It’s not the splash fans wanted, but the Milwaukee Brewers traded for a starting pitcher Monday. The Brewers sent RHP Cody Ponce to the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Jordan Lyles.
Lyles, as some of you may recall, spent time with the Brewers in 2018 after being picked up off waivers from the San Diego Padres. He was deployed exclusively as a reliever for Milwaukee, pitching 16.1 innings and posting a 3.31 ERA and 2.49 FIP. The 28-year-old hurler ultimately elected free agency after the season and signed a one-year, $2.05 million contract with the Pirates. Some questioned why the Brewers let him walk so easily. Some were more than fine with his departure, citing his less-than-stellar track record as a major league pitcher.
But now Lyles is back in Milwaukee once again, where he hopefully — for the Brewers’ sake — can pitch like he did a year ago. However, that may not be in the cards, as his time in Pittsburgh wasn’t too friendly. Lyles joins the Brewers with the baggage of 5.36 ERA and 4.81 FIP, the former being the ninth-worst mark among starters in baseball (minimum 80 innings pitched). He’s giving up nearly two home runs a game (1.75/9) and currently sits in the 11th percentile in hard-hit rate allowed. So why do the Brewers think he’ll be an upgrade? General manager David Stearns discussed that very question:
David Stearns addressed this: pic.twitter.com/cFJWacDTR0
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) July 29, 2019
The Brewers – like most clubs in 2019 — are looking past the ERA. They believe that he’s been a victim of a bit of bad luck, which is probably true. In fact, did you know that Lyles’ ERA was under 4.00 until the calendar turned to July? And did you know that in July teams have a batting average on balls in play of .556 against him? That’s the highest mark in baseball. A BABIP like that — and the same thing would be said for an incredibly low BABIP — is completely unsustainable. And then there’s the strike outs. Lyles is striking out batters at a career-high clip of 24.9 percent including 27.1 percent in July. He’s just getting severely punished when hitters make contact, kind of like Josh Hader. (No I’m not saying Lyles is like Hader, so please stop.)
Lyles joins a team that is desperate need of arms, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, so it’ll be interesting to see where the Brewers use his talents. The team has already confirmed he’ll start at some point this week, but the best option may be to use him out of the bullpen. He’s already proved he can be a valuable bullpen arm for the Brewers, and his strikeout rate could potentially rise even more if he works just an inning or two. The Brewers should do everything they can to avoid Lyles having to face a lineup multiple times through the order.
Lyles isn’t going to help the Brewers win the World Series, but he might — just maybe — make them better. From the sound of it, Stearns and Co. expect to make more moves before Wednesday’s deadline hits. The question is: will they be significant moves or more Lyles-esque acquisitions?