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St. Louis Cardinals: The Rise and Fall of Tyler Lyons and the need for better bullpen management


Tyler Lyons, who was once considered just a year ago as one of the best options in the bullpen, quietly moved to another organization. On January 1st, it was announced the Pittsburgh Pirates had signed left handed reliever to a minor league contract.

The 30 year old Lyons, had been DFA by the St. Louis Cardinals on July 27, 2018, then cleared waivers and outrighted to AAA Memphis. On October 2, 2018, he declared free agency.

Tyler Lyons rise and fall as a key piece of the Cardinals bullpen is often the typical story of a major league reliever. In Lyons case,it is a story of injury and possible misuse, all which exemplify the need for better bullpen management by the St. Louis Cardinals.


The Cardinals drafted Lyons in the ninth round of the 2010 amateur draft and signed too late to participate in the 2010 minor league season. In 2011, he was assigned to the Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League.

Lyons rise in the Cardinal system was originally as a starter and eventually making his major league debut on May, 22, 2013, against the San Diego Padres. After the start in San Diego, Lyons had mixed results as a starter and begin to see time out of the bullpen. Going back and forth between St. Louis and AAA Memphis over the next three seasons, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy, saw his MLB ERA drop from 4.75 in 2013 to 3.75 in 2015.

In 2016, Lyons was used exclusively out of the bullpen, recording 48 innings, a 2-0 record, with a 3.38 ERA, and 46 strikeouts. After recovering from off season knee surgery, Lyons returned to the Cardinals in 2017, and proceeded to have an excellent year excellent year as a reliever.


Tyler Lyons best year with the St. Louis Cardinals was in 2017 and established himself as the most reliable left handed option out the the bullpen. He posted a career best in ERA(2.83), WHIP(1.09), and k/9 innings(11.3) in 54 innings of relief. The Lubbock,Texas native also had a 41.9 percent ground ball rate, was credited with three saves, and had a 4-1 record.

During the off season, Lyons was considered to be a candidate for closing duties in 2018. With his high strikeout and ground ball rate, coupled with his low BB/9 rate, it would seem he would be ideal for late inning duties. However, 2018 would be a disappointment to Lyons and the Cardinals.


If 2018 proved anything, it would be that relievers often have a short shelf life and Tyler Lyons effectiveness as a reliever for the St. Louis Cardinals had come to an end. With injuries to his back and elbow, Lyons had two trips to the DL in 2018 before finally being DFA in July.

While his strikeout rate remained respectable(10.26), his walk rate increased to 4.32 BB/9, and his ground ball rate decreased significantly to 28.3 percent. It gets worse when you look at his home run rate which increased from .5 per nine in 2017 to 1.62 in 2018. Finally, in 16.2 innings pitched, he had a 8.64 ERA and a WHIP of 1.92.


Tyler Lyons story seems similar to other important bullpen pieces of the Cardinals who seem to suddenly to lose their effectiveness. Kevin Seigrist, Seth Maness, Matt Bowman,and Trevor Rosenthal are other names that were once reliable bullpen arms who quickly saw their careers go awry.

Although injuries are often blamed for the end of a relievers career, in the case of the St. Louis Cardinals,one wonders if it had as much to do with bullpen mismanagement.

Mike Matheny was frequently criticized for his bullpen management. The former manager routinely returned to the same bullpen arms, game after game, without regard to overuse. Consequently, the best arms would eventually wear down. Relievers who were once reliable,such as Tyler Lyons, would eventually start spending more time on the DL instead of in the bullpen.

With the elevation of Mike Schildt to the manager's position last season, one hope's to see improvement in the management of the bullpen. Will this mean a longer shelf life for relievers in the Cardinal bullpen? Only time will tell.

On a personal note, I wish Tyler Lyons the best and hope he can revive his career in Pittsburgh.

What are your thoughts on Tyler Lyons and his career with the St. Louis Cardinals?

You may follow me on Twitter @frrobinson1957.

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