I traded e-mails with SB Nation's Arizona Diamondbacks blogger, Jim McClennan, who does an outstanding job at AZ Snakepit, and tried to pick his brain on the Tigers' newest reliever. The first thing he mentioned is that Lyon's entrance music of choice Rob Zombie ("Dragula," to be exact), which sounds suitably bad-ass for a closer. It never seemed quite right that Joel Zumaya had better entrance music with "Voodoo Child" than... whatever Todd Jones's song of choice was.
(And that takes care of a request I was going to make of the Tigers and whomever their closer was going to be. Bad-ass entrance music, like Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera get!)
Here's what else Jim had to say:
There was a sense he overachieved in 2007 [2.70 ERA], but he was generally consistent. That certainly wasn't the case in 2008, and he was very much a Jekyll and Hyde pitcher last season. When he was good, he was unhittable - he had a 25 inning scoreless streak for over two months in the first half - but when he was bad, he got stuck in that rut for some time. It may have been mis-use by Bob Melvin to a certain extent, and he wouldn't be the first reliever to suffer that.
Immediately after the All-Star break, Lyon was used in back-to-back-to-back outings, throwing 12, 28 and 27 pitches. The last was an unmitigated disaster, allowing five runs in the ninth to lose to the Dodgers in LA on July 20, and his ERA from that point on was 8.41. He has had arm issues in the past: that's partly what motivated the 2002 move to the bullpen, while in Toronto, and I think he'll need careful handling to get through an entire season. I hope you guys have a reliable backup for him, to avoid those third-night outings.
There's no doubt Lyon's curveball is a thing of beauty - I'll miss seeing it drop in on a flummoxed hitter for strike three - and he's a rare closer who has four pitches. But the downside is that none of them are overpowering, and he does need to have all his pitches working in order to be effective. When its just his FB and curve, batters can sit dead red and wait for the fastball, and it's just not good enough to beat hitters who know its coming. That seemed to be the cause of his problem; he couldn't trust his other pitches.
Thanks to Jim for getting back to me. Maybe I'll get to return the favor someday.
His point about how Lyon was used is an interesting one, and I think it plays into one of Jim Leyland's strengths as a manager. I think he's quite good at making sure his closer doesn't get overworked, while also conscious of making sure a reliever gets some work in, even if it's not with a lead or save situation.
What are other baseball bloggers and reporters saying?
ESPN.com's Keith Law thinks Brandon Lyon is a good fit in Detroit, citing Leyland's record of managing good seasons out of mediocre relievers. Law also refers to the Diamondbacks' pitching coach, who thinks Lyon got into trouble by relying too much on two pitches, rather than the four he's capable of throwing.
(via The Spot Starters)
Beyond the Box Score has a typically in-depth breakdown of Lyon's pitching repertoire (fastball, slider, change, curveball) and tendencies.
Todd Jones is flattered by all the comparisons people are making between him and Lyon. (Or Jonesy could be flattered that people are still talking about him.) Jones says, however, that Lyon has a better fastball. The new Tigers closer, in turn, says he learned plenty from Jones when they were teammates in Boston.
The Arizona Republic's Nick Piecoro revealed that the Diamondbacks wanted to bring Lyon back, but convert him into a starter. And had things not gotten serious with the Tigers, he might have considered it.
(via MLB Trade Rumors)
And here's an interview Lyon did with the NY Daily News' Jesse Spector from 2007. (This is where I found out the title of Lyon's preferred Rob Zombie song.)