While the Cliff Lee situation plods along toward a resolution, I figured it was worth a look, prompted by the idea of Mike Salk, to compare Eric Byrnes, our likely 3.5th outfielder, to Ryan Langerhans, the man most likely to lose his job in the wake of a 12-man pitching staff. What follows are some general thoughts about the two.
Eric Byrnes offers a very different hitting profile than that of Ryan Langerhans. For instance, he bats right-handed. But the differences do not end there! Byrnes is a contact hitter. He swings at about half the pitches he sees and makes contact about 85% of the time. As a result about 75% of his plate appearances end with Byrnes making contact.
Ryan Langerhans tends to swing at pitches in the low 40% range. It's not a huge difference from Byrnes, but Langerhans is much less adept at hitting the ball when he swings, doing so only about 70% of the time. While Byrnes is expected to run about a 6% walk rate and 16% strikeout rate, Langerhans is at about 12% walk and 30% strikeout leading to about 55% of his plate appearances ending with contact made.
Once contact is made, more of Langerhans' batted balls are on the ground or line drives than Byrnes, who is more prone to fly balls. Langerhans probably has slightly better power than Byrnes, but he gives it fewer opportunities by dint of hitting fewer balls in the air. One plus to that however is that Langerhans avoids Byrnes' penchant for the pop up, something we're all too familiar with after our battling middle infield duo from the past few seasons.
Byrnes does offer a significant speed advantage to Langerhans and though he hasn't been an asset with steals the last two seasons, he has battled some injuries during that span. In the five seasons from 2003-7, Byrnes stole 109 bases and was caught just 15 times. If his legs are healthy this season, that could be a potentially significant asset.
Defensively, the two are about even. Byrnes has more of a sample size in left field which speaks to him being about +5-10 over a full season in left field while Langerhans has the slightly better numbers with fewer innings logged. I would call it a wash.
Typing Byrnes' name irritates me to no end. The 'y' instead of 'u' I could get over, but to do that I have to think 'Burns' so that my muscle memory doesn't try to type the 'r' first ('ry' being more frequent than 'yr') but then I get tripped up by the added 'e'. It's as if Byrnes was born into being a nuisance. Ryan Langerhans flies through this test though a nice short nickname would help.
Byrnes also brings an entertainment factor with him as his goofiness and general love of diving will make him a lightning rod for comments. Langerhans counters by being unremarkable personality-wise and hitting game-winning walk-off home runs. I'll call that a push.
In a neutral environment and given that neither are full time starters, I would expect Langerhans and Byrnes to offer ultimately similar production with the bat and glove. For Seattle however, I prefer Langerhans due to the left-handed bat and the four years of youth and generally better physical condition that he has on Byrnes. Even with that, I wouldn't expect much in the way of difference.
I really liked the idea of having both on the team in a sort of three-way time share of left field with Milton Bradley, but if the team's idea is to have Milton playing the field most of the time so as to give Ken Griffey Jr. and (I guess) Mike Sweeney playing time at DH, then having both is a luxury.
I'd rather the team lose Byrnes than Langerhans, but since Langerhans has made it through the system once already and is a lesser "name", I can see how the Mariners might expect him to be the less likely of the two to be claimed. Ultimately, I hope the team gets back to an 11-man staff and we can have both players, but for now it appears that Langerhans is going to be the odd man out, and while sad, I'm okay with that.