Just say no to Lyon


Brandon LyonLate last night we got word that the Yanks have expressed interest in free agent righty Brandon Lyon, presumably to fill the late-inning spot that will be vacated by Phil Hughes‘ move to the rotation. The Tigers did offer Lyon arbitration yesterday, however he’s only a Type-B free agent, so the Yanks wouldn’t have to forfeit a draft pick to sign him. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that there are enough red flags to hopefully scare the Yankees away from the guy who was once traded from Boston to Pittsburgh (for Mike Gonzalez) only to be traded back to Boston (for Gonzalez, again) nine days later.

Like current Yank Brian Bruney, Lyon closed for the Diamondbacks once upon a time. After the Red Sox sent him to the desert as part of the Curt Schilling deal prior to 2004, Lyon posted a 4.03 ERA with 42 saves in four years for the D-Backs, however his peripheral stats were nothing special (10.0 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 5.7 K/9). He moved on to Detroit last offseason, putting up a 1.69 ERA with a .515 OPS against after July 4th. Despite the on-the-surface excellence of his performance, Lyon’s peripherals again raise some eyebrows.

As has been the case his entire career, Lyon didn’t strike out many batters (6.5 K/9) in 2009, instead relying on a solid ground ball rate (1.31 GB/FB) to get the job done. More concerning is the spike in walks, as his 3.5 BB/9 was the highest of his career in a full season, majors or minors. Lyon’s always been somewhat homer prone as well, allowing exactly one homer for every nine innings pitched throughout his career. Oh, and there’s also the little issue of him having an unsustainably low .229 BABIP in 2009.

Moving on from the walk rate and BABIP stuff, it’s also worth noting that Lyon drastically changed his pitching approach upon his return to the AL. After throwing approximately 67% fastballs, 24% curveballs, and 4% sliders in his four years with Arizona, Lyon cut back to just 58% fastballs with 19% curves and 19% sliders last season. He also threw the fewest first pitch strikes (59.6%) that he has in seven years, and just 45.9% of his pitches were in the strike zone (hence the spike in walk rate). Lyon doesn’t miss bats either; hitters made contact on 80% of the swings they took against him in 2009, which was 10th worst among AL relievers, but actually the second best single season mark of Lyon’s career. Swings and misses, he will not get.

Perhaps the most alarming stat is that Lyon stranded a whopping 80.8% of the batters he allowed to reach base this year. The Major League average strand rate was 71.9% in 2009, and only four other relievers in baseball (Matt Guerrier, Andrew Bailey, Ronald Belisario, and Todd Coffey) had a LOB% that high. It’s far from a repeatable skill, especially since Lyon had stranded runners at about a 70% clip prior to 2009. The AL East is not a place you want to gamble on an end-game arm being able to strand an exorbitant number of runners.

Aside from all the problems with his peripheral stats, there’s also the issue of Lyon wanting a multi-year deal. GM Brian Cashman spoke yesterday about the volatility of relief pitchers and how successful the team has been at developing their own bullpen on the cheap in the last few years, and surely the wounds of Kyle Farnsworth and Steve Karsay have left scars. By no means am I saying the Yanks should avoid multi-year deals for relievers all together, I’m just saying they need to make sure they’re investing in the right guy if they’re ready to make that kind of commitment. Guys like Lyon, who don’t generate swings and misses and had superficially great seasons because of ridiculously low BABIP’s, don’t warrant that kind of commitment.

Sure, moving Phil Hughes back into the rotation will hurt the bullpen, but adding someone like Lyon and expecting him to fill that gap isn’t the answer. For comparison’s sake, David Robertson had a lower FIP (3.05 to 4.06), lower tRA (3.70 to 4.45), the exact same WAR (0.7), and nearly double the strike out rate (12.98 K/9) Lyon had in 2009 for less than one-tenth of the cost. The Yankees don’t have a glaring need for bullpen help, nor are they desperate for depth. There’s certainly no harm in kicking the tires, but just say no to Lyon, especially for multiple years. Don’t be fooled by the flashy ERA and WHIP, he is a fringe reliever in this division.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Boston Wolverine

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Rose says:

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that there are enough red flags to hopefully scare the Yankees away from the guy who was once traded from Boston to Pittsburgh (for Mike Gonzalez) only to be traded back to Boston (for Gonzalez, again) nine days later.

    Why did this happen? Why make a trade and reverse it within 9 days?? Both sides must have been just as unhappy with the player as each other I’m guessing?? Or was it just another Red Sox bullying “you’re going to give us our guy back right now” type thing again.

