This is the second part of a long article, segmented for online reading convenience, on Eric Byrnes’ batting difficulties, and the mental aspect of solving these problems. WARNING: If you don’t like Eric Byrnes, now is definitely the time to leave. In fact, if you don’t like Eric Byrnes, you’ve wandered into the wrong blog.
Here are some stats with which to lay the foundation for my theses. They will be especially helpful to you Eric Byrnes novices:
Eric Byrnes made his major league debut on August 22, 2000, with the Oakland A’s. He made the A’s Opening Day roster in 2003. Here are some stats for 2003-2005 from ESPN.com:
G AB Avg HR RBI H R
2003 121 414 .263 12 51 109 64
2004 143 569 .283 20 73 161 91
2005 126 412 .226 10 40 93 49
In 2005, Byrnes played 59 games with Oakland, 15 with Colorado and 52 with Baltimore. (He actually batted in only 47 of the 52 Orioles games).
As I have said repeatedly in other posts, 2005 was Byrnes’ "abysmal, aberrant year." It is not unusual for professional athletes to have a season that they would love to just excise from the record books. Typically, it’s the dreaded "sophomore jinx" or it’s a year near the end of the career that signals a diminution of skills brought on by the cumulative effects of age and injuries sustained over the course of the career. Sometimes, it’s a year ruined by a major injury requiring significant DL time and possibnly surgery. Byrnes’ second year was the best of the three full seasons he’s had in the majors so far. He doesn’t turn 30 until February 16, 2006. One look at him will tell you that he is in great shape.
In fact, here’s the photo of him, taken by Daryl of Daryl’s Place, that I keep as wallpaper on my home computer.
Fortunately, Byrnes has not ended up on the DL from all the banging into walls and diving on the ground he’s done to make all the spectacular catches he’s made to rob opponents of extra-base hits.
(Holy ankle-sprains, Batman!)
Here’s the big problem: Eric Byrnes is a model of inconsistency.
All batters have hot spells and slumps, but Byrnesie, as we call him in the S.F. Bay Area, has always been notoriously streaky. Here are some descriptions from his official MLB web page for 2003:
…replaced [Jermaine] Dye in the fifth inning on April 24 against Detroit after [Dye] tore cartilage in his right knee fielding a Dean Palmer double…had his first multiple hit game of the season that day and moved into the starting line-up on April 25…had seven consecutive games with an extra base hit from May 8 to 15 (four doubles, three triples, one homer)…that began a career-high 22 game hitting streak from May 8 to June 1, during which he hit .376 (32 for 85) with 10 doubles, three triples, four home runs and 20 RBI… went 0 for 9 in his next two games before putting together a 10-game hitting streak from June 5 to 15 (15 for 40, .375)…had the hitting streak snapped on June 17 and then put together a 13-game hitting streak from June 18 to 30 (21 for 59, .356)…had a career high four RBI on May 15 at Detroit…homered in all three games of the Montreal series, June 13-15, the first time he had homered in three straight games in his career…tied an Oakland record with a career high five hits on June 29 at San Francisco when he hit for the cycle… at the end of June, he had hit safely in 23 of his last 24 games and 45 of his last 48 and was batting .335 overall…that was the fifth best average in the A.L., his highest ranking of the season…then hit .095 (7 for 74) in 20 games in July…snapped a career long 0 for 17 slump on July 20…appeared in just 12 of the A’s 28 game from July 22 to August 20 before ending his 9 for 95 slump with a two-hit game at Boston on August 21…the slump had dropped his average 66 points to .270 but he went 7 for 17 (.412) over a nine-game stretch from August 21 to September 8…replaced the injured Chris Singleton in center field on September 9 and started 16 of the A’s final 18 games (8 for 49, .163)…snapped a 39-game, 121-at bat homerless streak on September 11 against Anaheim.
Of course, pitchers have a say in these matters. Have a series against a team with a stellar pitching staff and you can be 0-17 in a hurry. But 2005 included longer dry spells, such as a very depressing 0-37 streak broken by a double off Boomer Wells in the last week of the season. After hitting safely in his first 11 games as an Oriole, Byrnes struggled at the plate for the rest of the season at an unprecedented level, even given his characteristic streakiness. The Orioles announcers were hoping Byrnes could get a broken bat single to get him started. But his broken bat contacts ended up being outs, like this one Daryl got the last Sunday the A’s played in Baltimore:
Broken bat AND treacherous ankle positions! <shudder> Sometimes, if you don’t have bad luck, you wouldn’t have any luck at all.