Astros season review: Jordan Lyles vs. the projections

Bob Levey

We're looking at Jordan Lyles to see how he did against his projections.

We started this last week and I'm not sure how many players we'll roll through, but the goal is to look at what the season projections predicted for Astros players and how they stacked up. Basically, we're fact-checking how accurate the projection systems were and whether the Astros exceeded their expectations or underperformed.

Our first pitcher is up here as we look at young Mr. Lyles.

What we said

From our season preview on Lyles, admittedly written by someone who wasn't particularly enamored with the right-hander heading into this season:

It's tough to tell what Jordan Lyles is morphing into. Will he ever be that strikeout machine we saw at Lexington in his breakout season? Probably not. The velocity just isn't there.

But, he could be turning into a Derek Lowe or Brad Penny type ground ball pitcher, where his strikeout rate isn't great, but he limits enough walks to get by while eating innings. That may not seem like much for fans who thought the precocious youngster would be the next Roy Oswalt phenom in the system, but it is tangible progress.

So, the thing to watch for Lyles in 2013 is how he handles adversity. Will he continue to induce ground ball after ground ball? Will he break down in key innings once again? Or, will he bounce back and finally start becoming a legitimate big league starting pitcher, instead of just being an oddity as the youngest pitcher in the league?

Tangible progress. Let's revisit that phrase later on.

What they predicted

Again, from our season preview:

ZiPS is fairly optimistic, considering what's come before by projecting Lyles with a 4.95 ERA, a 4.25 FIP and 91 strikeouts in 165 innings. That would result in a slightly lower fWAR result than he had last season, dropping from 0.8 to 0.6.

The ever-optimistic Jamesian model has Lyles throwing 163 innings with an increase in strikeout rate (up to 6.90), a slight drop in walk rate and a 4.64 ERA with a 3.94 FIP. He does however predict that Lyles will finish with a 6-12 record.

Steamer is maybe the most optimistic overall for Lyles while being pessimistic about many of his rates. Steamer sees Lyles dropping his K/9 rate and seeing a rise in his walk rate in 164 innings. But, it's got Lyles going 10-10 overall with a 1.6 fWAR total, thanks to a 4.49 ERA and a 4.33 FIP.

Oliver splits the difference on many of these. It has Lyles throwing 169 innings with a 9-10 record overall, but no change in his walk rate or strikeout rate from last season (maybe a smidge lower walk rate). The big difference for Oliver comes in a drastically reduced home run rate, down to 0.85 and the lowest of all the projection systems. This leads to a 4.38 ERA and a 3.88 FIP.

What he did

Sadly, all of those projections were wildly optimistic for Lyles in 2013. He only threw 141 innings, missing the benchmark of every single projection by about 20 innings. His ERA was a career-high 5.59 and his FIP was once again right around 4.50.

His strikeout rate dipped below 6 K/9 this season while his walk rate rose by 0.5 per nine innings to 3.11. His ground ball rate went back down below 50 percent and his batting average on balls in play rose to .314.

Basically, all signs of progress Lyles cautiously showed in 2012 were nullified. That tangible progress we mentioned before? He was as far from tangible progress as you could get.

What Lyles is remains a weird question. He doesn't strike anyone out, but he also doesn't induce ground balls with great frequency. He sort of eats innings, but runs into roadblocks in the fifth or six nearly every game. He's still young, but that won't be an excuse forever.

He's still got room to grow, but looking at the projections and what Lyles did, you have to chalk this season us as a disappointment.

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