  2. Bo says:

    Would Lyon really be a terrible option in the 6-7 innings?

    Its not like they are signing him to be the primary set up man.

  3. A.D. says:

    Yeahh I saw this on MLBTR, Lyon is not what you want, I’d much prefer the parade of young relievers/moving starters up mid-late season, then shelling out any type of money for a multi-year deal to Lyon.

  4. Jake H says:

    I would rather have Melancon in the BP then spending a few million on any reliever.

  5. A.D. says:

    This has LaTroy Hawkins v2 written all over it…only potentially on a multi-year deal.

  6. Rose says:

    I’m sorry if this is off topic…but it was touched upon in the Mike Cameron outfield thread…so I’m assuming it’s at least more relevant in this one.

    Billy Wagner made $10.5M in 2009…and declined arbitration offered by the Red Sox…to make $7M with the Braves…all because he wants to “close”?? They love that “saves” statistics don’t they. While we may feel it’s overrated…the players themselves will take millions of dollars of a pay cut in order to add a few more “saves” on their belt.

    I know there’s an option added as well…but assuming he pitches well in 2010 (50+ saves to vest for that option), he’d probably get a similar or better deal in NEXT years offseason…no?

    • Think about it from Wagner’s perspective, though. What’s he pitching for, at this point?

      To burnish the HoF candidacy. He needs saves more than he needs money, or a ring, at this point.

      • Rose says:

        Yeah, I see your point. And it makes the Red Sox look even smarter…which makes me angry…

        I guess, in a similar situation, I would go with the saves too. I wasn’t thinking about the HOF decision. Maybe I assumed he was a shoe in already/didn’t have a chance in the back of my mind and wasn’t thinking about it…

        • And it makes the Red Sox look even smarter…which makes me angry…

          Seriously, Rose, we love ya, but you’ve got to let your Sox paranoia slide.

          You’re shellshocked. Just remember: We’re not their bitch. They’re OUR bitch. Always have been. A brief 4-year interregnum does not end our century-long chokehold on that Mo-forsaken backwater franchise.

          • Evil Empire says:

            We’re totally in Boston’s heads again. You know John Henry still has nightmares about the moment he found out his team lost out on Tex for a measly $10M over 8 years.

            Pedroia’s shot at Jeter (he told him to enjoy his GG and SS this year because of the possible move to SS) also clearly demonstrates the still prevalent underlying mentality that no matter what Boston does, they will always be compared to the Yankees.

            As an aside, interregnum is a nifty word. Had to look it up.

          • Rose says:

            It’s tough when you live right in the middle of it and your backs to the wall every day haha. Oh, and the fact that 95% of your friends are die hard Red Sox fans too…

            But I know what you mean. And I envy the fact that you can sit comfortably and not only quietly celebrate amongst fellow Yankee fans…but also watch the games…because of the story I’ve told many of you time and time again. MLB and Cox Communications are spiting each other in a “see who blinks first” 12 year old competition…meanwhile, all of us in my particular northern area of Connecticut are not only not able to get the YES Network…but the Yankee games on ESPN, TBS, etc. are blacked out because we’re suppose to.

            Adds to the frustration and my online personality of being a tad “on-the-edge” at times…though I apologize

          • Hikker says:

            Whoa! You deserve an oaktag for that!!!

      • Reggie C. says:


        Are we sure that one of Mike G. or Soriano isn’t going to re-sign with the Braves? I thought both set up & closed last year at different times. Wagner only signed a 1 yr deal.

        Oh yeah. Tommy Hanson gets more votes than Heyward for NL Roy.

        • I’d say the Wagner precludes either of them coming back.

          They get to fill two roles with one guy. Now they’ll take their chances with Wagner and an internal candidate for the 8th inning (Valdez and Moylan?) and spend the Gonzalez/Soriano money (they made 11M between them) on offense somewhere.

          Oh, and the Wagner 1 year deal has a club option.

          Gonzalez and Soriano are goners. The Wagner deal also nudges them further away from accepting arb, since they know they would be setup men only and not closers.

          Swap two solid closers for one solid closer, save money and add 4 draft picks in exchange for 1.

          Brilliant move by the Braves, IMO.

        • Rose says:

          Why wouldn’t they have just re-signed one of those guys in the first place? $7.5M for Billy Wagner instead of a younger fireballer for probably cheaper?? Does their decision reflect on something they may know about these guys?

          • Because by signing Wagner and letting both Soriano and Gonzalez walk, you forfeit one first rounder but get two first rounders and two sandwich picks in return.

