Although the results weren’t there last year, Orioles RHP Jordan Lyles has underlying skills that could prove critical in a potential breakout season
Shortly before Major League Baseball’s lockout took effect last week, the Baltimore Orioles agreed to a one-year deal with right-handed pitcher Jordan Lyles. The contract is worth seven million dollars, the most money O’s GM Mike Elias has guaranteed to a free agent since taking the job in 2018. The bode of confidence from the organization in their new pitcher is encouraging as the 31-year-old Lyles hopes to wipe away the woes of last season and make his mark in Baltimore.
Taken in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros, Lyles has been somewhat of a journeyman throughout his career, logging innings for six different teams since his Major League debut in 2011. In 1147.1 career innings, Lyles has posted a 5.21 ERA with a 1.435 WHIP, both of which leave a lot to be desired. His most recent stint was a two-year bid with the Texas Rangers in which he appeared in 42 games, 39 times as a starter.
Combined across the last two seasons, Lyles allowed the most runs of any pitcher in Major League Baseball. The reason for this comes from a combination of factors. For one, Lyles has surrendered more hard-hit balls than any other pitcher since the start of the 2020 season. Along with this, Lyles’ pitches induce flyballs and line drives on 59.5% of balls in play, creating a recipe for disaster for any pitcher hoping to keep the ball from finding the outfield seats. Opposing offenses took advantage of this in 2021, hitting more home runs off Lyles than any other arm in the majors.
Despite the results, there is still plenty to like about Lyles’ pitch arsenal. According to Baseball Savant, the spin rate on Lyles’ curveball ranks just outside of the top 100 across all of baseball. The pitch has above-average vertical movement, tying the curveballs of Tyler Glasnow, Ross Stripling, and Logan Gilbert with 57.3 inches of downward action. In his big league career, hitters have a .237 batting average against Lyles’ curveball, the lowest of any pitch in his arsenal.
By using Baseball Savant’s Affinity tool, an interesting layer to this signing can be uncovered. In 2021, two of the five most similar allowed hitting profiles to Jordan Lyles belonged to Keegan Akin and Bruce Zimmermann, pitchers the Orioles are already familiar with. If Pitching Coach Chris Holt can make a breakthrough with Lyles, it would almost certainly be something that could positively impact Akin and Zimmermann.
Orioles fans will look to see their new veteran starter get back on track with a change of scenery in 2022.