Tim Byrdak turned 37 on Halloween. He’s short (5’11”) and doesn’t throw hard (career average: 89.7 MPH) while depending on his slider and changeup to do most of the work for him.
A fifth round pick by the Royals out of Rice University in 1994, Byrdak made his big league debut in 1999. He’d appear in parts of two other seasons for the Royals before becoming a free agent and signing with Cleveland. From there he went to San Diego as a free agent before being traded to Baltimore (and later re-signing there after once again reaching free agency). In November 2006, he signed with the Tigers, and after being released by Detroit in late March of 2008, Byrdak signed with the Astros, where he’s spent the past three seasons.
His numbers with Houston range from mediocre to unremarkable and read as such: a 3.53 ERA, a 1.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a propensity to give up home runs (1.4 per nine) in nearly 200 (199 actually) appearances. With shoddy peripherals like that, it’s no wonder Byrdak’s FIP have finished above five in two of the past three years, with his 2010 FIP ending at 4.48. There is actually some value to be had here, though, and it shines through in Byrdak’s platoon splits.
Over the last three seasons, Byrdak has faced 668 batters. About 54% (or 359) have been right-handed. That’s a problem because Byrdak pitches poorly against righties. In fact, righties tallied something like a .360 on-base percentage against Byrdak since 2008. His strikeout-to-walk ratio against them was a poor 1.04 (52 walks; 54 strikeouts) and he allowed 14 home runs; or about one every 26 plate appearances. Against lefties, Byrdak allowed an on-base percentage nearly .100 points lower (around .259), posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.42, and gave up a bomb every 31 plate appearances.
All of his is relevant because Houston chose to release him yesterday. He was entering his fourth (and final) season of arbitration eligibility, and now he’s without a job at an advanced stage of his career. He’s not a long-term option – heck, he might not be a viable short-term option if the uptick in flyballs remains true – but he’d likely come cheap. Whether the Rays decide to use a roster spot on a situational lefty if J.P. Howell and Jake McGee break camp in the pen is anyone’s guess; but with Byrdak he might just take a minor league deal.