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How Much Will the Pittsburgh Pirates Tinker with Jordan Lyles?

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MLB: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The signing of RHP Jordan Lyles by the Pittsburgh Pirates is intriguing, for a variety of reasons.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Jordan Lyles during the Winter Meetings, more than a few eyebrows were raised. The club had just traded Ivan Nova away, so the questions ran rampant. Were the Pirates going to go after another starter? Was Lyles a bullpen signing? What would happen to Nick Kingham or Steven Brault after Lyles’ arrival to an already-crowded 40-man?

I would hope that Jeff Sullivan’s take on the signing would lower those brows just a bit. In case you missed it, here’s the money shot:

Last year, Lyles started to abandon his two-seam fastball, favoring the four-seam variety. As it happens, it’s the four-seam fastball that tends to pair better with a curveball, and Lyles went to his curve more than ever, abandoning half of his sliders. Lyles’ curve gets into the mid-80s, which makes it a weapon, and between 2017 and 2018, that curveball added three inches of extra depth.

Well, color me intrigued. Is the Lyles signing yet another nail in the coffin of the Pirates’ tired reliance on sinkers?

Maybe. But also maybe not. The club felt it necessary to bring back Chris Archer’s sinker to go along with his four-seam and slider. Will they feel the need to do the same with Lyles?

The answer is: probably. But one would think that Lyles’ slider might be the candidate to return to give him another offering. Though the pitch has had its trials and tribulations as Sullivan outlines, having two capable breaking balls (assuming the Pirates can “fix” the pitch) along with a four-seamer could be a nice mix.

Of course, all of the above is predicated on the Pittsburgh Pirates using Lyles as a starter, which Neal Huntington has clearly indicated to be his preference. Should he remain a reliever, the impetus to tinker with his pitch selection would be lessened.

Suddenly, the Pirates have intrigue around the fifth-starter slot, where there was an utter feeling of “meh” previously.