            Production-wise, Wagner/Gonzalez/Soriano are all pretty interchangeable. But, Wagner nets you more picks, and frankly, costs less in salary as well. They got him on a 1/7 with a 1/6.5 option. You’re probably paying more than a 2/13.5 contract for either Gonzalez or Soriano, who are younger and will market themselves for better long-term deals.

            It’s not that anything is “wrong” with Soriano or Gonzalez. It’s just that flipping the two of them for Wagner is the perfect storm of good outcomes for the Braves. Get equal production at a lower price with a shorter commitment with 3 extra draft picks.


            (Of course, if Wagner’s elbow explodes next May, they’ll look like idiots, but whatevs.)

            • Angelo says:

              To add to your arguement, by signing Wagner the Braves only give up there 52nd pick overall. It could be a lot worse. Gaining 2 true first round picks and 2 supplementals is a lot better. I like the Braves so I hope Wagner pans out this season.

          • Zack says:

            Those guys probably want their paydays, career of relievers are usually short, this is their first chance for a multiyear contract so they’re probably going to take it.

    • A.D. says:

      Obviously for Wagner ego boost of closing >>> 3.5M

  7. Yeah, just say no.

    D-Rob for teh e1ghTh!1!

    • Reggie C. says:

      Is D-Rob in danger of getting the overhype that Bruney received after his sub 1.00 WHIP, 2008 season?

      • V says:


        Robertson hasn’t sucked for 3-4 consecutive years. We don’t have a negative track record to point at and say ‘ah, 2009 was a fluke’.

  8. JohnC says:

    Lyon? No way. I say stick with what we got. D-Rob, Coke and Marte, and Melancon. I’d look to add a smaller piece to the pen such as Kiko Calero, who could be a bargain if he is healthy. Would not cost a draft pick either.

  9. Rose says:

    Why pay so much money for a middle releif guy that isn’t even close to a guarantee?? Why not give far less money to a slightly bigger gamble on the middle relief…somebody mentioned Kiko Calero above…that wouldn’t be a bad idea. Something along those lines…

  10. Mr.Jigginz says:

    I’m so against Lyon that I didn’t even read this post…but I’m sure it is lovely written,Mike.

  11. Will says:

    While I am not a big Lyon fan, I think the devil is really in the details. The fact of the matter is the Yankees really don’t have many cheaper internal options to pitch late in ballgames because otherwise they wouldn’t have had to use Joba and Hughes in that role over 2 of the last 3 seasons. If getting a veteran reliever completely frees both to pitch in the rotation, then I don’t mind it.

    Of course, reliever should not be a priority. Instead, I’d like to see Cashman put a full court press on Harden.

    • A) Getting a veteran reliever does not “completely free both Joba and Hughes to pitch in the rotation”. Joba and Hughes are pitching in the rotation regardless of whether or not a veteran reliever is added. The holes in the rotation they’d be plugging are more important that the holes in the bullpen they’d create by removal.
      B) If by saying “reliever should not be a priority. Instead, I’d like to see Cashman put a full court press on Harden”, you mean to say that you’d like for us to sign Harden and put him in the rotation and leave one of Joba or Hughes in the bullpen, my response to you on that idea is “Oh, hells to the naw.”

      • Will says:

        If the Yankees don’t add a reliever, I think it definitely adds pressure to keep Joba or Huges in the bullpen.

        I would rather eschew Halladay and Lackey and enter 2010 with a quasi-six man rotation of CC, AJ, Andy, Harden, Joba and Hughes. Off the top of my head, CC and AJ would pitch every 5th day (say 65 starts), Andy would have 4 or 5 breaks in the season (28 starts), Joba and Harden would each go about 25 times each and Hughes would give you 20 starts mixed in with some bullpen time.

        Not only does having six guys help you protect the young (particularly Hughes, who will have an innings limit) and old/injured, but it also gives you depth if someone goes down (Pettitte, Harden and Joba could all be pushed a little harder if needed).

    • For what role, though? I wouldn’t feel comfortable if the Yankees planned on running Harden out there every fifth day.

  12. chris says:

    so you guys want to sign Cameron and don’t want this guy? I don’t really want him either but he’s a better option than Mike Cameron, he’s terrible

  13. DonnieBaseballHallofFame says:

    I think you guys could have saved a lot of time and energy to just say “he sucks” nobody would have argued that.

  14. [...] Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues implores the Yankees to avoid signing free agent righty Brandon Lyon in this [...]

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