Just before the lockout deadline hit, an announcement was made that the Orioles had signed pitcher Jordan Lyles to a one-year deal where he is guaranteed $7 million. The deal has an option year for $11 million as well. We do have to wait until the physical is done to make sure this is 100% done but for now, let’s just assume all goes well on that front. We also have to acknowledge that the team has to overpay to get pitchers here, especially on one-year deals. It’s just the reality of pitching in the best division in baseball and in one of the toughest pitcher’s parks in baseball.
To get this out of the way now: Lyles isn’t good. His K rate is well below average, he gives up a ton of homers, he doesn’t miss bats and his FIP and xFIP numbers are as bad as his actual ERA is. The one thing he does reasonably well (better in 2021 than most years) is that he throws strikes at a league or slightly above average rate and he doesn’t walk a lot of guys. This was a big overpay to get a mediocre, at best, starter on the team. Mike Elias should be striving to get better players, even within the confines of the ownership issues. It has to make you start to worry, at least a little bit, on the thought process of Elias and how he is making these moves (see the Odor move as well) and how he plans to build the team long term. After all, Elias has proven nothing at the Major League level as of yet, and the Orioles are still +7500 to win the American League on Betway.
That all being said, Lyles does represent something the O’s don’t have. He has 58 starts in the last two full MLB seasons and he threw 180 innings in 2021. The O’s do not have anyone who currently has shown they can take the ball that many times and throw that amount of innings. On a team that is desperately seeking innings from their starters, this acquisition does have some value.
The big question is, can Lyles give the O’s 170+ innings of 5-ish ERA baseball? He certainly did it last year. However, there are a few things worth pointing out.
First of all, it is far easier to pitch in the AL West compared to the AL East. The East teams scored about 300 more runs than the West teams did. You also have the issue of coming to OPACY. yles gave up 38 homers last year. Projected out with the way he pitched, he would have given up 45 at Camden Yards. Park effects had OPACY as the second best hitters park and they had the new Rangers stadium graded out as a pitchers park. The AL West, in general, is full of pitchers parks as well. On top of all of that, the Rangers had a very good defensive team in 2021 and the Orioles did not.
So, it is quite possible, coming to the harder park, tougher division and worse defense that Lyles is no better than what Matt Harvey was in 2021 and they will be paying him $7 million dollars to be that. Harvey actually had a much better FIP than Lyles. The big difference between the two are those IP.
In 2021, Lyles went six or more innings (out of 30 starts plus two long relief appearances) 18 times. That is 56% of his starts. Harvey accomplished that just five times, or 18% of his 28 starts. Lyles allowed four or fewer runs in 75% of his starts and Harvey did it in 71% of his but, of course, Lyles did it in more than 50 additional innings.
Can Lyles duplicate that or come close? If he can, he is worth it relative to the team’s direction about not caring to win and not wanting to spend real money to bring in a real starter or trade assets to get better pitching.
Still, the money is minimal in the grand scheme of things and if he is able to be close to what he was last year, the value will be there for a team that needs to give their bullpen as much of a rest as possible. They won’t be quality innings overall but at least they can be innings.
The sad part to all of this is that this signing is a direct result of the young pitchers all falling on their collective faces in 2021. No team should ever be spending this amount of money for this level of production. The unfortunate reality is, I think you have to feel more confident in Lyles throwing even 150+ innings of 5-ish ERA baseball than any of the young starters. They will get their chances but until they show some level of consistency, the O’s will be bringing this type of mediocre pitching into the organization.
Elias and pitching coach/coordinator Chris Holt must figure out a way to get more from the group of Bruce Zimmermann, Keegan Akin, Zac Lowther, Dean Kremer, et al if they don’t want to keep overpaying for guys like Lyles.
You won’t return this team to the top bringing in guys like this.