Regression Report: Marlon Byrd's Streak of Fortune
Regression, defined as a return to a former or less developed state, is a word thrown around a lot in baseball. When a season is so long – when there are thousands and thousands of data points to collect – there’s no reason for fans and analysts of the game to jump to early-season conclusions about a batter or pitcher, only to see those same players regress to their mean.
Sometimes though, things change. Sometimes a return to former play doesn’t occur because a player developed, hitting the ball well or throwing it with more velocity. Good numbers from a surprising source doesn’t always mean regression is about to occur. Perhaps that player is in store for a good season.
Each week, the plan with this article is to look at a handful of guys who seem to be outdoing themselves. While these players are sure to regress, some are bound to do so more than others. And that’s what I’m looking to figure out.
Seth Smith, San Diego Padres
Padres' outfielder Seth Smith is batting to a pretty impressive .330/.419/.575 slash this year in 125 plate appearances. Over the last week, his slash looks like something out of a video game: .500/.576/1.000 Smith's now riding a hit streak that started on May 3rd, which includes 17 hits on 32 at-bats and six multi-hit contests. Wowza.
Not surprisingly, he can credit that to the highest BABIP in baseball since last Monday, sporting a ridiculous .619 average on balls in play. His batted ball profile, while strong, doesn't really suggest that he should be doing what he's doing right now either. Over the last seven days, Smith has a line-drive rate of 27.30%, and flyball and groundball rates of 36.40%. So he's league average-ish when it comes to flyballs, and converting some groundballs into line-drives. Nothing hugely special there.
Expect the luck to run out and Smith to regress to his norm, especially considering his home is in a pitcher-friendly park.
Marlon Byrd, Philadelphia Phillies
Aside from Smith, when you look at some of the best hitters over the last couple of weeks, you see studs like Troy Tulowitzki, Buster Posey and Andrew McCutchen. And then you see Marlon Byrd's name and think to yourself, "Alright, what's going on here?"
Well, what's happening is that, like Smith, Byrd has a high BABIP (.519) and a pretty average batted ball profile. Though he's batting .390 since around the beginning of May, Byrd's line-drive rate is only a little above 24%, while his groundball and flyball percentages are fairly average. He does have a couple of dingers over the last two weeks, but his strikeout rate is still high, sitting around his season average of 28.4%. Essentially, this is again a classic case of good fortune, and to expect Marlon Byrd to continue hitting like this wouldn't be a smart thing to assume.
Erik Bedard, Tampa Bay Rays
This isn't a joke: Erik Bedard has just one earned run over his last two starts, including two straight quality starts. And in the game prior to that, he went five innings and allowed just one run. That's a 1.06 ERA for the Rays' lefty over his last three starts, which is quite far from his typical 4.00ish earned run average.
Unfortunately, his performances have been a little flukey. While Bedard's ERA over the last two weeks is better than all but four starting pitchers in the bigs - better than freaking Max Scherzer - his LOB% sits at a high 88.9%, and his BABIP is a super low .220. When you adjust for factors such as this, his xFIP tells us the real story: Bedard's ERA should be closer to 5.00 than 1.00. Don't get excited the next time you see his name as a probable starter.