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Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Byrdman of Angels Stadium

There is a reason they call Tommy John surgery "the pitcher's best friend": not only does it extend careers, it frequently improves velocity for players after they've had the operation done. Paul Byrd is one of them:
Byrd was never blessed with great velocity, and when he had elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2003, it could have been a death knell to his career. But it has been a boon.

Byrd, whose fastball usually tops out around 86 mph, has picked up more velocity since the surgery and has been able to throw a sinker, which his elbow couldn't handle before. Given that Byrd won 17 games with Kansas City in 2002, the Angels are hopeful his innings-eating ability, paired with what should be a prolific offense, produces wins by the bushel.

Last year, when I wrote my review of the NL contenders' pitching rotations, I noted that Byrd's K/BB -- essentially, measured control -- had more than doubled over his 2002 season, while his K/9 jumped almost two whole points. Those are very, very impressive stats; two years out from a Tommy John surgery, this could be a huge signing for the Angels. In my first, off-the-cuff and, yes, even facile analysis of the situation, I didn't view Byrd as anything better than a fifth starter, another Aaron Sele to be tossed around in the rotation. This was largely based on the PECOTA-projected 17.7 VORP he was expected to have this year, but PECOTA is notoriously weak when it comes to estimating the value of players recovering from injuries. Indeed, given the 90% recovery rate recently cited by Will Carroll (see his comments under Ryan Dempster), it's beginning to look more and more as though this ought to be considered as a basis for making projections, as most pitchers who went down injured historically got worse, not better; the Tommy John era, after all, only covers about thirty years.

Given Byrd's recent improvements, it's fair to suggest he may end up being the Angels' number two this season.

More stuff later on. For now, the dogs are demanding a walk, and who am I to say no on a beautiful, sunny morning?


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