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Soft Toss

The Sox just traded for Paul Byrd from the Indians. The soft-tossing veteran righty never walks anyone, is only slightly less hitable them me, and does a stricking tribute to the likes of Grover Cleveland Alexander every time he winds up. Byrd might very well be the non-knuckleballer with the slowest fastball in the game today. But he's effective and I like this trade.

Byrd hardly walks anyone (only 24 so far this year) but does get hit hard, at .282 this year, with a .466 slugging and OBP of .316. That results in a respectable but not great 1.30 WHIP, about the same as Jon Lester's. Byrd will be a welcome edition to the back-end of the rotation. With Wake's health in question and Buchholz royally struggling, we need another arm who can give us a shot to win most games he starts. Byrd will do that.

As an aside, I get a kick out of how much different Byrd is than our beloved Dice-K. Byrd averages about 82 pitches in 6 innings every time he starts. Dice-K throws 99 pitches in just under 6 innings per start. The difference really matters when they're pitching well: Byrd can generally keep pitching as long as he's getting outs, while Matsuzaka often gets pulled after the 5th or 6th inning when he's throwing well because he's around the century mark in pitches. By my calculations, the Dice Man has been pulled out of one quarter of his 20 starts before or during the 6th inning when he was pitching well (by my judgment) simply because he'd thrown 96 pitches in 5 innings, 117 in 5, 101 in 5.1, 109 in 5, and 118 in 5.2 (log here). Meanwhile, Byrd has surpassed 100 pitches only once this year (going 7.2 innings), and threw only 94 pitches in his complete game last time out. Both players are making around $8 million this year. That said , I would take Dice-K over Byrd anytime, but it's worth thinking about. Maybe Byrd can teach Dice-K something about efficiency (this makes me wonder if Blowhard Schilling might actually be missed this year as an efficiency-in-pitching tutor, hmm).

Now, what's it going to be like watching Wake and Byrd (and maybe Zink) in the rotation together? Maybe 'Tek and Cash could use mittens to catch Byrd, mostly because that would be hysterical.


Smitch said…
I like the Byrd trade, too -- it's an extra decent starter to make up for the loss of Wake and the awfulness of Clay. In addition to Beckett, Dice-K, and Lester, that gives us four solid-to-great starters that we can rely on for quality starts for the stretch run. Byrd isn't awesome -- he's a little bit better than average, can pitch deep into games, and doesn't walk anybody. I'd point out that a .282 BAA isn't so bad when you're not walking people, and that a .316 OBP is still better than league avg (~.330).

As far as the Byrd/Dice-K comparison, I would assert that they're just fundamentally different pitchers. Dice-K is much more of a strikeout pitcher, which means he's gonna throw more pitches per at bat and walk more guys (as a result of nibbling). Last year, Dice-K had 201 Ks to Byrd's 88 in comparable innings. Byrd pitches to contact much more, which means fewer BBs, fewer pitchers per at-bat and per inning, and higher BAA.

While this probably comes as no surprise to you, I guess what I'm saying is that, while it's frustrating that Dice-K's not pitching deeper into games, his being effective depends on throwing more pitches.

What's really interesting is that Dice-K's BAA is 75 points lower than Byrd's, but his OBP against is higher... That's a shit ton of walks. But what the hell, here's to hoping he keeps pitching out of jams.

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