I really don’t know if Eric Byrnes is the type to set numerical goals for himself. Some guys do, and make it public, some guys don’t, and others probably do but keep it to themselves. While I really don’t care if Byrnes does or doesn’t—he’s just always looking to get better and that’s good enough for me—baseball is the most statistical of sports.
So I am going to put up a few benchmarks that I think would be great for Byrnes to meet or exceed. If he does, that will certainly help his team win, and help his chances of getting a good contract next year. Byrnes is only signed for one year and I would like to see him get a multi-year contract next time. Stability is a good thing for a ball player. I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that pitcher Bruce Chen had his best year, 13 wins, last year. He was with the Baltimore Orioles all last season; 2005 was the first year since his rookie year that Chen was with one team throughout an entire season. Of course, pitcher Bronson Arroyo might have a different opinion on the alleged stability of a multi-year contract. But I would love to see Byrnesie get a three-year, maybe even a four-year, deal next time. Hitting some numerical targets would help that cause.
Games: 143. This is how many he appeared in 2004. Of course, Byrnes would play all 162 if someone would let him. But so far, no one has let him and we can’t expect that Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin will be the first. It appears that the decision already has been made to have the fourth outfielder, Jeff DaVanon, who can play all three outfield positions, get most of his playing time at center field. But Byrnesie needs to be out there a lot to play well, and he did sign on to be the Diamondbacks’ every day CF, so I am hoping to see something quite near the 2004 games numbers this year.
Batting Average: .303. Byrnes hit .263 in 2003, the first year he made the Opening Day roster. He hit .283 in 2004. Another 20-point leap would be .303. I think he’s capable of .323, and if he gets that this year, terrific! But I’m willing to wait another season for that one, given that Byrnesie is changing leagues.
HR: 25. This is 5 better than his career high of 20 in 2004. I think he’s capable of 30+, He’s strong; he’ll get his share of jacks. However, I think he needs to focus on a higher batting average than on more homers this year and that will mean more contact and situational hitting rather than trying to get it over the fence. If he can just show more patience at the plate: a willingness to work deeper into the count and a willingness to walk more, pitchers are not going to be able to throw him as much low and away junk as they did during abysmal, aberrant 2005. And when pitchers make mistakes to Byrnes, they often need a replacement baseball. The 30+ will show up this year if those pitchers end up making more mistakes.
RBIs: 90. I want to say 100, but the combination of the times when Byrnes will bat leadoff and the times he won’t play at all might prevent this. Still, 100 is the gold standard of RBI production and is possible. Byrnes drove in 73 runs in ’04.
Doubles: 45. This is a bit better than the 39 Byrnes hit in 2004. A higher BA means more hits over all and that means more 2Bs over all because Eric is fast and strong and a high percentage of his hits are for extra bases. Forty-five doubles would put him up among the league leaders, which is where he should be in this category.
K/BB ratio: 1:1 Eric needs to show more willingness to walk. It helps the OBP. You can’t steal second until you get on first. And speaking of stolen bases…
SB: 30. If the D’Backs are more willing to take the extra base than Byrnes’ first organization, the A’s, were, we should see Byrnesie swiping a lot of bags. He’s got the speed and aggressiveness to be a good base stealer; he needs a team that values that talent. Is it the D’Backs?
Other Notes: With the D’Backs on the tube today, I saw Eric lay down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move Chris Snyder, who had walked, to second base in the third inning. Of course, I’m wondering why the manager would want to take the bat out of the hands of his leadoff hitter. But as long as sacrifice bunts are asked for, it’s good to know Byrnesie can execute them. The runner did not score.
In the fifth inning, Snyder singled, and Byrnesie doubled him to third. Then Conor Jackson drove them both in with a single. That’s better.
MLB.com reporter Jim Street wrote an article called "Wild, wild NL West should be improved: Offseason enhancements improved division from top to bottom". In listing "New Faces" for the the teams in that division, he listed Johnny Estrada, and "El Duque" Hernandez for the D’Backs, but he missed Gold Glove 2B Orlando Hudson AND Eric Byrnes, while mentioning some NL West mainstays like Brett Tomko (from Giants to Dogders) and Steve Finley (Dodgers, Padres, D’Backs and now Giants). OK, media, forget Byrnesie, underestimate the D’Backs. I’ll be happy to pay attention for you.
From the "I know it’s just spring training, but still…" Department: Today’s game was just background for the White Sox broadcasters, Hawk Harrelson and Darren Jackson, who were yakking about their own former careers. I don’t mind a little of that, but it went on for innings. Frazier batted for Byrnes to lead off the seventh and they never mentioned his name. It’s a good thing D’Backs players have their names on the backs of their jerseys. Here’s another reason to be happy the regular season will soon be upon us: Once the games count, there will be no more having regulars like Byrnes pinch-hit for by minor leaguers like Frazier.
Eric Byrnes went 1-2 with a double, a run scored and a sac bunt as the D’Backs beat the White Sox 3-1. And we’re one day closer to Opening Day!
P.S. More wind and rain yesterday and today in Oakland. BRRR! and GRRR! Would anyone out there like to send me some water wings?