Note: Lots has happened since I wrote this last night. Namely, the Astros just sent Lyles to minor league camp, making this a moot point.
The last time a 20-year old pitcher threw in a game for Houston was Jeff Juden in 1991. Before that, it was Mark Lemongello in 1976. Before that, it was Larry Dierker in 1967, in his third season with a team that was four years removed from non-existence.
So, Richard Justice, when you write a post about how it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Jordan Lyle started the season in the big leagues, you're not just talking about age. You're talking about lots and lots and lots of other things.
First off, Juden made his appearance after turning 20 nearly nine months previously. Lyles turned 20 on October 19, so he'd be just six months past his birthday. Sure, it's semantics, but I'll get to the reason later. Lemongello actually debuted when he was 21, but since he turned in July, it was considered his "Age 20" season.
Dierker is the exception, sure. Let me paint you a little picture, though. Of the seven Astros to debut at the age of 20 or younger, here are their career innings pitched:
Dierker was the only pitcher to total even 650 innings. Looking outside the Astros organization, about half of the top 20 pitchers in innings pitched by their Age 20 season since 1975 flamed out early. Of the others, guys like Gil Meche suffered injuries and only briefly flashed greatness. Of course, there are also nearly 80 other players who didn't throw big innings but debuted that young. They range from Yorman Bazardo to Sid Fernandez and Pedro Martinez.
Talent will win out in the end, but why should the Astros take an unnecessary risk with Lyles' arm. If we're taking odds, why should we bet he'll be the next CC Sabathia instead of the next Tommy Boggs. All that "buzz" Justice talks about would be flushed down the drain.
I like Lyles and I want to see him on the big league roster as soon as possible. But, I don't want his arm to fall off before he turns 30. Is that unreasonable?