Here at Rox Pile, we are starting a player review for each and every player that suited up in a Colorado Rockies uniform this season. This series will be going all the way up until Dec. 15 with player profiles posted every day.
Today, we are featuring Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles.
Two years, two season ending injuries for Jordan Lyles. Last year it was a broken foot; this year it was a busted toe. You’d eventually hope that the highly touted righty would put together a full season in a Rockies uniform, but he just can’t escape the injury bug. Lyles was a supplemental 1st Round pick in 2008 with the Astros out of high school and debuted in 2010 as a 20-year-old. It’s safe to say that Lyles didn’t live up to his prospect hype while in an Astros uniform; he never posted an ERA below 5.00, a FIP below 4.5, or ERA+ of 80.
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When he’s been healthy, he’s been pretty good for the Rockies. In a Colorado uniform, he’s gone 9-9 (remember, pitcher records aren’t always indicative of performance) in 32 starts with a 4.10 FIP, 6.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and a WAR of 1.3. Slightly above replacement level for a starting pitcher in the Rockies organization is great.
I bring up the last two years because his 2015 season was limited to 10 starts. It’s pretty hard to evaluate a starter on just a few starts, but Lyles was up and down throughout his shortened season. His first four games were stellar; he was 2-1 with a 2.92 ERA, 14 strikeouts, 11 walks (bad), and zero home runs allowed (good). From there it wasn’t pretty. He left two starts early, allowed four or more runs in the other four starts, and made it into the 6th inning only twice. Either way, 10 games isn’t enough for a full evaluation, so let’s look at his time in Colorado.
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There’s two scary trends for Lyles; an increasing walk rate and decreasing strikeout rate. Over Lyles’ career, his walk rate has increased every year; not something you want to see out of a young pitcher. Alternatively, his strikeout rate is shrinking as well. Not only is Lyles missing the strike zone more and more, he’s getting less swings and misses. His BB/9 and K/9 were 3.5 and 5.5, respectively, in 2015; both career lows.
The weird thing is that his performance rating numbers have increased. His FIP and ERA+ numbers are better as a Rockie than as an Astro, as you can see above. He posted positive WAR years in a Rockies uniform and all negative in an Astros uniform. The best statistical trend for Lyles is his home run rate has decreased every year he’s been in the majors. Essentially, he’s been wildly effective; he’s thrown less strikes and that’s made it harder to square him up. It’s an interesting – and unsustainable – strategy. Let’s look for improvement in his control in Spring Training to see if he’s made any progress after his injury.
Overall Grade: B-