Every time a Houston starting pitcher gets lit up this spring, one name will be chanted by discouraged fans: "Jordan Lyles." The right-handed phenom is the top prospect in the organization and was possibly the best pitcher on the roster this spring, according to pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.
Thursday night, Lyles started his first regular season game with Oklahoma City, facing St. Louis' Triple-A affiliate, the Memphis RedBirds. While his stat line looks paltry ( 4 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout), there is more to learn from the 20-year old's start.
First off, let's look a little deeper. While Lyles did give up seven hits (which is a lot), only one of them was for extra-bases. That was a double by RedBirds leadoff man Shane Robinson, who ended up going 3 for 3 off Lyles. While the batted ball data in the minor league recaps isn't always reliable, it's worth pointing out that Lyles only gave up two line drives in the game and both went for singles. So, he was getting hit, but not hit hard.
Also, while Lyles only had one strikeout and a K/9 rate of 2.25, his one K was a swinging strikeout, which suggests he at least missed a bat or two. Lyles also generated eight ground balls, good for a ground ball rate of 47.1 percent. That's not the best, but the closer to 50 percent he is, the better he can live with a lower strikeout rate.
If there was one area that Lyles needed the most improvement, it was against left-handed hitters. Memphis manager Chris Maloney alternated lefties and rightys for his entire lineup, so Lyles was constantly having to shift his focus. Not every team will do this, and it's a good thing, too, because Lyles gave up 4 hits in 8 at-bats against left-handers. Both of his walks also came against lefties.
So, all in all, it was an okay first start. There's not enough here to get worried about yet, and plenty to be build upon. Personally, I think Lyles would benefit from an entire season with OKC, but we'll see if the Astros let him go that long down there.