breaking a different way, Byrd could have had a much higher ERA in 2002 with all those homers, since he's had much worse campaigns while allowing many fewer taters.

Byrd's 2002 gave him the 16th most single-season wins in franchise history, a WhiP of 1.147 (13th best) and the 4th best Royal walk-rate of all-time, at 1.50 p/9. When you factor in the 2002 run environment however, those numbers look even better. Thus, although Byrd's 2002 doesn't even crack the top 50 single-season ERAs of all-time, his league/park-adjusted ERA+ of 132 (32% better than league average) is the 23rd best Royal season of all-time. Of course, D.A.R.Y.L. May somehow managed a 135 ERA+ in 2003, so maybe we shouldn't consider that stat too much.

Still, 2002. Fun times.

I am a former Royal, although when this picture was taken I was just a Royal plain.


Update [2007-8-7 14:5:54 by royalsreview]:

Since 2005, Byrd has spent the last two seasons in Cleveland, generally continuing to be all things Paul Byrd. With ERA+'s right around league average the last two seasons (96, 106, so he's basically +/- 6% of a generic pitcher) Byrd's been a dedicated inning eater for the Tribe, but not much more. As of August 7, 2007, Byrd owns a career record of 92-77, with a 4.30 ERA in over 1400 career innings. And yes, he still looks like a recovering alcoholic on the mound.