Former Blue Jays’ first baseman Lyle Overbay turns 46 today.
Lyle came up to the majors with the Diamondbacks. He played a handful of games in 2001 and 2002 before making the Diamondbacks out of spring training in 2003 after being listed as Baseball America’s 65th-best prospect. He didn’t do great and returned to the minors after playing 86 games. In December 2003, they sent him to the Brewers as part of a ten-player trade. The big name going to the Diamondbacks was slugger Richie Sexson. Sexson only played 21 games for the Diamondbacks in an injury-filled 2004.
Overbay played two seasons for the Brewers before being traded to the Jays with Ty Taubenheim for Dave Bush, Gabe Gross and Zach Jackson. Bush won 46 games (while losing 53) over five seasons, Gross played a bit, hitting .251/.357/.440 in parts of 3 seasons, and Jackson pitched 42 innings for the Brewers. So let’s count that as a win for J.P. Ricciardi. Considering Eric Hinske played first for us in 2005, Lyle was a step up.
The trade was the subject of the second post ever on Bluebird Banter. Marc Normandin liked the trade:
He’s a great defensive first baseman, one of the best in the league. He hits well for a first baseman, although he lacks home run power. Though he makes up for it with doubles, his plate patience is good. Acquiring Overbay most likely means that Shea Hillenbrand or Eric Hinske is on their way out of Toronto. The good news? The Jays may actually get a useful part in exchange for one of them, which would be a plus.
Lyle had a good first season for us; he hit .312/.372/.508 with 22 home runs and 92 RBI in 157 games in 2006. He set his career-high for home runs, RBI and batting average, and finishing 4th in the AL in doubles with 46.
After the season, JP signed Lyle to a 4-year, $24 million contract. Unfortunately, the contract didn’t help make him a favourite with Jays fans. mark w wasn’t sure about the signing at the time. In his BBB post about it:
My views are on this signing are rather mixed. At first glance, it appears to be a thrifty signing, as the Blue Jays lock up a somewhat gifted hitter at a relatively low price. On the other hand, however, couldn’t the Blue Jays have waited another season, thus hedging their bets? I can’t imagine that Overbay’s value will skyrocket at this point in his career, especially considering he’s a likely candidate to “age quickly” — at least based on the career trends of statistically similar players from the past. In the end, I don’t think this contract will come back to bite them, if only because of its low cost to the organization. And Overbay appears to be a safe bet for at least the next 2-3 years.
Well, it did come back to bite them.
2007 could have been a better year for Lyle. He missed more than a month with a broken hand after being hit by a John Danks pitch on June 3. He was hitting .256/.332/.464 when he was hit but finished the season .240/.315/.391 with 10 home runs and 44 RBI. It’s hard to hit the ball when your hand is hurting. He did manage 30 doubles. Lyle had a big reverse split having a .794 OPS vs. LHP but just .676 against RHP.
Lyle bounced back some in 2008, hitting .270/.358/.419 with 15 homers, 32 doubles and 69 RBI in 158 games. He set a team record for getting on base 12 straight times at the end of May. But, unfortunately, he couldn’t hit lefties at all, batting just .215/.285/.255 against them. It was the start of an alarming trend. Before 2008, he hit lefties not too badly. After, he couldn’t.
Overbay had a pretty good 2009, hitting .265/.372/.466 with 16 home runs (including his first walk-off homer against the A’s in April), 35 doubles and 64 RBI in 132 games. FanGraphs credited him with a 2.4 WAR, the best in his time with the Jays. In addition, they liked his fielding much better than back in 2006. He hit just .190/.256/.278 against left-handers (his platoon partner was Kevin Millar, who didn’t hit lefties all that much better that year).
2010 was Lyle’s last year with the Jays, and it wasn’t terrific. He hit .243/.329/.433, with 20 home runs (his second-highest total in his career), 37 doubles (his 7th consecutive season with 30 doubles) and 67 RBI. He played in 154 games. Cito wouldn’t platoon him as he was a free agent after the season (Cito had some strange ideas, as often he was more interested in ‘doing right by his veteran players’ than doing what was needed to win games). Lyle led AL first basemen on defence in double plays (150) and assists (101). He had the 1000th hit of his career at the end of June.
After leaving the Jays, Lyle bounced around, playing for the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Braves, Yankees, and Brewers. He retired after the 2014 season, finishing with a .266/.347/.429 line, 151 home runs and 675 RBI in 14 seasons. 83 home runs and 336 RBI were as a Blue Jays.
Happy Birthday, Lyle. Even though your time with the Jays wasn’t a huge success, you were still a favourite of mine. However, I wonder how much better his offensive numbers would have been without the broken hand.
It is also Bob File’s birthday. He’s also 46. Bob came up as a reliever with the Jays and had a very good rookie season in 2001, putting up a 3.27 ERA in 60 relief appearances, 74.1 innings, but some luck was involved. He only struck out 38 and walked 29. The .233 BABIP wasn’t repeatable. Over the next two seasons, he pitched 37 innings with a 6.08 ERA, which was the end of his major league career.
Happy birthday, Bob. I hope it is a good one.