Mike Nicastro is the author of this article.
When the Pirates signed Jordan Lyles in December, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington publicly stated that the big righthander would have every opportunity to pitch in the starting rotation.
Not even he could have imagined a better start for the journeyman as through three weeks Lyles has no intentions of relinquishing that role.
In three starts with the Pirates he’s been as good as any pitcher in the National League. Lyles dazzled over six scoreless innings Friday night against the San Francisco Giants, lowering his ERA to 0.53 on the early season.
I’m not going to pronounce Lyles as the next Ray Searage resurrection project just yet, as the sample size is still relatively small, but you can’t argue with the results.
Most impressively, Lyles has struck out 18 in 17 innings while only surrendering 10 total hits. These results are in line with last season, as Lyles posted a 22.6 percent strikeout rate – a 5 percent bump greater than any season prior. This is looking less like an aberration, and more like what Huntington identified when he snagged the backend arm on a 1-year deal.
I’ve heard some comparisons floated around Pittsburgh this week to Edinson Volquez, in regard to Lyles and the way the Pirates were able to turn around a struggling starter.
When Volquez was signed by the Bucs he was coming off consecutive disastrous seasons, but through Searage’s magic, he was able to post a 13-7 record with a 3.04 ERA – earning the nod for the Pirates in their one-game wild card playoff.
If Lyles, a pitcher with similar stuff, can put up anywhere near those numbers – the Bucs have themselves a serious steal, adding to an already mighty rotation.
It should be mentioned that Lyles was forced to depart the game Friday night after taking a line-drive off of his fingers that ultimately resulted in an inning-ending double play. It was labeled as a right hand contusion.
Hopefully the matters are precautionary, and we can see the surprise of this early season back on the mound for his next scheduled start.