A couple things about Neyer's comments. First, the kick back from the Brandon Lyon signing probably wasn't as big a deal as Justice made it seem at least to a baseball fan, or casual Astro fans. But to those of us who dig for every bit of Astro information, Dave Cameron, and Neyer agreeing it was the worst signing of the off-season, as well as others such as, Jayson Stark, MLB Trade Rumors, Beyond the Box Score, TangoTiger, FOX MLB Sports, kind of made it a big deal.
The second issue I take with the comments is nit picky, but bears mentioning. Lyon did not make 5 MIL last year he made 4.25 MIL according to Cot's, meaning the Astros only overpaid Lyon 150K, not 900K. Definitely nit picky, but it's also a far cry from the millions the Yankees just signed Rafael Soriano for. In which case one of the arguments in defense of the Soriano signing is that the Yankees have disposable income.
But as Neyer pointed out in his article in regard to the Lyon signing, the Astros did have some disposable income as well. That leads to the other reasoning for the Soriano signing, which is that he will eventually take over for Mariano or at the very least provides a backup plan. The same thing could be said of Lyon last year after the acquisition of Matt Lindstrom who was the favorite for the closer role. Which is exactly what happened last year when Lindstrom struggled with ineffectiveness and injury. Some would point Wilton Lopez as being the answer had the Astros passed on Lyon, but Lopez was largely unknown, and had to be rested towards the end of 2010.
The most glaring difference then is that the Yankees are competitive, and the Astros are not. With the Astros rebuilding though would it not be beneficial to the development of a young pitcher to hand the ball off to a reliable bullpen as opposed to one that could cough up the lead. I don't have any statistical data to back that up, but it would seem to be a nice commodity to have.
I will say that I didn't really care for the Lyon signing when it happened. I thought the Astros could of better spent it else where, but as even the Yankees found out this off-season (see Cliff Lee) that may not be as easy it would seem. What's done is done, and I can't hop in a time machine and go knock the pen out of Lyon's hand. Honestly I don't know if I would.
The Astros have gotten a fair deal out of the Lyon signing so far.
Now I did want to do something productive and not just bemoan you with the nit pickings of an Astro blogger. I do want to find out what Lyon would have to post statistically to validate his 2011 salary (5.25 MIL).
It appears to get well above a 5 MIL value on FanGraphs a relief pitcher will need to post about a 1.4 WAR. Tyler Clippard, Joel Hanrahan, Sean Burnett, Joba Chamberlin, and Francisco Rodriguez accomplished this in 2010. So averaging out their innings pitched and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) we have 70.3 innings pitched and a 2.82 FIP. Brandon Lyon certainly has the innings covered, however the lowest his FIP has been is 3.34. Tyler Clippard had the highest FIP posting a 3.18 last year, but he also pitched 90.2 innings.
There are other calculations that go into WAR so the above numbers are anything but solid. All you have to do is look at Lyon's 2007 numbers when he posted a 1.5 WAR in 74 IP and a 3.44 FIP. One statistic that does stick out however is his HR/FB ratio which was 2.1% last year and 2.2% in 2007, his career average is 8.5%. Essentially meaning he was lucky both years in giving up home runs.
Overall I'm going to have to agree with Neyer that the Astros probably won't get 15 MIL in value out of Lyon. However I do think Astro fan, for the moment at least, do get to toot their horn about something perceived to be the worst signing of 2010.