Brandon Lyon, who might give the Mets a working bullpen in 2013
By itself, the acquisition of Brandon Lyon isn't going to give the Mets a great bullpen.
But Lyon, who is reportedly close to signing a deal with them, is about as good an addition as the Mets could have made at this point in the offseason.
Without Lyon, the Mets' bullpen is largely reliant on players who failed to stay healthy in 2012. Frank Francisco missed part of the 2012 season with elbow troubles that required offseason surgery. Latroy Hawkins, 40, missed time in 2012 with an injured finger. Scott Atchison pitched through a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow that cost him part of the 2012 season. Pedro Feliciano hasn't pitched in two years (thanks to, really, the Mets).
Lyon, who did miss time in 2011 with a shoulder injury, is coming into 2013 healthy.
But it's the performance Lyon put together in 2012 that shows his potential to help the Mets this year.
In 61 innings last season, he struck out 63 batters, or 9.3 per nine innings. He walked 20, for a rate of three per nine innings. That strikeout rate is more than a strikeout per nine better than any Mets' reliever posted last year, with only Parnell relatively close, at 8.0 per nine. And the walk rate is better than any returning Mets' reliever save Parnell, and potential long man Jeremy Hefner.
The walks are right in line with career norms for Lyon.
His strikeout rate over his career is just 6.1 per nine, and pitchers don't generally find a new level of talent at age 33. But Lyon has evolved. For most of his career, he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher, a fastball and a curveball, with very occasional changeup. In 2009, though, he began to throw a slider, and threw a plurality of sliders in 2010, with the fastball and curveball secondary pitches. A shoulder injury followed.
Lyon promptly junked that slider and in 2011, then even more in 2012, he began throwing fastballs a third of the time, curveballs a quarter of the time, and the remaining pitches were a cutter for the first time in his career. This weapon has transformed Lyon's success rate: He managed to hold righties and lefties to alomst identical O.P.S. marks in 2012 (.659 against righties, .657 against lefties).
For a team with so many one-sided relievers, and only Parnell a real weapon against both, having Lyon to pitch full innings late in games will take much of the pressure off of manager Terry Collins (and keep fans from suffering through an endless succession of relievers to face a single batter).
That bullpen that made Sandy Alderson uneasy just a few weeks ago isn't going to be an elite unit in 2013. But if the Mets can get Lyon, it probably won't be another disaster, either.