St. Louis Cardinals: Tyler Lyons, the acceptable incumbent fall-back closer

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 20: Reliever Tyler Lyons
ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 20: Reliever Tyler Lyons /

The St. Louis Cardinals are still searching for a new closer but should they fail to land one this offseason, who already on the squad would be the incumbent fall-back option?

The St. Louis Cardinals still need to improve the club this offseason. One way to do so is by snatching a closer. This is no secret and the club has made it clear that this is a goal for the offseason. While little has transpired in this matter, the front office seems busy working to find one.

Here I continue my look at incumbent candidates for the closing role should the St. Louis Cardinals fail to find a solution before the start of the season.

As Spring Training approaches, we may need to temper our expectations for the club grabbing a closer. I don’t believe this will be the case as I trust that the front office will sign either Addison Reed or Greg Holland before pitchers and catchers report. That said, what options might exist should the team fail to fulfill the closer wish?

As I stated in my Brett Cecil piece (jump here if you haven’t read it), over the next couple of posts I plan to review a few of the names already on the St. Louis Cardinals squads for potential closer fall-backs. Today, I want to focus on what to me seems an acceptable option: Tyler Lyons.

In his career, Lyons has recorded a measley three saves in five years of MLB service. This certainly does not engender trust that Lyons could do the job but does show that he has at least appeared in the role at times in his past. Albeit, these appearances have not come with the actual label.

Lyons has presented the St. Louis Cardinals with a conundrum of sorts as the team has yet to decide if Tyler is on a path to becoming a starter or long-relief man (as the club has used him lately). His ability to start might be more of an indicator of an easier fit as closer than anything else.

Lyons’ first save of his MLB career came with the Cardinals in 2017; his actual first save came in 2011 when Tyler was in single-A ball. In the minors, Lyons has recorded only this one save which means that he has recorded a massive four saves in his entire career.

Don’t lose hope, St. Louis Cardinals fans, as Lyons has the stuff to be the closer and I’ll show you.

In his five-year career, Lyons has appeared in 251.2 innings, recorded 253 strikeouts, recorded a career WHIP of 1.156, recorded a career FIP of 3.88, and recorded a career ERA of 3.79. These numbers illustrate that Lyons is indeed a talented left-handed pitcher.

According to QOPA, Lyons is just barely above the MLB average rating (4.50) with his rating 4.64. In his career, he has thrown a 901 pitches according to QOPA. Of these, 48 have been change-ups, 4 have been curveballs, 181 have been 4-seam fastballs, 178 have been 2-seam fastballs, 26 have been sinkers, and 464 have been his bread-and-butter slider.

Here’s a breakdown of ratings based on pitches as reported by QOPA:

Not too shabby. For comparison sake, here’s a look at Brett Cecil’s QOPA:

Both of these left-handed pitchers could appear in the closing role but only one should, right? Maybe we should pump the breaks a little here. If we put these numbers head-to-head, it appears that Cecil should be selected over Lyons, right? But we don’t want to do that, right?

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Here’s where they stand apart, to me: the slider and number of pitches. Admittedly, Lyons’ number of pitches might actually be not so great but seem like different pitches to the official scorer, etc. That aside, he certainly does seem to carry a stronger repertoire.

To the slider in particular, a pitch with a great deal of movement, Lyons’ has recorded a QOPA rating of 4.32 (just slightly below MLB average) to Cecil’s zero rating and zero sliders show. If Lyons can get a solid hold on this pitch in addition to his other pitches, he could well serve as a deadly closer.

Let me say here that if Cecil were living up to his potential then this conversation might be markedly different. He isn’t (yet), so between the two, I’d prefer Lyons appear in the closing role.

I beg that readers take a deep look at the title of this post rather than jump to conclusions that I WANT Lyons as the 2018 closer. On the contrary, I am suggesting that he- to me- would be an acceptable incumbent fall-back option. Acceptable, however, is not what this team needs to compete in 2018.

Next: Who has the best rotation?

Who would you put in the closer role? Stay with me as I intend to look at a few other names already in the St. Louis Cardinals system who might fit into the closer role should the organization fail to grab a verifiable, existing closer.