Sure, go ahead and make fun of Ruben Amaro Jr.'s signing of Marlon Byrd in the offseason. But do so at your peril, as Byrd laid waste to major league pitching in 2013 with career-highs in HRs, OPS, and SLG in his age 35 season. Could the Phillies have a FHOFMB on their hands? Consult the video evidence, assembled below, and draw your own conclusions in the comments.
1. April 13 v MIN LHP Scott Diamond. Diamond was fairly emblematic of a poor Minnesota pitching staff, and wound up giving up 1.4 HR/9 IP by the end of the season. So both men had to start somewhere.
2. May 3 v ATL LHP Eric O'Flaherty. A game-tyer off another lefty in the 8th inning. Well, I'll admit the Phillies could use precisely this kind of deep ball threat against late-inning LOOGYs.
4. May 20 v CIN RHP Johnny Cueto. What? A righthander? Cueto? Well, not much more than a month later the Reds shut down Cueto until September. Perhaps a Byrd HR is like the injury canary in the coal mine for really good pitchers.
5. May 29 v NYY RHP Adam Warren. A wall-scraper, Yankee Stadium-aided.
6. May 30 v NYY LHP Vidal Nuno. This one sort of evened out the one from the day before, and won the game, though you might rightly wonder who the hell Vidal Nuno is (He's not that bad really, just a 25-year-old called up a little prematurely. This is from one of the 20 innings he pitched at the big league level in 2013. HRs against him are a bit of a rarity.). I love the commentary: "You can't go slow through the strike zone against Marlon Byrd."
7 and 8. June 5 v WAS RHP Dan Haren. Byrd owns Dan Haren, and coincidentally, so did I in this year's CBS Fantasy League. My team came in dead last. Commentary also key: "Haren at this stage of his career does not pitch in, which is how you get Marlon Byrd out."
9. June 12 v STL LHP Seth Maness. Interestingly, Maness tried him inside with a pitch that kind of didn't sink. Oops.
10. June 13 v STL RHP Edward Mujica. Ten home runs in, and what's interesting to note is that Byrd tends to either get you a wall scraper or an absolute rainmaker. Also, he's pouncing on what looks like mistakes, in the sense that they are just off where they probably should have been. Only one looks like it's right down the pipe, though.
11. June 16 v CHC RHP Carlos Marmol. You had to figure that if there are any Marmol blown saves in any season, Marlon Byrd is stepping up to that smorgasbord with an empty plate. Marmol had a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth, then this:
That one looked a lot like the Maness pitch, as it was up and in. So while you might want to pitch Byrd inside, keep the ball down and in and fast.
12. June 27 v COL RHP Matt Belisle. Down and in and fast, I said. No cheapie here, even in the thin air of Coors Field.
13. July 6 v MIL RHP Francisco Rodriguez. This one a little unusual, as it looks like he slugged a low and away 90mph fastball from F-Rod over the right field fence. Oddly, no discreet highlight was posted on the MLB game highlights, but it appears at the 1:40 mark here on the video recap.
14. July 9 v SFG RHP Jake Dunning. This was Byrd's seventh career grand slam. His last one was in 2009 as a Ranger. The pitch appears to be a 78 mph curveball that really is a cripple. Dunning, much like Vidal Nuno (victim no. 6), was brought up in mid-June to fill in the Giants bullpen. Think Stutes, in his first year, but with a bit more talent and less fingerable curls. The first pitch in a lousy situation. The kid learned the hard way here.
15. July 10 v SFG RHP Mike Kickham. Gotta admit, when I looked at the game logs and saw Byrd hit HRs in back to back games in San Francisco, I thought surely one of them must have been against a good pitcher. Nope. The Mets jumped on Matt Cain in the first inning for three runs, Zach Wheeler was dealing, and in the fifth he did this to Kickham, the Giants' 25-year-old long man that day, who was not to be seen again with the Giants until late August (profiles a bit like Aumont). Like the F-Rod pitch, it's on the outside half, maybe a little higher, but again, not a cheapie in that park, even if it is the daytime. Anyway, all of a sudden it's July 10 and Marlon Byrd has 15 homers. What?
16. July 19 v PHI ... ok stop. Look at the profile of the pitchers Byrd had victimized so far. Think about the Phillies pitchers. I'll give you a hint and write that this majestic 3-run wallop occurred in the fourth inning of a game that was pretty much the Phillies' high-water mark of 2013, a game that at that point the Phillies were winning 11-0. Now: Guess who?
17. July 21 v the other guy you probably thought about with the previous HR. With the Phillies facing Matt Harvey, this first-inning shot was a game-winner. The oddity about this HR is that it's against a lefty (hint).
18. Aug 14 v LAD RHP Chris Capuano. Byrd really had a prolonged drought here, which I thought might explain the 3-0 green light, but what's impressive about Byrd's 2013 is that despite this 3-week homer hiatus, Byrd's OPS and SLG held steady thanks to a steady diet of doubles and triples. So party time, everyone! Behold Marlon's 100th career home run.
19. Aug 16 v SDP RHP Ian Kennedy. These little 78mph barely breaking curves over the outside corner of the plate aren't effective against Byrd.
20. Aug 19 v MIN RHP Jared Burton. I guess when any player's hot, league average guys don't stand a chance when doing mop-up duty in the 9th inning of a 5-1 game.
21. Aug 20 v ATL RHP Brandon Beachy. A career high for Byrd. Byrd's mid-August streak just before getting dealt to Pittsburgh was truly impressive. Fred Wilpon must have wanted to lick him all over. You can almost hear Sandy Alderson thinking, "Marlon Byrd has an .850 OPS in late August. Iron doesn't get any hotter. Who's desperate to get into the playoffs?"
22. Aug 28 v MIL RHP Burke Badenhop. Why, the Pirates, of course! Byrd's debut was so impressive that there is a piece of PNC Park supposedly forevermore named after him. I kid you not:
23. Sep 14 v CHC LHP James Russell. Here is video of Marlon Byrd winning at being in Pittsburgh. Just when you thought he would never hit a homer against a lefty again, he does it. And even better, because he's on a winner, home runs are worth the "embed link" feature.
24. Somewhere in this montage of a final-day, home-game clinching beatdown of the Reds and Bronson Arroyo is Byrd's 24th HR.
25. Oct 1 v CIN RHP Johnny Cueto. You may remember Johnny Cueto from such home runs as May 20. Alongside Cliff Lee, Cueto stands out as the most talented pitcher on this list that Byrd homered against.
As for the rest of the playoffs, while there are no other homers to show, keep in mind Byrd's 6 for 18 performance v. St. Louis pushed the eventual N.L. pennant winners to a game 5. It wasn't his fault.