The Improvement of Jordan Lyles


It’s very rare for you to see a 22 year old pitcher entering his third season of Major League Baseball. Many people have written off Jordan Lyles as a back-of-the-rotation guy for a very bad team, but I don’t believe that is the case at all. Jordan is expected to be the number three starter for the Astros in 2013, and I think he will open some eyes while doing it. We saw improvement in most phases of Lyles’ game last season, and 2013 should be the season that we start to see the pitcher that Lyles can be.

Jordan Lyles had many positives in 2012. He saw his ground ball percentage rise from 40.8% in 2011 to 53.9% last season. He was also able to increase the average velocity on his fastball two full miles per hour (from 89.8 to 91.8). With Lyles being as young as he is, it wouldn’t surprise me to see that rise yet another tick or two in 2013. The improvement in velocity also brought an improvement in his curveball and cutter. According to Jordan’s SIERA (Skill Independent ERA), he was the fifth most unlucky pitcher in all of baseball last season. He had a 1.33 difference in his ERA and his SIERA, which was a result of his defense allowing 31.3 runs ABOVE average in their zones for 2012.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

While Jordan did improve in many facets of his game, there is still much room for improvement. Lyles must show more mental toughness than he has thus far in his Major League career, especially while pitching for a weak defensive team. So many times last season, his defense would fail him and he would allow that to snowball on him and his opponents would have a huge inning. Jordan was only able to strand 61.2% of his runners on base last year. For a team that allows so many undeserving base runners, that will not cut it.

Lyles isn’t missing many bats either. Batters only missed 6.9% of his pitches that they swung at last season, and he struck out only 6.30 hitters per nine innings. Remember that Jordan Lyles just learned his knuckle curve from Wandy Rodriguez during last season’s Spring Training, and at times it looked downright nasty. Strikeouts are a great way to get out of a jam, and I believe that if Jordan can throw his curve with more consistency, it could be a great out-pitch for him.

Jordan Lyles has a ways to go before we can call him a good Major League pitcher, but he is also far too young to write off as a bust. This season will help to tell the story of what the Astros have in Lyles, and I think that he will end up being an asset to the team for years to come. Jordan was rushed through the system in 2011 in hopes that then General Manager, now novelist, Ed Wade could save his job. That could account for his lack of success to this point, as well as his lack of confidence. 2013 is the time that we should see Jordan Lyles improve and pitch to his full potential.