Lyon is a Tiger

January, 24, 2009

I always look for cheap saves, pitchers whom few fantasy owners desire, because to me saves are saves, and few relief pitchers can destroy your ERA in so few innings. Sure, with each save could come potential ugliness, but so what? It's for this reason I was always a Todd Jones fan. It was seldom pretty, but he piled on the saves. That's why I see the irony in the Tigers' signing Brandon Lyon and claiming that he will compete for the closer role with Fernando Rodney. No, it will not be pretty, but saves are saves, right?

Lyon gets a one-year deal while the team wonders if Joel Zumaya can ever fulfill the promise of the fastball-throwing shutdown guy. I doubt Zumaya ever gets there, but when healthy he does throw 100 mph. Lyon does not.

What Lyon does have is that indefinable "closer experience," whatever that means. It was on display in 2008 when he had a nice run saving games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and some in past seasons. From April 9 through June 17, the guy didn't allow an earned run. While everyone waited for Tony Pena, Max Scherzer and anyone else to steal the job, Lyon thrived.

Of course, Lyon doesn't have great stuff, and his second-half ERA of 8.46 shows it. Ultimately he did lose the closer role. Lyon is neither as good as his unhittable run nor as bad as his second half. Like Todd Jones, Lyon isn't a strikeout pitcher. He gives up plenty of hits, and right-handers hit him for power last season, a bad sign. But none of this means he can't save 30 or more games. Jones did, until finally the magic ran out. Lyon isn't quite as old. Few are.

Most fantasy owners won't target Lyon in drafts, but I'm telling you, he's a closer again, and precisely the type of guy you steal late. When the Tigers were supposedly flirting with Jason Isringhausen recently I thought the same thing. It might not be pretty, with an ERA that fluctuates and probably ends up on the wrong side of 4, and he won't get a lot of strikeouts, but he should be healthier than Zumaya and more consistent than Fernando Rodney, who has had chances to close and showed his mettle. I'll take the over if the line on Lyon's saves is set at 30, and call him a draft day sleeper as a third closer.


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