The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed free agent Lyle Overbay to a one year $5 million contract. According to GM Neal Huntington, Overbay will be the team’s everyday first baseman in 2011.
If Lyle Overbay were to have an exit interview prior to his departure from the Toronto Blue Jays, he’d be far too classy to say what was actually on his mind: “Well, you won’t have Lyle Overbay to kick around anymore, Toronto.”
Of course, that’s assuming that Overbay’s internal monologues take place in the third person, and that Overbay was aware of his status as the scourge of the sports radio phone-in types in this city.
Let’s get this one thing straight: Lyle Overbay can be a valuable member of a baseball team if he’s used correctly. And by used correctly I absolutely, positively mean he should be platooned and used as a defensive replacement whenever possible.
Over the course of his career, Overbay has a staggering OPS difference of .130 when he bats against right handed (.838) vs. left handed pitching (.708). In fact, if you tally up the totals of the last three seasons, no other first baseman in all of baseball, not Albert Pujols, not Miguel Cabrera, and certainly not Ryan Howard, has hit more doubles against right handed pitching than Lyle Overbay.
Alternatively, over those same three years, no first baseman has collected a worse OBP, SLG, and obviously OPS, against left handed pitching.
The only redeeming factor that Overbay brings to playing everyday is his defense. He consistently ranks among the best defensive first basemen in the league, and having the privilege of watching him play in Toronto, I can tell you that his rankings are not one of those statistical hiccups that gives a bad to the eye defender an inflated ranking.
However, the fact remains that for as long as he remains allowed to hit against left handed pitching Lyle Overbay will be a frustrating player to have on your favourite baseball team. Perhaps adding to the frustration is that Overbay is a really good guy.
I got to speak with Overbay during one of my nervous and awkward interviews with Blue Jays players a couple years ago. Trying to get interviews is a bit of a free for all during the pregame warmups and I understand that while it would be fun for me to film my segment, it’s actually other guys’ livelihoods.
Nonetheless, a particular Napoleonic Sportsnet reporter attempted to intercept the Jays first baseman right after learning that we had set something up with him. To his credit, Overbay ignored Le Petite Douche, came over to where we had set up, and actually made a joke or two at the slimy reporter’s expense before playing along with our goofy interview and being a great sport.
If the Blue Jays move forward with their proposed plan to play Adam Lind at first base this coming season, I have no doubt in my mind’s soul that the same sports radio phone-in types who criticized Overbay during his tenure at first base here in Toronto will be the first to wish his steady fielding was guarding the line on the right side and picking balls out of the dirt on errant infield throws.
Unfortunately, Overbay’s departure also means that the Lyle Overbay impersonator is no longer in business in the Toronto area.