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Bucco Breakfast: Pirates Bring In Ex-Cardinal Reliever

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MLB: Game One-St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Kevin Siegrist 2: Electric Boogaloo

Last offseason, the Pirates signed a once reliable ex-Cardinal lefty reliever coming off a bad year to a minor league contract. It didn’t work out, and Siegrist never pitched for the Pirates. Tuesday night, Huntington called his mulligan and gave that strategy another shot, signing 30 year old Tyler Lyons to a minor league deal. John Dreker of Pirates Prospects broke the news.

Lyons was a reliable arm from 2015-2017, posting a 3.33 ERA and 2.33 WPA over 162 innings pitched for St. Louis. 2017 was his best year in the majors, fanning 30.9% of his batters faced and finishing with a 2.83 ERA and 2.86 FIP over 54 innings.

But there’s a reason why Lyons had to settle for a minor league contract. He struggled in 2018, allowing 16 earned runs in 16.2 innings before being DFA’d and outrighted off the roster in July. Lyons hit the DL twice last season with a back and elbow injury, which may have been the root cause for the drop in productivity. He also may have been dealt more than his fair share of bad luck, finishing with a .412 BABIP clip and a 60.4% strand rate.

While he had always been hard against lefty batters, southpaws feasted on him in 2018 to the tune of a .905 OPS. A big reason why is he hung more pitches over the center of the plate. Those mistake pitches were also hit much harder than they were in 2017.

Lyons Middle Of The Plate Pitches Against Lefties

Year % of pitches wOBA xWOBA
Year % of pitches wOBA xWOBA
2017 11.5 0.541 0.581
2018 13.9 0.23 0.176

Not all of the peripherals were ugly, though. Lyons finished with a 22.9% strikeout rate, and the batted balls he allowed had an average exit velocity of 87.6 MPH. While that’s a significant drop from 2017 (30.9%, 85.8 MPH), it’s right in line with the league average last season (22.3%, 87.7 MPH).

There’s no downside to bringing a guy in on a minor league deal, especially when there are a couple bullpen jobs up for grabs this spring. If he really was injured last year and not as bad as his ERA indicated, then he might have a shot of making the team.

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