The Baltimore Orioles took a flier on starting pitcher Jordan Lyles, signing him to a 1yr/$7MM deal with a club option for 2023 last offseason.
Lyles has been around the league. This was the 7th stop on the veteran’s 12-year journey, and he came off some rough years in Texas that set the expectations pretty low entering the year.
Lyles had a pretty interesting season, leading the team in starts and innings pitched. How did Lyles really perform this season? Did he meet expectations, or did the Orioles make the right move in declining his club option?
Baltimore Orioles: Jordan Lyles Receives His 2022 Report Card
In case you’ve missed previous installments, our grading system looks like your standard high school report card – plus/minus letter grades with a final numbered GPA. Lyles will be evaluated based on his results, batted ball quality, and a miscellaneous category specific to him.
Overall Results: C+
Jordan Lyles performed about how the Baltimore Orioles expected, but it was one of the best seasons of his career. His 4.42 ERA produced a 91 ERA+, a little below league average. Hidden in that ERA is a tale of two Lyles – the home version, who posted a 3.47 ERA in 14 starts, and the away version, who posted a 5.25 ERA in 18 starts. A big contributing factor is the hitting environment in Camden Yards, which limited hitters to just 6 home runs off of Lyles, compared to 20 homers on the road.
One commendation for Lyles is that he limits walks well. Allowing 2.6 BB/9 was his lowest mark since 2011, and his 6.7 BB% put him in the 65th percentile of qualified pitchers.
Lyles had a pretty strong finish to the season, pitching to a 3.80 ERA from July 28th onward. He showed glimpses of being a solid #5 starter, but he was pretty underwhelming for most of the year. The Orioles didn’t sign him to be the ace, so it’s hard to be upset with the results – in fact, I’ll explain later why this deal actually worked out for the Orioles.
So, was Lyles a C+ pitcher compared to the rest of the league? No. By ERA+, he was 91% as good as the average pitcher (or, a 91 ERA+, where 100 is league average). But for the twelve-year veteran, it was one of the best seasons of his career, and it came after leading the league in earned runs in back-to-back seasons and leading the league in home runs in 2021. Lyles exceeded expectations in 2022, and for that, you have to give him credit.
Batted Ball Quality: D+
It’s a lot of blue circles on Baseball Savant for this category. Home runs were a bit of an issue for Lyles, allowing 1.3 HR/9. His batted ball data shows why this was an issue, as he was 11th percentile in Hard Hit%, 10th in xSLG, and 7th in Barrel%.
When your fastball produces a .395 wOBA, .409 xwOBA, and 50.0 Hard Hit%, results won’t go your way. Lyles saw better results with his slider; he threw it 23.9% of the time and produced a .293 wOBA, .299 xwOBA, and a 26.4 Hard Hit%. The pitch breaks better than most sliders in the league, averaging 44% more inches than the average slider. By batted ball data, his slider was his most effective pitch.
Another interesting pitch in his arsenal was his curveball. He actually lowered the usage from 18.3% in 2021 to 13.4% in 2022, but it came with improved results. The pitch produced a .244 wOBA, but an elevated .288 xwOBA because of a 46.8 Hard Hit%.
Usage of his curveball peaked in September as he threw the pitch 18.7% of the time. The pitch was working for him, as it produced a .253 xwOBA and a season high 33.3 Swing-and-Miss% that month. Results were inconsistent throughout the year, so it’s hard to say that he should throw it more often. To put it simply, use the pitch when the pitch is working for you.
Eating Innings: A
This is what the Orioles brought Jordan Lyles in for. In 32 starts, Lyles tossed 179.0 innings. The next highest in IP was Dean Kremer at 125.1. Simply eating innings is not always valuable. A team like the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t looking for inning eaters, they’re looking for deep starting pitching depth. A team like the San Diego Padres seek talent throughout the rotation and had two starters pitch more innings than Lyles.
Both Jordan Lyles and the Baltimore Orioles defied expectations in 2022.
But the Baltimore Orioles were never supposed to be in contention this year. The roster saw a lot of turnover as prospects came up, perceived ace John Means required Tommy John surgery, and top prospect Grayson Rodriguez was forced to miss his debut due to injuries. When you’re a rebuilding team looking to pull together five starters to make up a rotation, having a guy you can count on to make every start and pitch deep into games is vital. It’s vital to preserving your bullpen, and if Lyles missed a start due to injuries, it’s another guy the Orioles need to rush to the majors. Lyles prevented that.
An innings eater like Lyles is valuable to a rebuilding team, and after the Orioles declined to pick up his $10MM club option for 2023, Lyles might find himself in a similar role on another rebuilding team.
Final GPA: 2.55
Look, results aren’t everything – besides, “C’s get degrees.” If you’re looking for Lyles’ value to the Baltimore Orioles this year, you’re not going to find it on Baseball Savant, and you’re not going to find it in his rate stats. But in a year where the Orioles threw a lot at the wall to find what stuck, Jordan Lyles remained a consistent factor in the rotation. As the Orioles move into their window of contention, with a commitment to spending money this offseason, Lyles simply didn’t fit into their future plans. Still, I don’t regret a single dollar spent on Lyles.