Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley has enjoyed a resurgence this season, leading the team in hits, on-base percentage and batting average. He has returned to form, looking like the all-star he was when the Phillies were winning the division. However, he has not been the Phillies’ best player this season. That title would go to Marlon Byrd. When the Phillies signed Byrd there were plenty of questions of whether or not it was the right move to make. There were plenty of questions about whether Byrd could duplicate the career year he had in 2013, as well as why the Phillies would sign another aging player. However, Byrd has silenced the critics so far, as he leads the team in RBIs.
Byrd has been a staple of middle of the lineup this season, sometimes even taking over in the cleanup spot for first baseman Ryan Howard. Besides leading the team in RBIs, he is also tied for second on the team in home runs, one behind Ryan Howard. He also trails only Utley in slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage. Despite being behind Utley in most categories, Byrd brings great value for his position. The Phillies pay Byrd only $8 million a year, and out of the starting position players, Byrd is only paid more than Domonic Brown and Ben Revere, who are still on their rookie contracts.
Offense is not all that Byrd brings to the Phillies, as his defensive play has been much better than expected when he signed with the team. When the team signed Byrd during the offseason, it was expected that the Phillies would be getting an average defender, but Byrd has easily exceeded expectations. From making diving saves, or throwing a runner out, Byrd has shown that he is more than just an average defender. The best way to look at Byrd’s defense in right field, is that he is miles ahead of Delmon Young last year. Then again, anyone reading this is probably better than Delmon Young in the outfield.
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In the end, when judging who is the best player on any given team, it is important to look at more than just statistics. Yes, Utley could statistically be considered the best player on the Phillies this season. However, with his track record as well as his contract, his performance is simply the second baseman meeting expectations despite being slowed by injuries the last few years. Meanwhile, Byrd has exceeded the simple expectations that were set for him when he returned to Philadelphia.
Another way that Byrd has helped the team is to show the front office the type of moves that they should make in the offseason. Byrd was not a flashy or big name signing for the team, but he is easily the best signing that the Phillies made before the season. General manager Ruben Amaro only tended to make obvious moves for big name players, and not the more subtle moves that pay off in the long run. If Amaro keeps his job after this season, then Byrd is a great example of the type of moves he should make in the future.
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