Tyler Lyons Is Not An Answer For The Pittsburgh Pirates


Despite adding a veteran left-handed reliever on Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates should continue to pursue bullpen help

Exiting the Winter Meetings the Pittsburgh Pirates still had three needs. The team was still in need of a shortstop, a fifth starting pitcher, and another left-handed reliever. On Monday, the Pirates made a move that, on paper at least, may have appeared to address one of these needs.

The Pirates and veteran lefty reliever Tyler Lyons agreed to a minor league deal on Monday. However, despite this signing, the Pirates should not stop pursuing bullpen help. Because the team still needs left-handed bullpen help.

In the past, Lyons has worked as a starting pitcher, a long reliever, and in one inning outings. He could also be used to get left-handed hitters out in vital situations during the flow of a baseball game.

Due to injuries, Lyons pitched just 16 2/3 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2018. In these 16 2/3 innings pitched Lyons got hammered to the tune of 24 hits, three home runs, a 9.6% walk rate, 8.64 ERA, and a FIP of 5.02. This was the worst season of Lyons’ six-year MLB career.

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Prior to injuries, Lyons had a strong 2017 owning a 2.83 ERA, 2.86 FIP, a 30.9% strikeout rate, and a 9.1% walk rate. 2017, however, is more of an outlier than the norm.

In 108 innings pitched between 2015 and 2016, Lyons posted a 4.54 FIP. This included him owning a 24.0% strikeout rate and a 6.6% walk rate. He also allowed an alarming 1.75 HR/9.

Furthermore, his 2016 season was ended earlier due to injury. So, in recent seasons, injuries have started to become an issue for Lyons. This is never good for any player, but it is especially true for pitchers.

Looking ahead to 2019, the STEAMER projections are not kind for Lyons. He is predicted to pitch to a 4.17 ERA and a 4.25 FIP. This includes a 23.3% strikeout rate and a 8.3% walk rate.

For comparisons sake, Steven Brault is projected to own a 3.98 ERA, 4.10 FIP, a 22.5% strikeout rate, and a 10.5% walk rate in 2019 by STEAMERS. So, while Brault is projected to walk more batters than Lyons, he is still projected to be a better pitcher in 2019.

Injuries have also caused Lyons’ fastball velocity to drop each of the past three seasons. After averaging 90.6 miles per hour on his fastball in 2016, it dropped to 90.0 MPH in 2017 and then 89.2 MPH in 2018. Again using Brault, since he is an in-house options to do what Lyons does, as a comparison, his fastball averaged 91.0 MPH in 2016, 91.9 MPH in 2017, and 92.5 MPH in 2018. So, Brault’s fastball velocity is doing the complete opposite of Lyons.

Additionally, Lyons is already 30-years-old while Brault is only 26. It is not unreasonable to believe Brault could improve as a pitcher while Lyons, partially due to age and partially due to injury, has hit his peak.

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Due to ineffectiveness and injuries, Tyler Lyons should not be an answer for the Pirates. At this point in their careers Lyons is essentially the same pitcher Steven Brault is. The Pirates need, and easily can, do better than that when it comes to left-handed relievers.