Keep the ball on the ground and let that sick defense make plays.
Even with some bumps in the road in the bullpen and some dings to the starting rotation, there are substantive reasons for hope for the Rockies. Chief among them is the idea that Lyles could actually keep this up and join Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin, and possibly Brett Anderson (eventually) as efficient ground ball pitchers who take advantage of one of the best defensive infields in baseball.
Lyles, age 24, understands what his formula for success has been thus far. As he told the Denver Post:
They can’t get it over the fence if they hit over top of the ball. That’s fine with me. I’ll let those guys (in the field) pick it.”
As Zach Marburger broke down over at Mile High Sports this week, the key to Lyles’s success, at least in part, has been his commitment to his two-seam fastball. That is also what manager Walt Weiss points to:
The biggest factor is the two-seamer. You can see those guys beating it into the ground.”
Acquiring Lyles was not a popular move this off-season, especially because his career struggles so far combined with the lack of buzz for Brandon Barnes made it seem like the team got very little value in return for Dexter Fowler. What might have been overlooked in the assessment of Lyles was his age.
What were you like at 23 years old? Whatever your aspirations or profession, did you feel that you had already reached the stage where everything was decided, where you were exactly who you were and nothing would change? I dare say not, and you were probably still hoping to improve and willing to make changes to get better. Those are generalizations, of course, but you see the point: at such a young age, it probably was not fair to him to assume that his lack of success in Houston meant that we already knew he would be a bust.
Such a young pitcher still has plenty of time to make changes and make adjustments, and so far in 2014 Lyles has done just that. If those adjustments stick, he will become a valuable pitcher in the Rockies rotation. On Friday night he faces a nice test as he takes the mound against the Los Angeles Dodgers.